By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Petersen Archive
With a Bullet
Not to be confused with the billet grilles that took off in the ’80s, bullet grille treatments were a hot modification trend in the late ’50s. So hot, in fact, that Car Craft magazine put a custom ’55 Chevy with a close-up of its sparkling bullet grille on the cover of its December 1959 issue.
The how-to story inside demonstrated how easy the pieces were to install, thanks to several bullet grille kits that had hit the market. California Custom Accessories in Los Angeles offered three different kits, with 24, 36 or 42 bullets, at prices ranging from $30 to $55. (The 36-piece kit was used for the Chevy featured in the story.)
The process was straightforward: After measuring the grille opening to determine how many of the chrome bullets were needed to fill the space, the bullets would bolt to a bracket, and that bracket bolted to a strap of metal that ran vertically within the grille opening. Mounting holes for each strap had to be drilled into the car’s grille support, and if the strap was too long for the opening, the installer was advised to “use a hack-saw to remove excess.”
How many bullets were on each strap and how many straps were used depended on the size of the grille opening and how fancy the bullet pattern would be. The example in the Chevy—with its symmetrical rows of bullets—was pretty simple. Other photos in the story showed bullet patterns in the shapes of stars, arrows and other geometric designs.
There is no byline for the story, but George Barris, the “King of the Kustomizers,” got a photo credit, indicating that this was one of the many customizing stories he wrote for Car Craft and other Petersen magazines at the time.