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Bill Cushenbery

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Bill Cushenbery

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A car customizer from Wichita, Kansas.  His work was incorporated into AMT model kits.


The following biography appeared in the instructions for an AMT model kit ('64 Buick Wildcat, #6514-150).

A strong desire to create is the first requisite for a successful customizer, and this Bill Cushenbery has.  His ideas and the cars on which he has applied them mark him as a prime mover in a rapidly changing field.

As a straight body repair man in his home city of Wichita, Kansas, he customized his first car.  It was a Frazer, one of the auto world's ugly ducklings.  It represented a challenge to him because no one else would tackle it.  As a result, it got him into business and he opened up a small shop in 1952 at the age of 19.  Business was good, but he wanted to move west.  He selected California, and in 1957 settled on Seaside, a town near Monterey, one of the state's most picturesque cities.  There he turns out customs that are distinctly his - unusual cars both for himself and discriminating customers.  His specialty is the design and building of far-out cars, and he has built seven in recent years that he considers truly original, in addition to day-by-day customizing jobs that are more restrained.  Each of his originals has pulled a sweepstakes trophy at a major show - not a bad record!  One of the latest is the Silhouette, a futuristic, bubble-top roadster that won at the Oakland Roadster Show in 1963.

Bill's trademark is asymetrical styling, which is the technique of placing major design elements off center.  He first used it on the Marquis, which was a sectioned '56 Ford with an asymetrical hood.  The Car Craft Dream Rod, a totally hand-built car, will also carry off-center touches.

The Cushenbery shop is well equipped, and can do the complete run of major metal and chassis work, paint and engine rebuilding.  Bill keeps a couple of customs on hand for his personal use, and in his spare time is preparing a '60 Ford that will be his wheels and serve as an example of his capabilities.  The Cushenbery touch is bound to be around the custom world for a long time to come and there is little doubt that he is developing into a major builder in the field.

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