During the 1950s and 1960s, the American automobile industry arguably peaked both in terms of sales and creativity. Americans were obsessed with cars, buying them as fast as they could be built, and many a television show had cars we today consider cultural icons at the center of the action. Wildly modified versions of street cars became ever more popular both with private collectors and Hollywood, giving rise to a growing custom car industry.
Unfortunately that golden age of American cars is long in our past, and many key players are well beyond retirement age. Famed car customizer Dean Jeffries died this week at the tender age of 80 years, reports Hemmings Auto Blog. Though he will be missed, his contributions to the custom car scene will not soon be forgotten.
Born in 1933, Jeffries had always been drawn to art, but also gravitated towards cars. During a stint in the Army, Jeffries was stationed in Germany where he learned the art of automotive pinstriping. On his return to California, Jeffries continued his custom education from legendary car customizer Kenneth “Von Dutch” Howard, as well as learned to shape metal. Jeffries would famously pinstripe James Dean’s Porsche “Lil Bastard” as well as help build the ‘32 Deuce Coupe that was on the cover of the Beach Boy’s “Little Deuce Coupe” Album.
Jeffries would also paint the first Shelby Cobra, and was soon tapped by Hollywood to work on cars like the Lincoln Continental used in the “Green Hornet” television series. One of his most famous custom cars though was the Monkey’s Pontiac GTO “Monkeymobile.” Jeffries also feuded with another car customization great, George Barris, whom he accused of taking credit for his work.
The car customization world lost another legend this week, and our thoughts are with his family.