Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Custom Car and Paint Legend Dean Jeffries Dead

Custom Car and Paint Legend Dean Jeffries Dead
Custom Car and Paint Legend Dean Jeffries Dead
The '50s Cultural Icon Was 80.
Written by: Brandan Gillogly on May 7 2013 11:30 AM

Legendary custom car builder, painter, and Hollywood stuntman Dean Jeffries passed away this morning. He was 80 years old.

Dean Jeffries was a ‘50s cultural icon, contributing to the teen culture of the ‘50s through his paint and pinstriping—first working with George and Sam Barris in Lynwood—where he was born in ‘33, but also through images he created that became mass art for teen book covers, locker doors, and car windows. Dean Jeffries was the subject of many custom paint and pinstripe articles throughout the ‘50s, seeming to be attached to everything that was California Cool culture; from painting “Little Bastard” on the Porsche Spyder James Dean would lose his life in, to repainting over and over Carroll Shelby’s only Cobra prototype to help give the impression Carroll had built a fleet of them. Later he took the car customizing to new heights with his seminal Manta Ray, based on a Maserati Grand Prix racecar. Once the world got an eyeful of the Manta Ray, exposing what his custom capabilities were, Jeffries was building elaborate custom vehicles for the car manufacturers, TV and film, including the Monkeemobile for the Monkees TV show, and the Green Hornet’s “Black Beauty” Imperial. Since he built some of the cars used in numerous movies and TV, Jeffries also became a de-facto stuntman. Also during the height of his TV/movie car period he reinterpreted the dune buggy with his Kyote fiberglass kits.

In later years a series of medical setbacks and the loss of his wife Row slowed him down. But with the release of Tom Cotter’s biography of Jeffries, and spurred on by his son and daughter, he seemed to be relishing the spotlight he tended to shy away from in his more active days.

A story the late custom painter Larry Watson liked to tell about Dean Jeffries was the night they were all at the Clock Drive-In and Jeffries had his new ’59 Cadillac. Someone pulled into the Clock and yelled, “Hey Jeffries, is that your daddy’s car?” Jeffries yelled back, “Looks like your daddy must be a ditch digger.”

One of his most iconic builds was the Manta Ray that featured a scratch-built aluminum body over a Maserati chassis.

Categories: Editorials

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