Herb Gary's 1949 Plymouth

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A photo of Herb with The Aztec from The Ray Soff Photo Collection.
Photo by Andy Southard
The Aztec next to a stocker.
Photo by Andy Southard
Photo by Andy Southard

1949 Plymouth two-door owned and restyled by Herb Gary of Gary's Auto Body in Sea Cliff, New York. The car was also known as "The Aztec" for no particular reason By the time Herb customized his Plymouth, few had tackled with these kind of cars. Many knew the cars as Detroit's uglier ducklings. In such occasions when people had tried to restyle these cars, the results would often not exactly set the world on fire. This, specifically was the reason for why Herb decided to tangle with a forty-niner. Herb wanted a proposition that would really test his eye and ingenuity. This would become a hard challenge,[2] believe it or not, it was his first custom.[3] He worked on it for two years during his spare time, it was finished in early 1957 and it immediately captured honors. First of all the body was dechromed, beginning from scratch he sectioned the body 4 inches and according to Street Rodder January 1976, it was channeled 2 inches as well. The frame was extended 13 inches in order to make housing for the continental kit which was fit in a homemade well between the 1953 Oldsmobile 98 rear fenders that were spliced to the body. The rear fenders were further modified by frenching in a pair of 1956 Lincoln taillights and adding homebuilt fender skirts that were 6 foot long! The rear quarter panels were 1956 Lincoln units as well. The shaved deck lid was sectioned and the exhaust outlets were placed in the bumper corners.[2] By the touch of a button, the continental tire tilts and the deck lid would open.[3] The hood was combined with a Kaiser hood top that was hammer-welded together with the original bottom. Both splash pans were molded to the body. A new grille was custom made from 3/4 inch cold rolled steel bars and the front bumper originated from a 1954 Oldsmobile. The front fenders featured a pair of 1954 Cadillac headlight rims which were paneled in with sheet metal. The lower half of the front fenders were hammer-welded sheet metal. The entire interior was done in a two-tone nylon with a special nubby finish.[2] The Plymouth was powered by a smallblock Corvette mill.[3] The Aztec took top honors in the "Late Customs" class at both the L.I.T.A and the L.I.H.R.A shows in 1957. It also received the Most Original Custom prize.[2] The car does still exist today as it appeared in 1957, in supposedly good shape, just needs paint. Herb is in his late seventies and has moved down to Florida, but he is still the owner of the Aztec, 50 years after he built it.[4]

Magazine Features

Rodding and Re-styling June 1957
Street Rodder January 1976


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