West Coast Report 29th Edition by John Gilbert

Arlen Ness Interviewed – Von Dutch Dismembered – Bill Hines 91st Celebrated

Arlen Ness

Hey, how do you like the new and improved look of the West Coast Report? I’m not sure if I do, in fact at this point I’m not even sure what its going to look like until its done. What brought on the sudden change of format was I was thinking about slow a process it is for me to produce each edition of the West Coast Report. Then I remembered the good old days back when, Easyriders editor, Dave Nichols, and I used to throw all the photos together for the next issue of Tailgate, and then just start cranking out the text for it all. It took very little time to produce Tailgate. We wrote it live, and swore a solemn oath we couldn’t go back and make any corrections, or revisions. Dave explained what we were doing was just disposable entertainment, and we couldn’t make the stories any better if we did go back in and fiddle around. So this is the new West Coast Report, streamlined and produced in a whole lot less time… I’m hoping.

Alright here we go, I’m blasting early Grateful Dead, got Bonanza on channel 137, and a head full of twice-brewed Yuban, its time to pen a story I’ve been meaning to write since July 13, 2009.

I’d mentioned in the 26th West Coast Report that I’d spoken with Arlen Ness, on his 70th birthday, but I left out Arlen asked me to call him back the next day when was at his shop and had more time to talk. Monday, that’s when the conversation really got interesting. I mentioned to Arlen a friend in Calgary back in 1973, that owned a chopped Harley 45 Barry Cooney had built at BC Choppers in Portland. Arlen had done the bright pearl yellow paint and it was covered with scrolled gold leaf graphics similar as seen here on Arlen’s Knucklehead. Next, I told Arlen that I owned a custom paint shop in Calgary at the time, and we started talking about custom paint. It was just absolutely incredible, no holds barred, Arlen described to me how he used to use silk screen printers ink to make his candies, and add to tone lacquer stripping paints. Toned striping lacquer worked better than 1-Shot enamel buried under clear acrylic lacquer. Arlen told me the brand name he and a friend marketed their striping lacquer under, but it escapes me right now. I asked Arlen about what brand of acrylic lacquer he was using at the time and he replied Ditzler, the same brand I using at that time. For the young guns reading this, its important to understand that no custom painter back in the day would ever share trade secrets with another custom painter.

Von Dutch

Its funny I’d never thought about it before, but Von Dutch is the guy many custom painters from my era including myself have to blame for adopting a less than hospitable attitude towards customers, plus a crazy persona. The tales of Dutch’s customer abuse were legendary, and the crazy stories a great source of inspiration. I was always cordial to customers, but had a reputation for usually deciding the color they chose stunk, and I’d paint the bike a more pleasing hue as a surprise. And of course sometimes I might get a little carried away with the graphics. For example lay flames no charge on a tank, the customer wanted in one solid color. That reminds me of 1974 when I worked for Larry Watson, one of the crew told me if Larry got a long run down the side, he’d just run another scallop over it. Its not something I would have asked Watson to confirm, so I’m not sure if it was true or not. Either way, I guess it makes a good story to add to the legend.

The very last motorcycle I ever custom painted for profit was this ’87 Suzuki 1400 Intruder in 1995. http://www.motorcyclecruiser.com/tech/custom_suzuki_intruder_1400/

I had one month left on the lease for my building when a guy called and wanted me to lay flames on an existing white base, and then clear it. Its just a fact, the guys that ride Japanese cruisers won’t spend as much money as a Harley rider will. I really didn’t want to do the job, the shop was half dismantled, so I gave the guy a $2,200 estimate. At first he balked, but then called right back and said it was a go.

Thinking I was going to make decent money on the job I was pretty happy, but shortly afterward things started to head south in a hurry. I laid out, and airbrushed the flames no problem, but after pulling the tape discovered the base coat wasn’t adhering. Wasn’t adhering as in the paint under my flames was peeling off in long sheets. There’s no shortcuts when that happens. I had to strip it all down to primer and start over.

Before I had the job completed I had moved out of my shop and was relying on friend’s shops to complete the job. Way nicer than I could have done, Darrel Pinney at Xcaliber pinstriped and drop-shadowed the flames I’d painted. After Darrell’s I hauled the tank, fenders and sidecovers over to Kenny Morris at Hot Rods ‘N Hogs where Kenny slicked on a ton of clear. The only thing left to do was color sand and rub the bike out. The very last thing to do was finish the tank. Somehow I managed to sand a little blip clean through all the candies and pearls at the front of the tank, and it left an ¼-inch white circle. This job had turned out to be the nightmare from Hell, I couldn’t stand another moment of it. I touched-up the little blip with HOK Strato Blue, and then painted a happy face on it. If you zoom-in on the close up of the triple-trees and tank you can see the happy face. I had completely forgotten all about the job when two years later Kenny Morris said “Hey, do you remember that Suzuki you flamed with the happy face on the front of its tank? its on the cover of Motorcycle Cruiser. Suzuki photo credits go to Fran Kuhn at www.FranKuhn.com

Bill Hines 91st

I don’t know if it was the exact date of Bill Hines 91st birthday, but on Saturday, April 6, 2013 a bunch of folks showed up at Bob’s Big Boy Broiler in Downey, California to help Bill celebrate.

Bob’s Big Boy Broiler is a faithful recreation of Harvey’s Broiler built in 1958. In 1968 the sign was changed to read Johnnie’s Broiler, but most everyone still called it Harvey’s Broiler.

If the Eastwood crew has landed in So Cal, it’s a guarantee they’ll be dropping by Bob’s for dinner at least a few times. You’d think chocolate, but Nick likes the roast beef milkshakes the best.

At right of Bill Hines is Gary Chopit.

A nice guy to say the least, Bill signed autographs for his fans.

At the other side of what I think is a ’58 Eldorado Broughm… did a ’57 Eldorado have quad headlights, I don’t think so. Anyways that Bill’s latest version of the Lil Bat.

A ’60 Pontiac Bonneville, had a bigger butt than a ’60 Catalina, but the exact same interior dimensions.

This ’57 Ford retractable convert still has its original 3-speed stick tranny.

Here’s Nicky Chopit’s ’32 Ford pickup. His dad built it over 15 years ago, and it still looks show ready.

Ditto for this Chopit built Chevy its been together for 12 years and still looks show ready as well.

I don’t know the story on this green Chevy pickup… for all I know it’s a GMC.

Before there was gay marriage there were T-birds mated with Old Cutlass Vista Cruiser wagons roaming the streets of Bakersfield.

This old 2-door Plymouth wagon was a real cherry. Notice its painted Cherry red.

$9,500 was it all would take to buy this ’48 Plymouth. When I was a kid we used to shoot these old Plymouths abandoned out in the desert for free. Yes, I feel bad now.

Bright Ermine (Snow Weasel) White with a houndstooth interior was a great color combo for these ’60 Chevy Impalas.

The owner of this car mixed his paint to match Andersen’s Split Pea soup.

Look left at that T-bird wagon creation and its really not all that far off from factory one-offs, and what customizers were doing at the time. What time is it? 1965.

This ’57 Chevy 210 4-door sedan brings back memories to me. I got my driver license in 1968 my first car was a ’57 Chevy Bel-Air 4-door sedan.

That’s George Barris standing next to Bill’s left. I don’t think you could announce the grand opening of anything without Barris showing up, he really gets around.

At this point the cake was getting low, and the natives were getting restless. OK, Tokens, cue the Lion Sleeps Tonight.

This is a better shot of Bill’s daily-driver. Yes, it’s a rendition of his shoebox custom creation the Lil Bat. The rearend reminds me of a ’61 Rambler Classic that got smashed down on top of a ’59 Chevy. It was Bill Hines that taught the Alexander Brothers how to make and shoot candy colors. I think taking the labels off all of their paint cans was the Alexander Brothers idea. I’m telling you custom painters in the old days were really secretive.

A badass ’36 Ford Phaeton slammed in the weeds.

Talk about a candid shot, here’s Rod & Custom’s tech editor, Kev Elliot trying to look he remembers where his keys are.

Nicky Chopit puts a smile on Kev’s face when tells Kev there’s a set of car keys on the ground next to his Ute.

This shoebox Victoria belongs to LA area longtime custom upholsterer Joe Perez.

Really nice people to talk with, here’s Joe with his wife standing in the background.

Joe did the interior on “Big” Daddy Roth’s Orbitron the first time it was out, and again when the car was restored. Larry Watson painted the original, and oversaw the paint work when the car was restored.

Pearl White naugahyde and tuck ‘n roll in Joe’s Vicky is an unregistered  trademark of Joe’s award winning work.

A ’58 Impala steering wheel, or at least it’s an Impala wheel.

Joe’s a great guy he was ready to leave and then the time to show the crowd around car everything about it.

Including its late-model Ford powerplant. A dual master-cylinder gives a strong clue its been upgraded to disc brakes.

One last picture before Joe takes off.

Joe Perez out, a clean ’40 Ford two-door sedan in.

Teenage obesity is not to be blamed for the lowered stance of this car.

At first the color looked like red oxide primer, but when the sun hit it, it lit up with a pearly glow.


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