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  • Jason Chandler

Valley Customs and More Hot Rod History

As a young teenager Neil Emory created all kinds of jobs to make some extra money. One of these jobs was detailing cars at the Warner Brothers studio. Neil got permission to get in the special VIP parking places and ask the owners of these fine automobiles if he could clean detail and gas up their cars. The business went really well for Neil, so well he had to ask a friend to help him out.


One of the cars he was detailing was a 1937 Dodge Convertible Coupe. The car belonged to a Director at Warner Brothers, Lloyd Bacon’s daughter. The car was a gift for her 21st birthday. Around 6 months later the daughter got married and Neil was able to buy the car for $600. Neil was just 15 years old when she got married this was 1938, perhaps early 1939 the exact dates are unsure. It was Neil’s first car.

Not long after that Neil Emory started another business, lowering cars. He started to produce shackles of different lengths and he would make appointments with customers to be at a service station where Neil would take his tools with his 1937 Dodge and lower the customers car on the spot. Of course he had lowered his own Dodge with his own shackles as well, which was good for rolling advertisement. He also installed some aftermarket ripple disk hubcaps with beauty-rings on a set of wide white wall tires. Around this time Neil Emory and a couple of buddies also ran a gas station where he started to tinkered with cars for his friends and teachers.


Neil was able to do more work on his Dodge in shop class during high school, here he was able to use the much better school tools than what he had himself. Here he shaved the trunk and added the double set-in license plates behind glass. The right one for a Throttle Stompers club plaque and the one on the left for the license plate.


Neil removed the lip around the rear fender wheel opening so that he could mount the Buick skirts. He also removed the stock taillights and replaced them with teardrop shaped 1938 Ford units. The bumpers both front and rear are stock with an accessory center bumper guard added. The headlight stances were removed from the grille sides, and new once created to fit on the fenders. This allowed Neil to drop the headlights nice and low, which made the car look lower, and he grille taller. He created smooth hood sides and removed the hood ornament and trim for a much smoother look.


Neil had Burbank Auto Body chop the windshield and then drove the car to the Carson Top Shop to have a perfectly shaped Padded Top created for the Dodge. The shape of the top is really fantastic and follows the shape of the rear of the body really well. The side window opening that the Carson Top Shop created is also very nice with a wonderful flow on the rear top corners, but more flowing than most of the tops we have seen from the Carson Shop. Neil also created a set of roll down side windows in a frame, to fit the new padded top for the car. He ended up painting the car a solid supper glossy black lacquer. Neil married in 1942, and before their son Gary Emory was born he sold the Dodge and replaced it with an 1936 Ford 3-window coupe in late 1942. They never saw the Dodge again after that, and nobody seams to remember what ever happened to the car.


Later in 1948 Neil and Clayton Jensen would open the Valley Custom Shop in Burbank and would write history with their finely designed and crafted Custom Cars. Neil’s 1937 Dodge already showed his great sense for style and balance very early on. Fortunately some nice photos have survived of the car. Neil’s good friend Dean Batchelor always had his camera handy and shot every car he liked, and also took several photos of Neil’s Dodge in the early 1940’s. As far as we know only four photos remain of Neil’s Dodge and all these photos were taken by Dean Batchelor.

In the very first issue of Rod and Customs magazine, May 1953 Dean Batchelor did a three page article on Pre-War Customs, he used two of the photos he had taken of his friends Neil Emory’s 1937 Dodge.

Valley Customs was run by Niel Emory and his brother in law Clayton Jensen. The Valley Customs always could be recognized easily by their clean uncluttered classy look. From 1948 to 1960 These two very fine craftsmen turned out some incredible custom cars. Some of which still exist today, some restored, others waiting to be restored.


Niel Emory once mentioned a theory "that a custom car should not only look different, but should look better when finished than it did to begin with". This to me says it all concerning Valley Custom cars. The are all a big improvement over the stock cars they started with.


Niel Emory's fist custom was this '37 Dodge convertible, a rather unusual car to start with, but the end result is really wonderful. Most of the work was done however by Burbank Auto Body, but Niel did recess the license and club plates into the trunk himself. Top is by Carson.



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