- Highly original, trophy-winning, historic custom Fairline 500 modified when purchased new by noted East Coast customizer John North
- Previously owned by famous singer-songwriter Gene Pitney
- Factory “E-code” 270-hp, 312-ci, V-8 engine with double, four-barrel carburetors
- Glasspack mufflers and floor-mounted, three-speed manual transmission
- Custom bodywork finished in pearl metallic paint with gold scalloping and blue pinstriping
- Fully customized interior with white tuck-and-roll upholstery throughout
- Preserved in the Bortz Auto Collection for more than 15 years
- Widely featured in period publications, including Rod & Custom, Car Craft, and Hot Rod
- Includes copy of original bill of sale
In the 1950s, it was unusual for most hot-rodders to buy a brand-new car and modify it. But that’s exactly what John North of Rockville, Connecticut did with his 1957 Ford Fairlane 500. Known in the custom-car community for his gold scalloping, among other talents, North is said to have earned a reputation as the “George Barris of the East Coast.” He immediately set about customizing his new Fairlane 500 shortly after acquiring it, a process that would evolve over several years, garner multiple trophies at events, and receive coverage in various hot-rodding magazines. Adding to the car’s mystique is the fact that North sold the car to popular singer-songwriter Gene Pitney, who is said to have been a neighbor of his in Rockville.
Subtle changes, well integrated into the bodywork, are a testament to North’s craft and include “Lakes” side pipes jutting from recrafted rocker panels, and taillight lenses masterfully recontoured into a teardrop shape. The front features a handcrafted tubular grille, and the bumper was modified into a two-piece design. At the rear, the bumper was removed altogether in favor of chrome nerf bars, allowing an unobstructed view of the intricate blue pinstriping and signature gold scalloping, which carry throughout the bodywork. Front and rear badges were removed, along with the keyhole on the trunk lid, to create smooth uninterrupted surfaces that showcase the artfully adorned pearl metallic paint. Non-working spotlights, rear side skirts, and a subtly raked and lowered stance completed the transformation of the unassuming Fairlane 500 into the stunning “White Pearl” custom, replete with a stylized logo painted on each of the front fenders.
Just as expertly modified, the interior was customized with white tuck-and-roll upholstery throughout, including on the seats, dashboard, doors, and carpets. A contrasting blue stripe along the dash matches the exterior pinstriping, while custom, three-piece buttons of a similar hue replace the radio and climate-control knobs. A faux television, inset in the dashboard, rounds out the futuristic motif, while a custom steering-wheel cover and tonneau for covering the rear seats, in matching tuck-and-roll upholstery, provide the final touches to the unique look.
Far from being purely for show, this Fairlane 500 custom has the performance to back up its looks. A factory “E-code” 312 cubic-inch, V-8 engine, which breathes through two factory four-barrel carburetors, is rated at an impressive 270 horsepower and lets loose a deep sound from glasspack mufflers. The detailed engine bay is finished in gold to match the exterior scalloping and features North’s nickname, “Moose,” prominently signed in white on the firewall. Adding to the car’s driving enjoyment is a three-speed, manual transmission—said to have been sourced in period from a Ford Thunderbird—operated via a floor-mounted, short shift-lever topped by a chrome knob.
Acquired by the consignor in February of 2005, the “White Pearl” has been well preserved in highly original condition as part of the well-known Bortz Auto Collection in Highland Park, Illinois for more than 15 years. Joe Bortz has enjoyed this John North special as one of his favorite historic custom cars and has presented it at a number of shows. As a prime example of 1950s East Coast hot-rodding at its best and with known provenance, which includes ownership by a celebrity, this one-off, award-winning “White Pearl” is likely rarer and more intriguing than even its namesake.