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Selling on Saturday Evening

The ex-John North & Gene Pitney

1957 Ford Fairlane “White Pearl” Custom

  • Created in 1957 by John North, the George Barris of the East Coast
  • 300-HP E-Code engine with three-speed transmission and fire-breathing lake pipes
  • Verified ownership by '60s entertainer Gene Pitney
  • Real gold leafing and full custom white tuck and roll interior with tonneau cover
  • Prolific custom show award winner and magazine feature car
  • A time-capsule example preserving American custom car culture

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We’ve all heard about a car with a story…well, this car IS the story. The White Pearl is at the center, with legendary customizer John North on one side, and legendary entertainer Gene Pitney on the other. John North from Hartford, Connecticut was much like the George Barris of the East Coast, developing a stellar reputation for building custom cars from the early 1950s. In 1957, a windfall of money came his way, and he bought himself a brand new 1957 Ford Fairlane two-door hardtop. He ordered it with the optional “E” code engine with solid lifters and two four-barrel carburetors straight from the factory. John also chose the optional three-speed manual transmission, for which he chose the floor-shift position. Most folks would just start driving - but not John North. When the car was delivered to him brand-new, he began drawing and fabricating a comprehensive customization. Keep in mind that during the 1950s when customizing cars was booming throughout the United States, most projects began in a junkyard or maybe a friend’s parts stash, simply because most did not have the cash to begin a project with a brand-new car.

John North knew exactly the look he wanted and named the car “White Pearl”. That meant that the car received 16 coats of very special Lincoln metallic white paint with real gold leaf trim throughout. Throw in a custom white tuck and roll interior, tuck and roll carpeting, tuck and roll steering wheel cover, tuck and roll dashboard, and even a tuck and roll tonneau that covered the rear seat from the rear windowsill to the back of the front seat to give the car a special “two-seater” look. On the firewall, he painted his nickname “Moose”. By 1957, the idea of just chopping, channeling, and sectioning cars was becoming somewhat passe, and the real innovators like John were including details like the custom taillights, grille, intricate fender skirts, and the custom dummy spotlights on “White Pearl”.

John added lake exhaust pipes and even a TV in the dashboard. Little details like the knobs on the instruments were all specially made with triple-layer plastics and turned on a lathe. Not only was the interior completely tucked and rolled with the dashboard but even the carpet was tucked and rolled. The name “White Pearl” was autographed on the front fenders exactly the way he wanted, and even the wheels were equipped with special flipper hubcaps. The car seemed to take a first prize at every show it went to in the late ‘50s, and the ocean of trophies in the family photos is impressive. The car was featured in nearly every single automotive magazine multiple times, with many of those magazines provided with your purchase. Today, it remains highly original throughout, with only a single minor repair ever done in the trunk area, and it still features the all-original chrome, trim, and complete drivetrain.

What makes this car an even more interesting story is that John’s wife was a cousin of legendary singer Gene Pitney, and when he saw the car he begged John North to sell it to him. John told him no, but finally caved in and sold the car to Gene, who was at the peak of his career. Gene Pitney was known to take White Pearl to all of his shows that were within driving distance, but one night he put on a lackluster performance and one of the patrons decided to show his displeasure by shooting a couple bullets through the side window. John North’s son, Mark, validated it - That was the day Gene Pitney decided to sell the car.

Talk about a car with provenance and history - this unique Ford is well-documented, highly original right down to the paint, and today, stands just as cool as it was in 1957 and ’58 when John North’s singular vision became reality. The pioneering age of American customs led the way for today's artisans to create our now much-loved restomods and custom creations. This is your opportunity to own a foundational piece of history in John North's "White Pearl".

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