My father was my biggest influence, and I do remember him always having a nice, clean, low vehicle. One of the first standouts that made an impression on me was a silver, metal-flaked 1952 Chevy truck. I was pretty young, but I believe that this was around 1962.
If dad was working in the Imperial Valley, I always hoped the Greyhound bus would stop in North Hollywood. As soon as that bus parked, I would run down the street because “Barris Kustoms” was in running distance. Mind you, I was only nine or ten years of age. At the time, George Barris, “King of the Kustomizers,” had a big glass front showcase building located right near the bus depot and filed with some of the most iconic custom cars of all time. There they were, “The Munster’s Coach,“ Grandpa Munster’s “Dragula Coffin Car,” and “The Batmobile,” right in front of me.
My father took notice of my obsession and I was blessed in the fact he would regularly attend “The Famoso Drags” or “The Fresno Autorama” and take me along. Without realizing it, I was studying the lettering, numbers, and admiring the pin stripe work on the dragsters and pull cars. While my dad was my influence on the car side of things, my mom was a big influence on my artwork because she took the time to draw things for me. We bonded over many of my designs and drawings and looking back I can say that those are very precious memories for me. Earning my stripes on models and bikes, I would often experiment with color fades, lettering, flames, and pinstripes. Of course I was just beginning and these early works were very crude, but I was learning.
Happy that I had some creations to call my own, I’m riding down the block on my custom bike as a 10-year-old when I see this ’66 – ’67 Riviera shining down my street with a multicolor metal flake paint job. I’m pumping my pedals as hard as I can try to keep up with this car. I continue to follow him and I realize I’m practically on the other side of town. The car parks and slowly lowers itself to the ground! Oh my god! It was the coolest thing I had ever seen! The guy’s name was “Huero Caldillo,” and he had multicolor Rivis, pearl step-faded Caprices, and other flaked out Lowriders with adjustable suspensions.
At twelve or thirteen, I began lettering diesel truck doors and doing flame jobs on local cars and trucks. As ambitious as I was eager, I would get myself into trouble on a few jobs because I wasn’t afraid to try and use paintwork techniques I knew nothing about. I was also a kid with a limited budget and resources, so many times I found myself using the wrong paint, brushes, and supplies.
In 1974, I reached high school age where I paid much more attention to articles on paint than I did on my traditional textbooks. I eventually enrolled in a regional occupational center class that focused on auto body repair. I was a fast learner and my brain soaked it all up like a sponge. Through the class, I was introduced to metal shaping, making repair panels, and airbrush techniques. I took to it like a fish to water and by this point, I was frenching tailgates, shaving door handles, pinstriping, and I had figured out how to airbrush roses, similar to the way they appeared on “The Gypsy Rose.” The instructor used to get upset with me because I would just jump into the work, instead of asking for help or waiting for instructions.
My auto body occupational class was located at East Bakersfield High School, and it was there that I met (Hall of Fame Member)“Harvey Reyes,” President of “Carnales Unidos” Car Club. I appreciated his demeanor as he was a really nice guy who would always take the time to talk to me and answer any questions I had. I was also happy to gain insight from an enthusiast who seemed to understand the passion I had for paintwork.