Bill Cushenbery Jr. told me the story of when the KHJ Surfin'Bird was being built, he was 10 years old and in the cub scouts. He was working on his Pinewood Derby car and his car was actually painted with the same paint as was used on the Surfin'Bird! Bill shared this image of his recently rediscovered car.
Just snagged my 7th of 13, 93 KHJ Survey that mentions the Big Kahuna and/or the Bill Cushenbery KHJ Surfin'Bird giveaway-promotion. Someone must know I need these, because they are driving the prices up! I guess maybe that the Beatles are on this one might have something to do with it. That is the Big Kahuna, Chris Varez holding McCartney's head. Sam Riddle is also in the shot, and I have no idea why Ringo is in a wheelchair.
At long last! The mystery of the KHJ Surfin'Bird solved by Bill Cushenbery Jr. Received this in the mail today. Bill said this was part of a photo shoot taken at Vickroy Park in Burbank. He believes it was a publicity shoot for the Radio station. A giant thank you Bill Cushenbery for unearthing the only known photo of this completed custom prior to being given away by KHJ Boss radio!
Another part of the KHJ SurfinBird history. The car was given away live on KHJ TV Channel 9 on the Dick Curtis "18-34 Show", August 8th 1966. I just received this promo photo of Dick that was issued at roughly the same time as the giveaway. They were promoting a name change for the show starting in September.
Yesterday was Surfin'Bird Saturday. Reminiscent of stupid stunts I pulled as a teen, I made an 8+ hour round trip in my long-in-the-tooth Rav4 to pick up a 289 for the Surfin'Bird. Timing couldn't have been better, as today it is snowing. When I got back, a hand signed photo of Chris Varez (A.K.A. The Big Kahuna) was in my mailbox. Signed 'De Beeg Kahuna' in 1966 at the Big Boss Pepsi Battle. Some days just "work"
Bruce Heather comes thru again. Rare 1993 "Lead Paddle" newsletter with the only known magazine appearance of the KHJ Surfin'Bird. Photo of the Kahuna's ride was taken at the Unfinished Nationals. I love the caption "Probably the ugliest car I have ever seen". Gives me something to shoot for!
Funny how research happens by accident. I was just watching Gilligan’s Island and realized that the same headdress used by the KHJ Boss radios' Big Kahuna is almost certainly the same one used by the Skipper when he dressed like a head hunter for season 2, Episode 31. Western Costume supplied both the show, and KHJ when they needed stuff for promotions, so it makes total sense.
Funny how things overlap. I have always had a bent for "faux" bands. Love the Wonders, Ming Tea, etc. One of my favorite Gilligan's Island episodes featured the folk trio The Wellingtons.
The Wellingtons also sang the first season theme song for the show (". . . and the rest" version). The Wellingtons trio + the addition of Les Brown Jr. on drums, portrayed the 60s Rock and Roll group, The Mosquitoes. I was Jonesing on this yesterday listening to "Don't Bug Me" and stumbled onto the script for this episode. Having watched it as a kid maybe 50 times, I never realized the reference to BOSS Radio or Sam Riddle.
Episode #48 "Don't Bug the Mosquitoes" September 29, 1967
Gilligan is seen lying in the top hammock with the
radio which is playing loud rock and roll music. The
skipper is in the lower sleeping but is visibly
agitated at the noise. Gilligan on the other hand is
flailing his arms around to the music. He stops only
when the song he's listening to ends.
"TODAY CATS AND KITTENS ON THE SAM RIDDLE
SHOW, ON BOSS RADIO, WE'RE FEATURING THE
MUSIC OF AMERICA'S NUMBER ONE ROCK AND ROLL
GROUP, THE MOSQUITOES!"
Sam would have also been a part of the radio spots for the KHJ SurfinBird roughly a year before this! Sam is holding the mic interviewing the Big Kahuna with The Real Don Steele in the photo below.
Here is a KHJ Rules! Sticker sheet handout that I have collected, which I believe is from the same time period as the Surfin'Bird. These were cutout sheets that you would moisten and stick on stuff. I have been wondering what to put in the inserts for the Tri-Bar wheel centers. Maybe these would work!
Original Cushenbery top is long gone. From the radio spots, Bill described extending the top flowing back to to the "stingray" rear. Started to play with design that matches the only known image of the finished car, Bill's description in the radio spot, and what seems reasonable given the timeframe for completion.
Also think a rear facing middle scoop that was a separator for the roof mounted surfboards, would be in line with the period. The McNulty Shark top as a very similar scoop.
KustomK is a California Kustom Car lover and wannabe historian. Always in the process of researching and outing various customs from the 50-60s era.