Treasures of the Valley » Mike Lawler

Link Paola’s Custom Cars and Custom Car Terminology


In the years that Link Paola had a custom car shop in Montrose, between 1939 and 1951, he probably produced hundreds of these sleek rolling works of art. I’ll describe a couple of them to give you a feel for what sculptural genius was being performed in Link’s shop in Montrose.

The lexicon of the custom car and hot rod world is colorful, and the words used in describing the cars are foreign. I’m not a “car-guy” but I’ll attempt to provide translation.

The first car Link customized was a brand new 1940 Ford 2-door convertible that Link produced at Ed Priester Chevrolet on Ocean View Boulevard in Montrose. It was a relatively mild job. The new car was nosed and decked and the windshield and side windows were chopped for a Carson top.

“Nosed” means that the long chrome piece that ran down the center of the Ford’s hood was removed and the mounting holes filled. Lead was used to sculpt over the channel left by the removed chrome piece.

“Decked” meant that the same treatment was given the trunk of the car. The chrome trim and trunk handles were removed and smoothed over with lead. (If you’ve ever heard the term “lead-sled,” it refers to this liberal use of lead to sculpt the car’s shape.) The windshield was “chopped” meaning the front glass was removed, and a section was cut out of the A-pillar (the metal sides of the windshield). It was welded back together and custom cut glass was refitted into the now much shorter windshield.

For the roof of the car, the convertible top mechanism was removed and a one-piece removable top, a Carson top, was fitted. “Carson tops” were steel-framed padded cloth-covered removable tops made by the Carson Top Shop of Los Angeles.

1937 DeSoto bumpers replaced the stock Ford bumpers, the running boards were removed, and Buick rear fender skirts were added. This treatment made the car look low and sleek.

Spence Murray was a local guy who worked in Link’s shop and was the recipient of Link’s last and most iconic creation, a ’49 Chevy hardtop coupe. (By the way, Spence went on to become a famous automotive writer for Hot Rod and Road and Track magazines.) The ’49 Chevy was chopped, channeled, lowered, nosed and decked, shaved, and the headlights Frenched.

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“Chopped” in this case meant that the entire roof was cut off, the roof pillars cut shorter, and the original roof welded back onto the shortened pillars. “Channeled” meant that the entire floor pan was cut from the body, the body was lowered down over the frame of the car, and the floor pan welded back in place higher up inside the body. The rear suspension was further lowered, the rear of the car now almost touching the ground, with the front raised slightly giving the car a “speedboat” look.

“Nosed and decked” we already covered.

“Shaved” means that much of the exterior chrome and drip rails were “shaved” off and the resulting recesses were sculpted over with lead. This included the door handles. How to open the doors? An electrical foot-operated door-opener button was often hidden under the car. The shaved off taillights were relocated inside the rear bumper.

Headlights were “Frenched,” that is sunk a couple of inches into the body of the car. Car parts from other models replaced stock Chevy parts plus, the final touch, a long straight exhaust pipe that wrapped around the exterior of the car.

The car was now a rolling piece of art. Spence toured his car to car shows around the U.S. and, for Spence, it was his ticket into a career writing for auto magazines. Link went on to own Paola Oldsmobile on Foothill Boulevard with his brother Pete, and later in the 1960s opened a Tiki-styled Polynesian restaurant at 2831 Honolulu Ave. called Link Paola’s Outrigger.

Few today realize what a huge impact that Glendale and the Crescenta Valley had on auto development. The early years of race cars, custom cars and hot rods were centered here. We own a proud legacy in the world of car culture.