Sunday, August 19, 2012

Nudie Cohn (Nuta Kotlyarenko) customizer of Bonnevilles to the western movie stars

Stars of the then popular western movies were no exception to the taste for extravagance in rolling stock. Indeed, with many of them having added a film career to their stardom as singers or rodeo performers were well used to glitz and glamour in their garb and extremes in what they drove. And indeed in the case of one Nudie Cohn who first put rhinestones on cowboys it was the same designer who decorated cowboys who also slathered their vehicles with western iconography. Silver six-shooters might be door handles or gear shift levers and silver dollars were imbedded in leather upholstery. Kiddie seats were little saddles. (All pre-seat belts and car seats obviously.)

 Nudie Cohn fled the anti-Semitism of the Ukraine as a pre-teen. A custom official in New York decreed that the shorter name was better for the lad's life in the new world than Nuta Kotlyarenko. He was probably right. Anyway, after wandering about the country, improving his English by going to western movies, Nudie ended up in the Hollywood area as a tailor and was soon turning his taste for westerns and an in-born imagination into fabulous costumes.

 Cars caught his fancy and since a publicity-aware General Motors favored him with a free Pontiac Bonneville every year to "dress", his Nudie Mobiles became as famous as his suits, boots and hats.

 Some seven or eight Nudie Mobiles may still be in running order. Certainly the best is one that Nudie presented to his friends and clients Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, two of the most popular country and western singers and "oater" stars ever. DeWayne Deck, a Denver business man with an eye for the unusual bought the car at a July 2010 auction when the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans museum closed its door in Branson, Mo. It was not that the stars had run out of fans so much as the fans had run out of mobility. The auction was a great success.

 DeWayne Deck knew what he wanted and what he wanted to pay for it. He made one bid and the world's most dramatic Bonneville was his for a total of $254,500. 

The Santa Fe Concorso tracked down the ex-Rogers and Evans car in Denver and invited its new owner to let it be one of three Cowboy Cars to be shown at the third edition of the Santa Fe Concorso. And thus its lane-wide steer horns mounted on the radiator will grace the greenery at the Club at Las Campanas Sept. 30.

 But not all cowboys in those days equated glamour with glitz. Call it perhaps a taste for exaggerated elegance; Tom Mix was attracted to the 1937 Cord 812 Phaeton with its unique coffin-nose and buttery color. It was just one of three made that was outfitted similarly (an exterior tire mount in the back for instance.) Bob White of Scottsdale AZ acquired his elegant Cowboy Car at a 2010 auction and oversaw a meticulous frame-off restoration before showing it at Amelia Island Concours of 2012. Bill Warner, founder of that fine Florida event 15 years ago said of the car: "The 812 Cord is rare, technologically advanced and extraordinarily desirable."

above article from

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