West Coast Report 14th Edition: By John Gilbert

Jay Leno – Stripping to Striping

Text & Photos by John Gilbert

Without a doubt I think the most famous and beloved gearhead in the world is Jay Leno. Sure, all the big time comedians have exstensive car collections, but Jay is the only guy that mingles amongst the car crazy masses and is frequently spotted driving his collection. The first time I ever saw Jay Leno in public was at a Christmastime gearhead get-together at a friend of a friend’s. That was Dean Hensley’s house in Pasadena. The year must have been around 1988, I was checking out a veteran era motorcycle amongst many displayed in the terraced hillside backyard when “Goofy”, my girlfriend at the time said “hey that guy looks just like Jay Leno.” I looked over at the In ‘N Out trailer that was handing out free hamburgers, and sure enough the guy reaching for a “double-double” at the front of the line was Jay Leno.

The next year at the Christmas party Goofy and I were at Dean’s front gate talking with my friends Greg, and Cal “Buzz” Naylor when Jay walked up and greeted us. Jay Leno doesn’t know me from Adam, but he’s friends with Greg and Cal. Hanging out there provided me a unique opportunity to stand in Jay’s shoes for a few minutes and experience what he has to put up with. By put up I mean almost every guy that greeted Jay seemed compelled to make some sort of attempt at being a stand-up comedian as he passed by. An endearing trait, Jay is always congenial to gearhead fans, no matter how many dumb jokes they tell him.

About 5 years later I was riding in a pack of six loud chopped Harley-Davidsons on the Ventura Freeway heading north to meet “Clean” Dean, David Mann, and a bunch of other ER employees when a louder, faster, noise approached from behind and passed us. The heavy rumbling was coming from a hot-rod Hispano-Suiza sort of contraption with Jay Leno behind the wheel. Jay was wearing a blue ball cap, and he looked over and nodded with a smile as he passed. Amongst our pack was John Morgan, then editor of Hot Bike. I’m mentioning this to illustrate it’s always been a friendly competition between the titles. At least for me, I’ve learned magazine editors are just hired guns. I started at Easyriders and then moved on to Hot Rod Bikes.

Sorry, I get off on a tangent sometimes. Anyways the explanation for these photos is these are from the time my fellow idiopathic idiot friend that owns a 1912 Buick, and I drove on the freeway to get to a horseless carriage event. Its an event where you can practically set your watch that Jay Leno will be showing up. At past occasions I’ve asked Jay serious questions about some of the cars he’s driven, but I’ve always gone out of my way not to bug him by taking his photo, or practice my comedy act. I did bring my trusty Canon to the event to shoot cars, and bikes that were there, but no paparazzi stuff.

Egad! the next thing I know Dave is charging towards Jay trying to beat some old ladies there that are getting ready to gang up on Jay with cameras to get their photos taken. So WTF, at Dave’s request I slid in with my camera and took these photos of him standing next to Jay. And yes, of course we just had to tell Jay all about driving the 1912 Buick on the freeway. I’m not sure why, but for some reason Jay looked at us like we were both nuts.

 John Gilbert

Tooling Around

Stripping Discs – Text & Photos by John Gilbert

I’ve stripped more than a few cars down to the bare metal in my time and its really not my favorite thing to do. I think I’d rather kiss a provoked possum on the lips than have to deal with the discomfort stripping paint brings. That said, there is more than one way to skin a car, and Stripping Discs are one of the best ways I’ve found.

At Chopit Kustom in Stanton, CA. The underside of this ’59 El Camino was media blasted first. Next, Eastwood Stripping discs were used to smooth the area, remove leftover bits of undercoat, and remove light rust acquired from sitting while at a previous location.


Pack of Five. Stripping Disc produces a 320-grit finish. The combination of Eastwood #31086 4.5-inch Strip Discs mounted on a 4-inch “peanut grinder” makes for a great way to get into hard to reach areas and handle the tight spots. Backing plate included with Stripping Disc System #31112.

This Merc is yet another major customization under way at Chopit Kustom. Take note of the 320-grit brushed finish the Eastwood 7-inch Stripping Disc produces. 7 inch Cleaning / Stripping Disc System #31114.


Don’t overlook peeling the sticker from the backing plate. This allows the entire surface to be exposed providing maximum grip.


It’s a good idea to make sure the stripping disc is accurately centered on the backing plate. Line it up, and push straight down. If the Stripping Disc is mounted off-center it will be out of balance and produce a noticeable vibration.

From this angle there’s still a light coating of rust on the driver side surface of the hood. The 7-inch Cleaning Disc leaves an 80-grit finish and was used to remove old primer from the driver side fender.


Here’s Gary Chopit showing famed Honda motorcycle racer Tim “Model T” Ford the next bubbletop car scheduled to leave the shop. Note the right fender reveals a brushed 320-grit finish produced by the 7-inch Stripping Disc.


Well, there you have it friends please stay tuned for an upcoming adventure showing the next step after stripping; epoxy and etching primer.

Tech Tricks

Styles for Stripping School – Text & Photos by John Gilbert

Have brush, will travel has always looked like a good way to make a living to me. If I had it to do over again back in 1969 when I first started teaching myself to do custom paint I would have started to pinstripe as well. I’ve messed with trying through the years, and have actually billed people for my stripes, but there’s always been better out there.

There’s one thing I know for sure, and that’s when I started custom painting there weren’t any custom painters out there that would share information or try to help an FNG out. It was a pretty secretive trade.

These days it’s a whole lot better for someone that wants to learn. Take pinstriping for example, the following story is about Jeff Styles a friend of mine that teaches folks how to stripe — Oh, and everything you need from striping enamel to brushes, to Auto Air Colors is available right here at Eastwood.

Every kid has fanciful dreams of what they’d like to do when they grow up one day, but that’s not usually how things work out. The average person’s early life career ambitions often disappear as soon as they’ve graduated high school, and find their aspirations sidelined by more conventional pursuits. For Jeff Styles of Mesa, Arizona, that was not to become the case. In the 70s he was a school kid that spent as much of his time drawing flames on his homework as he did studying it. His dad a fireman by profession had a knack for pinstripping, and lettering as a hobby. Unlike Jeff’s teachers the elder Styles possessed a greater appreciation of the kid’s natural customizing talent and encouraged him to pick up a striping brush.  In no time Jeff was skillful enough to pinstripe his bicycle, along with everything else he thought in need of embellishment.  On the way home after school one day Jeff dropped by the house of Butch Tucker, a striper more famously known as “Butch’r. Once tutored by Von Dutch, Butch’r recognized in Jeff what Dutch saw in him, and took the kid under his wing. In the process the two developed a great friendship that continues to this day.

By the early 80s Jeff had moved to Southern California, and was making a good living pulling stripes down the sides of cars at the local dealerships. As Jeff developed a distinctive style with a bigger bag of special effects the caliber of the vehicles he striped escalated accordingly. Beyond cars, trucks, and motorcycles Jeff built up a backlog of automobilia, airplanes, and watercraft to customize. That was 30 years ago, and to this day Jeff has only had to rely on his abilities as a pinstriper, and custom painter to make a living. Not one to hold back any tricks of the trade Jeff takes time out to teach pinstriping to anyone that would like to learn, or stripers looking to step up their game. He travels to Las Vegas for Airbrush Action’s annual Getaway making it a point to add new techniques to his seminars each year. For example in addition to teaching the basic steps, the class included how to simulate wood grain. Checkout Jeff Styles’ website www.socalpinstriper.com for a current list of events where he’s teaching class.

An industry staple since 1948, 1Shot sign painters’ lettering enamel remains present on Styles’ shelf, but recent changes in California regulations are beginning to wreak havoc. Mineral spirits the most popular reducer used for 1Shot is now banned in California due to it being a petroleum-based solvent that emits VOCs. The aqueous replacement known as odorless mineral spirits doesn’t work so hot leaving users asking, “what is this crap?”

As good luck would have it we were able to sit in while Jeff was laying stripes on his recently acquired pure black’09 Street Glide. Unlike custom graphics that are buried under a clear topcoat, the beauty of pinstriping is it lies on top of the surface. This means if there’s a change of heart, or the desire to redesign the bike’s appearance it’s a much simpler process. Starting with the saddlebags Jeff used ¼-inch 3M brand masking tape to lay straight guidelines. The guidelines were traced with a Stabilo pencil. Next the tape was pulled off leaving faint white straight lines that wiped off easily after the artwork had dried completely.

A matter of branding, Jeff decided to tattoo flames on his right hand to stand out in magazine articles where often the only trace of a performing pinstriper is a photo of his hands. White Stabilo guidelines are barely visible. Notice Jeff forms a bridge using both hands to steady the brush, and pull the line rearward.

The red stripes are painted in a standard 1Shot color right from the chart. Jeff custom mixed a light beige to make the artwork pop. The white specs are talc used to ensure Jeff’s hands glide along the surface as the stripes are pulled.

Jeff striped the entire bike all at once in just a couple of hours. Applying the second color shortly after applying the first color is where things can get risky. Smearing the fresh beige, and having to wash it off with thinner means the red will have to be washed off as well. That means its back to square one. Jeff advised the way novice stripers can get around this problem is to let the first color dry completely overnight, and then go for the second color the next day.

Sign blanks, or panels are pre-finished 12×18-inch .040 gauge aluminum coated with black, or white baked enamel. Whether for practice, or completed art, panels work great. Jeff painted this one with an abstract background, featuring a cartoon of Lady Luck perched atop red, white, and black pinstriping.

A variation of a theme Jeff created another abstract background only this time genuine 22-karat yellow gold is combined with black 1Shot to complete the painting’s foreground.

License plate restoration, and customizing for show is one of Styles’ specialties. The plates come to Jeff half beat to death all dented with faded paint, and leave looking like they just left Tehachapi in a DMV envelope. Check out the 8G-prefixed plate that started out white with red California script, and ended up black with traditional block letters.

Simulating the appearance of real wood on steel parts is called wood graining and the process using oil, and solvent based paints has been around a long time. Until recently Jeff has been using the tried and true oil based paint systems to replicate wood grain, but once again California laws are beginning to affect product availability. Jeff, realizing he’d either have to become an outlaw, and smuggle illegal paints into the state. The paint used here is water-based from Auto-Air Colors.

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