Custom cars in America. In the early formative years of car customizing Petersen Publications was in its infancy, laying the foundation for their auto related magazines. They were looking for cutting edge technology and craftsmanship.
Bob Petersen found two customizing shops with craftsmanship, at that time, that was ahead of the other shops. George Barris's Kustom Industries and Valley Custom owned by Neil Emory and Clayton Jensen.
The Petersen crew covered the complete build of the Hirohata Mercury (1951 Mercury) by George Barris Kustom Industries, and the Polynesian (1950 Olds Holiday 2 dr/ht) built by Valley Custom. Both cars turned out to be masterpieces in the car customizing community. Thereafter other shops opened and existing shops picked up the pace to create and build custom cars. The demand for California custom cars provided ideas for future articles.
All across America, car enthusiasts wanted custom cars. These two custom cars, Hirohata Mercury and the Polynesian Oldmobile gave life to car customizing. These two customs are to custom cars as Elvis Presley is to Rock and Roll. Only one clone for each original exist. To duplicate a masterpiece is time consuming, expensive and should only be placed in the hands of the most skilled. These two clones were built because the originals were absent from the public for a long period of time. The real life story behind the build of
Polynesian II is incredible and inspiring to car enthusiasts.
Polynesian II, 1950 Oldsmobile Holiday 88. Built by John Ballard and friend Gary Rafe. John was an accomplished street rod builder. John built a 1941 Willy's and won "Best Engineered" at the 2nd Street Rod Nationals.
John Ballard was looking for the original Polynesian and could not find it. To a car enthusiast the Polynesian is like a Rembrandt if you were an art collector, the difference is the Polynesian has wheels. Car enthusiasts are friendly and a pleasure to be around and John made friends and accumulated knowledge about the original. With a burning desire to have a car like the Polynesian and build it with respect to the craftsmanship that went into the original build.
John bought a 1950 Olds Holiday 88. His build took 5 years, metal-working savvy and an in depth attention to detail from a collaboration of car enthusiast familiar with the original. A 47 page Custom Car Annual article dated 1954 and a Hot Rod Magazine article dated Sept 1953 gave detailed instructions on how the Polynesian was built.
Step by step John meticulously followed the articles and double checked every aspect of his build. This was a monumental task to take on and a testament to John's skills and confidence. Building a car from scratch is one thing but to try and remake a masterpiece is another. John wanted to drive his car so he updated the front suspension, with power steering, disc brakes, Olds 455, automatic transmission with overdrive.
John Ballard drove Polynesian II to Paso Robles car show and received Neil Emory's blessing ( Page 152 in The American Custom Car by Pat Ganahl ). After John Ballard built Polynesian II, the owner of the original, Gene Blackford, for the last 33 years, restored the original to his specifications.
The Polynesian II was built by John Ballard and Gary Rafe, residents of Anderson, Indiana, because of an appreciation of the original. A special tribute to Valley Custom Shop's Neil Emory and Clayton Jensen for their craftsmanship from 1948 to 1960 and the many fine cars they produced. To the people that talked with John Ballard during his build with knowledge of the original. Petersen Publications for their many well written articles about cutting edge technology, craftsmanship and publishing articles for the car enthusiast to properly build and enjoy their cars.
Accolades to Don Laughlin and staff at the Riverside Resort for their appreciation, committment and support to the cars and car community. John Ballard passed away but Polynesian II is on display at Don Laughlin's Riverside Resort Hotel and Casino Auto Museum, Laughlin, Nevada. Polynesian II is a timeless masterpiece of automotive customizing art.