Big, Bad & Purple

No, it’s not a Barney the Dinosaur re-run.  This purple hunk of Detroit sculpture is Clarence Zabolotny’s ’51 Ford “Custom.”

Clarence’s car was originally built by Bill Chartier, near Selkirk, Manitoba.  The car itself started out as a 1951 Ford Coupe, but has since been transformed into the beautiful machine you see here.  It’s received the usual chopping & stretching treatment to the roof and headlights, and what appears to be a re-sculpting of the hood as well.  Laying cutting torch to metal to accomplish this is a rite-of-passage for the “lead sled” scene, an initiation process that traces its roots to the original legends of hot rodding.

One of the earliest pioneers were Larry and Mike Alexander, best remembered as the Alexander Brothers.  Larry, the older brother, started tinkering with cars as a young man, before joining the army in 1948.  While he served his country, Mike picked up his first hot rod-a ’32 Ford three-window, which was promptly traded for a ’41 Ford Coupe.  The car had its doorhandles and trim shaved which, although it wasn’t the first, still made Mike a pioneer in the Kustom world.  After both had served a tour of duty for Uncle Sam, the two began repairing cars out of their father’s garage in their spare time.  Over time, this became a full-time venture, which led to the brothers becoming automotive legends.

However, the greatest contribution to Lead-Sledding was made by someone who wasn’t happy with his new car.  Sam Barris (no relation to George Barris) went to the local dealership to pick up his shiny, new 1949 Mercury Coupe.  Even though the ’49 Mercs and Fords heralded a new age in automotive engineering, Sam still wasn’t happy with the roofline-and he intended to fix it.

What resulted was the first recorded “Top Chop” on a ‘sled, a car that reputedly still pops up from time to time.  Sam’s influence didn’t end there, however.  His later contributions to the cause of hot rodding were fondly remembered by his peers, who immortalized him decades later in “The Rose,” a customized 1951 Mercury Custom.


Of course, it’s the paint that makes these cars really sparkle.  And it was thanks to the efforts of one Joe Bailon that we have “six-inch deep” colours covering these picture-perfect rods.  According to Joe, he was driving at night when he was inspired by the tail lights of another car.  “It was so pretty…  I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have the whole car the colour of the taillight?”  What followed was ten years of experimenting before finally inventing a process that leads to the dream colour, which he named Candy Apple Red.  And just like top chops, the process has become standard in lead sleds, as well as the lowrider and general hot rod populace.

That’s it for this week’s article, but come back next week as we celebrate something special:  Our new web address, at SundayCruiseFever.com!  And to kick off the name change in style, we’ll be doing a 7-part series on the Corvette, starting with the C1, going right through to the next generation of The General’s All-American supercar, one generation per week.

See a car you like?  Get a print, a T-shirt, and much more featuring any image off this website!  Click Here to find out more!

Do you want Sunday Cruise Fever in your media outlet?  Contact Jordan at jordan.morningstar@gmail.com or (204) 997.8827 to get great automotive content in your publication or website!


Required Reading:

The Leadsled Blog:  Not a car site, but a well-titled blog from artist/illustrator Dominic Bugatto.

Hall of Fame:  Alexander Brothers in Custom Rodder magazine

Runnin’ With The Rat Pack:  River City Rad Rodz Car Club featured in Willy’s Garage

Required Listening:

The Creepshow:  Burlington, Ontario-based Hellbilly band.  It’s what you listen to in a lead sled.

The Creepshow official website


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