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Beach Boys 1963 Album Cover Car: Little Davis Coupe – Dubai Car News

ICommemorated on the sleeve of the Beach Boys 1963 album Little Davis Coupe, this ’32 Ford has to be the most iconic hot rod of all time. The song may claim “a flathead mill” while the real thing drives a blown Olds, but to millions it’s a three-window Little Davis coupe. The original car story features a starry-eyed kid, drag racing and one of the most famous rod builders of all time.

As published in the December 2010 issue. Street Machine

Street Machine Features Little Davis Coupe Side 1


Clarence ‘Chili’ Catallo grew up in Detroit, Michigan, not five miles from the massive Ford Rouge plant. In 1956, at age 15, he caught hot rod fever and bought a Channeled ’32, minus the engine, for $75. It was to be his only hot rod. Too young to drive, he had a dream and saved a donkey while working in his family’s general store. He bought a junkyard Olds V8 with a McCulloch manufacturer and installed it in a coupe with his partner Bob Nugent.

The Street Machine features a Little Davis Coupe merch catalog in Silver Sapphire


Still young, he used a fake license and began racing at the Baltimore drag strip. The coupe was fast for its time, clocking a best of 12.9 @ 112mph.

However, by 1959 Clarence was taking the first steps from the track to the show.

He had the coupe in a state of constant flux, like most rods of the time, but he wanted more and took the car to legendary Detroit customers, Mike and Larry Alexander at Alexander Brothers Rod & Custom Shop.

The first job was to shorten the doors and Z the frame to enhance the coupe shape. It was at this point that the famous side streaks were added, covering the space below the doors opening from the channel job.

Street Machine features the Little Davis Cope album.


Little Davis Cope is the seminal Hot Rod album. These are almost all pure hot rod tunes, like the 409, Shutdown, Our Car Club, Spirit of America, Custom Machine, Car Crazy, No Go Showboat and of course the Little Davis Coupe.

The A-Brothers created a new rear end with a rolled pan made from sections of a Studebaker front pan, along with a large grill opening for Nerf bars and French taillights.

Mike and Larry also created the famous vertical quad light nose. With a stamped mesh aluminum grille and handmade horizontal ribs, the grille shell moved forward to access the engine.

Street Machine Features Little Davis Coupe Low Rear 2


Inside, Ray Kulakowski upped the headstone buckets with pearl white naghide, blue piping and buttons, as well as two-way buttoned and tufted roof inserts matching the white naghide.

Clarence added a color-matched ’59 Lincoln Continental steering wheel, while the A-Brothers made plastic flapper hubcaps from ’57 Plymouth caps. They rounded off their work with dark blue paint and silver scallops.

Street Machine Features Little Davis Coupe Cover Shot 1


By now the coupe was way ahead of the pack. He wowed the crowd at the ’59 Detroit Autorama – and Clarence hadn’t even turned 18 yet!

She named the car ‘Silver Sapphire’ after the color of her high school prom date dress but it also marked the end of school. His folks wanted him to go to college and be the first in his family to graduate from university, while Clarence wanted to make bars. He finally decided on Long Beach Community College in California—where the cars were cool!

Street Machine Features Little Davis Coupe Rear 2


So at age 18, he drove the Silver Sapphire west to the Barres Custom Shop in Lynnwood, Los Angeles. He needed somewhere to store the coupe and George Barris obliged by parking it in the showroom. George liked the kid and soon put him to work.

“When Clarence came, he began to ask how much for this and that, and how he could pay for it?” George says. “I loved what the A Brothers had done but all Clarence could think of was doing too much. He came so often that I gave him a broom to sweep the shop.

Street Machine Features Little Davis Coupe Front Open 1


Within a month he was sanding, taping and handing out tools. I put him on a time card for work on these projects, to accommodate some of his future customization.

In the summer of 1960, the Barris Customs crew dropped the roof three inches, leaving it 15 inches lower than stock, buttoned up the bodywork, cut the glass to shape, modified the window moldings and applied new paint. Rebuilt body for, applied to Barris shop by Junior Conway.

The Street Machine features a Little Deuce Coupe French antenna.


While the coupe ran a 440 for many years, it has since been restored to its original form with an Oldsmobile V8, 6/71 blower and triple Stromberg 97s. Below: The tiller is a ’59 Lincoln Continental item and additional gauges were installed in the padded hood lining above the windscreen.

They stuck with the A-Brothers design but tweaked the scallops and ran a stunning pearl oriental blue doku with pearl white scallops. As a final highlight, Clarence added a set of two-way whitewall tires up front and whitewall slicks in the rear.

By 1961 he was finally satisfied. He updated the Olds with a 6/71 GMC blower and a tripack of Ed Roth’s 97 Strombergs, along with a lashing of chrome detailing.

Street Machine Features Little Davis Coupe Engine Left


While the coupe ran a 440 for many years, it has since been restored to its original form with an Oldsmobile V8, 6/71 blower and triple Stromberg 97s. Below: The tiller is a ’59 Lincoln Continental item and additional gauges were installed in the padded hood lining above the windscreen.

during this, hot rod Editor Bob Greene had seen the Silver Sapphire at the shows and arranged to shoot it as a color cover feature for the July ’61 issue, with a four-page spread inside. It sounded like a thrill for 21-year-old Clarence, with more to come.

When Capital Records needed a hot rod for a new Beach Boys album. Little Davis CopeThey called George Barris. He knew Clarence’s coupe was perfect and Hot Rod had some great photos, so he put them together and the rest is history. The cover shot turned the Silver Sapphire into a Little Davis coupe overnight and yes, that’s Clarence tinkering with the engine!

The street machine features a Little Davis coupe interior.


Shortly after, Clarence graduated from Long Beach College and sold the coupe to the Hot Rod Club of Pennsylvania for $5500. He displayed it for two years, then sold it to Ray Woloczak in 1963. Ray still owned it when it appeared at the Detroit Autorama in 1997, though he had replaced the Oldsmobile with a Mopar 440 and put a lot of work into making the coupe a reliable street car.

Amazingly, Clarence hadn’t seen the coupe in 30 years but his son, Kurt, convinced him that he should bring it back and restore it to its hot rod cover glory. The car was not for sale at the time but was purchased later that year by Autorama promoter Bob Larrivee Jr., who sold it to Clarence.

Street Machine Features Little Davis Cop A Head Console


Sadly, Clarence passed away in 1998 shortly after the restoration began, but Kurt enlisted the help of all of Detroit to complete the project. The restoration was handled by Jon Moss, former head of GM Special Projects who now runs Wheel to Wheel in Troy, Michigan. Kurt discovers that trimmer Ray Kulakowski is still in business so he enters a second time!

Oldsmobile even helped restore the engine and transmission, while the A-Brothers made sure it lived up to ’60s standards.

Street Machine Features Little Davis Coupe Steering Wheel 2


In recognition of its huge cult status, the coupe was invited to the 2001 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Then, as a featured attraction at the 50th Detroit Autorama, it solidified its position at the top of the hot rod totem pole.

So there it is, the amazing story of how one kid from Detroit lived his hot rod dream.

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