Johnny Zaro of Maywood, California. After being discharged from the Navy in 1947, Johnny and his buddy Al Andril decided to buy a pair of 1940 Mercury's to cruise around in. Al lived across the street from Johnny, and they were good buddies. "Al and I knew each other since we were 10 years old. He moved from San Francisco. We went in the Navy together, and when we got out, we decided we were going to get '40 Mercs and customize them." During their conversations about the coupes, they decided to have the tops chopped. They choose Barris Kustoms to perform the job. In 2011 Justin Kudolla interviewed Johnny about the car for a story in Trend Book 208 Custom Cars 2012 Annual. Justin asked Johnny how he found out about the Barris Brothers. Johnny said that Al must have found out about them. "I didn't know where they were at. We were both down in San Pedro waiting to get discharged and he found the place up there then." George and Sam Barris convinced Johnny and Al that several other modifications should be done to the car as well, in addition to the chop. Sam Barris started out restyling Al's coupe. Every time Johnny and Al had a chance, they would get out and go up to Barris Kustoms and work on the cars. "It was at nighttime a lot of times. We couldn't get up there in the daytime. Sometimes George would be there until 12 or 1 am, something like that, if he was spraying something. But as far as bodywork, he would get done at maybe 5 or 6 o' clock. And when I knew George he was living in nothing but a garage with a dirt floor and a little bathroom in Huntington Park. And from there, he got a step up; he started living in Warren Breeland's mother's home over near the shop. Warren, he was going to UCLA. I don't know where George lived when he had the shop in Bell." It took 9 months to complete Al's Merc. Using the lessons learned during the process on Al's Merc, they were able to complete Johnny's car in six months. The Mercury was not Johnny's everyday car, he also had an old 1935 Chevrolet junker that he drove to work "I even had a rope tying the doors closed! I'd drive that back and forth to work because I didn't want to take the convertible out in daytime and get it messed up. I was very fussy about it, before it came out of the garage in the nighttime I'd completely dust it off."
Johnny became good friends with George and Sam Barris. Johnny and George would go out and go all over; to Eagle Rock, Burbank. Johnny and his friends used to hang out at the Clock Drive-In. There were a few Clocks. They had one in Maywood, Bell, and Huntington Park. The one in Huntington Park was the most famous. "it was one to two blocks south of Florence on Long Beach Blvd., on the right hand side." While hanging out at the Drive-In, someone would often say "So and so and so and so are going to race their cars." There used to be a place out on Slauson where guys would run these things trough. "Another place was at what they called "The Divide," and the cops would come from both ends and you saw the red lights and the cars were driving off through the oil wells."
When Johnny got married he settled down, and he didn't go out cruising anymore. He spent his time working on the house. He also had a real estate license that he was working on. At one time he ran a gas station just down the street from Barris Kustoms in Lynwood. It was located a block or two south of the shop, right across from a place called George's Barbeque.
Cars Owned By Johnny Zaro
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