by Pat Ganahl

silhouette

There weren’t many Bill Cushenbery customs in the first place, and fewer exist now. Silhouette, probably his second most famous car, is simply gone. Built at the height of the bubble-top era in 1962, it made its debut as seen here in pastel-pink pearl fades on a completely hand-formed steel body, at the 1963 Oakland Roadster Show, where it copped the Tournament of Fame award. It was also featured in this form, with Buick wire wheels and an injected nailhead Buick engine, on the cover of the first (and only?) Petersen Custom Car Yearbook that year.

Actually I’m a bit confused, because I have another color photo of the car in a rich candy red faded over gold, with white pearl in the coves, with the big AMBR trophy visible behind it with Twister T (the 1962 AMBR winner) parked next to it. So Bill possibly repainted the car right before the 1963 Oakland show. At any rate, it won him and his wife a trip to Europe and an invitation to join the Ford Custom Car Caravan, as seen in the other photo. To do so, he had to swap the Buick engine for a Ford, which apparently has two 4-barrels topped with large “baloney slice” chrome stacks. The paint is the darker candy red, with steel dish Astro wheels in place of the chrome wires.

Jay Fitzhugh states that the car was used in a feature film (without stating which one), and it was also turned into a 1/25-scale plastic model at this time by AMT. Then, by 1968, it was cast as one of the original 16 Mattel Hot Wheels, and remains in that line to this day.

Sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s, after Cushenbery had moved his shop from Monterey to Burbank, California, the Silhouette was reportedly stolen from the back of his lot, and has never been seen again. In fact, someone I know who had a shop in the area at that time, says the rumor was that the car was stolen because of some sort of feud or vendetta, and that it was buried, intact, in a graveyard for stolen and stripped vehicles somewhere in the Valley, and it’s probably still there. More “Noir.”