How to Install an Aftermarket Shifter on a Chevy V8 and TH350.

When building Project Pile House I’ve pretty much discarded all of the original mechanics and I’ve been building from the ground up. I’ve already installed a SBC (small block Chevy V8) engine and a TH350 automatic transmission in the truck. Next I needed to install a universal shifter that would work with the changes I’ve made and look “right”. I wanted something no-frills and as “retro” as an aftermarket shifter could look. I opted for the 15″ B&M Street Rod Shifter kit from JEGS. Most of the aftermarket shifter kits are simple to mount, but I figured I’d show you the process for anyone thinking about doing this themselves in the future.

I haven’t made the removable portion of my tunnel on Pile House yet, so I had plenty of room to work with, but you’ll need to gain access to the top of your transmission first.

From there you need to remove the top bolts from the tail shaft of the transmission. I found using a Ratcheting Wrench helped make quick work of removing the bolts. These top bolt holes will serve as two of the mounting points for the base plate of the shifter. The B&M kit (and most other brands) come with bolts to mount the plate in those top holes, but the factory bolts will work as well. You’ll also be utilizing a (normally) unused bolt hole in the top center of the transmission. I have a new transmission in Pile House, so I was able to just install the bolt, but you may want to clean the hole out with some Chassis Kleen and a “thread chaser” or tap.

Once you have the baseplate installed you can install the adjustable top mounting plate that the shifter attaches to. The top plate has a number of different mounting holes that allow you to mount the plate as far back (or forward) as you need and allows you to do the same with the shifter on the top plate. This gives almost limitless mounting options no matter the size of your cabin and seating configuration. The top plate uses hex head bolts and set screws to mount it and set the height/angle that the plate sits at. The shifter also mounts with button head hex head bolts. I opted to mount the plate and shifter fairly far forward so that the shifter wouldn’t hit the seat when going into gear.

With the shifter installed you can now hook it up so that it not only looks cool, but also actually works the transmission. The B&M shifter came with two simple brackets, some spherical heim joints, bolts, and some threaded rod. The smaller bracket with a square hole on one end mounts over the selector shaft located at the center bottom of the drivers side of the transmission. The larger bracket attaches to the drivers side of the shifter.

To make the shifter linkage you want to make sure the transmission and shifter are in the “park” position. You then measure the distance between the empty bolt holes on the two brackets and subtract the length of the heim joints from that number. That’s the length that you cut your threaded rod to. You then thread the heim joints on the threaded rod and attach each end to the brackets on the selector shaft and the shifter with the supplied nuts and bolts. Lastly adjust any slop out of the rod and tighten the jam nuts down on the heim joints. From here you should be able to check to make sure you have Park, Neutral, Reverse, Drive, First, Second, etc.

After confirming the shifter is mounted and functioning correctly; I was able to fine tune the position of the shifter to exactly how I wanted with the fine adjustment set screws at the base of the shifter. This put the shifter closer to the dash at park and plenty of room between the seat and the shifter in drive even with the seat moved all the way forward. All in all the project took about an hour of work and I think it looks right at home in the truck. I plan to eventually find or make a custom shift knob, but for know the standard B&M round shifter will work just fine. The shifter also comes with a microswitch to wire to your ignition as a neutral safety switch, I’ll be doing that here shortly when I begin wiring the truck.


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West Coast Report 30th Edition by John Gilbert

Johnny Chop — 2K Freezing — Pre-Winter Wheezing

For a healthier and happier life stay away from airline companies that have names beginning with the letter A. Aeroflot, Allegheny, Air Poland, Air Force 1, just to name a few. Also, stick to name brands when it comes to dehydrated seafood products such as Blowfish lips, or Tilapia, which is known as “Bacon of the Sea” in health conscious families. Alright we’ve got the public service announcement out of the way lets get down to business. While I was fabricating the exhaust mounts yesterday for the Speedway Shotgun stainless steel headers I’m installing on the Hot Rod to Hell it got me to thinking about how different builders each have their own style. By style, I mean a distinctive way of engineering all the little things that it takes to put a custom car, truck, or motorcycle together. These are the details that the general public doesn’t recognize, but folks that do this kind of work really appreciate.

—John Gilbert 

This is the last photo I took of Johnny Chop. Johnny had just moved into a new shop building in Huntington Beach, and recently got this puppy he named Louie. The last time I saw Johnny was about two weeks before he’d passed away. We were at Top Shelf Customs in Huntington Beach, out back in the shop area discussing the way a builder had engineered his rear brake setup. It was very interesting to observe Johnny analyzing how the guy had configured it, and said what he could have done to make it a better setup. The three of us, Alan, Johnny, and I looked the rest of the bike over and pointed out its strong and weak points. That’s the fun part of fabricating, figuring out a cleaner way to do something, and exhibiting mind-blowing craftsmanship in the process.

I don’t know if any of you guys have noticed this yet, but the Hot to Hell is strictly a low-budget project. It illustrates how effective restoration products like specialty paints can be to make something look every bit as good as the deep-pockets approach. For some reason I got fanatical about having a deep gloss on the engine. In addition to what I showed in a tech in West Coast Report 28 I used 2K clear to make the VHT Chevy Orange as deep as possible. Also notice at this point the chassis has been coated in 2K gloss Chassis. Please scroll down for more info on painting the chassis.

This is the starter that came with the car, notice I painted the solenoid black to gain a vintage look. The engine mount bolts are Grade 8 gold cad I’ve kept for a time when I’d need them. I reused the ½-inch 20 engine mount bolts spraying lightly with Silver Argent to regain a new look.

Here’s Ruby taking it easy in the sun. If it’s really important she might bark. The Santa Ana winds were blowing, and the heat associated with the phenomenon was great for making paint dry too fast. The Chinooks in Calgary, and thereabouts are of the same phenomena.

Getting back to a fabricator’s particular style I look to utilizing existing car parts to come up with special parts that I need. I concepted the rear hangers for the Speedway headers with a used OEM Chevy S-10, and a Harley-Davidson case bolt. I liked the S-10 mount because it was incased in steel.

I needed two mounts and had only one, so I went online and found a pair of aftermarket replacements at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts. I checked with Pep Boys, and Autozone, also, but discovered it was a part none of the three auto parts stores kept in stock. I call it the 7 + 7 plan O’Reilly’s took seven days to get the parts for me, and charged seven dollars for shipping.

Alright get ready here it comes the rant where I go off on de-engineered aftermarket parts. A lot of aftermarket parts are good quality, but when they’re crap, they’re really crap. Unlike the original GM engineered S-10 exhaust hanger the feller in India that redesigned the S-10 exhaust hangar I bought decided it wasn’t necessary to use steel in manufacturing. So, instead of something with a backbone, these things are flimsy, and who knows what the quality of the rubber is. Let the buyer beware, right?

To constantly check fitment I had the headers on and off five times before I completed the new mounts. The roll of blue tape is all that’s left of the tape I used to cover areas that I didn’t want to scratch.

I’m a little low on bucks right now, so I had to work with nuts and bolts and stuff that I’ve accumulated through the years. Always keep an eye open for salvaging special hardware off of something before you toss it. Who knows where that big gold cad-plated washer came from, but it worked perfect to clamp the flimsy aftermarket exhaust hanger.

I used 3/8-inch rod, and tapped it with 3/8 coarse threads for the frame mounts and fine threads for the nuts that are visible here. To beef the mount up and make it nicer to look at I’m going slide 9/16-inch ID stainless steel tubing on top.

One can’t assume one side will match the other. I only made parts for the driver side, and it paid off because the passenger side bracket needed to be shorter. Yeah, the big washer doesn’t match the other side exactly, and I learned its slightly larger diameter worked better to strengthen the flimsy rubber mount.

I heard a weird squeak while shaking the exhaust to test for strength, but was relieved to discover it came from my cat when she woke up. I used two slightly different configurations to make the header hangers. it’ll be interesting to see if they each work as well.

Outlaw Rodder

Full Gloss 2K Chassis Black

There’s a big gap in quality between ordinary aerosol spray paints, and the results one obtains with professional equipment and materials intended for professional use. The only advantage an ordinary spray can has over the professional route is convenience. If it wasn’t for Eastwood 2K Aero Spray finishes the Hot Rod to Hell was either going to have to look like it was spray-bombed, or I was going to have to turn the painting portion into a full blown project.

This brings us back to the particular style a builder likes to adhere to. Some builders prefer to lay everything out and paint it all at once, and then there’s others like me that prefer to prepare and paint parts as they go along.

The driveshaft was the first part I painted. I degreased it with Chassis Kleen, sanded it smooth with 320-wet, and then did the final prep with PRE. I masked and capped off everything that shouldn’t be painted.

Don’t forget 2K Aero Spray paints are full-on German made professional quality urethane paints that contain isocyanates and require a spray mask, or respirator. For painting the driveshaft in lieu of a good respirator, and spraying indoors, I used a simple particle mask, and painted the driveshaft outdoors. Keep the fumes out of your face as much as possible.

Spray on a good heavy wet coating of 2K Aero Spray gloss black chassis paint and I defy anyone to tell the difference between it and powder coating. Weigh the advantages; with 2K Aero Spray paints parts don’t need to be completely disassembled to paint. On the other hand powder coating is electrostatic and goes around corners.

If you slip up using PRE and miss a greasy spot, consequently getting a bunch of fisheyes don’t sweat it, its an easy fix.

Wet sand the area that looks like a cheese pizza with 320, or 400 wet, smooth and re-spray.

There’s easily eight coats of 2K Aero Spray gloss black chassis on this driveshaft. After using PRE, I used compressed-air to blow off any dust that was present. 2K Aero Spray dries quickly, leaving little chance of dust or dirt settling in.

I’m curious if 2K Aero Spray can last for periods of months at a time. I haven’t done long-term testing yet, but I’ve proven to myself extending the shelf life of 2K Aero Spray paints can be accomplished by storing the mixed (catalyzed) contents in the freezer. That’s freezer as in an everyday common kitchen appliance. This can of 2K Aero Spray was punctured 9/23/13, partially emptied on the 23rd and then thawed-out 9/30/13 and worked with perfect results.

Whether it be pet food, or for human consumption don’t leave food where it can be contaminated by overspray.

Because of overspray I really didn’t want to paint the chassis in the garage, but there’s three derelict old trucks stuck under the patio where I like to paint large objects. I used two large window box fans, and opened all the doors to keep the overspray down. Also cardboard on the floor. Black overspray makes the biggest mess. Anything you don’t overspray on wrap it up 100-percent Like I did with the engine, and trans.

Use blue masking tape for easy removal up to long term, and the cheap yellow crepe if you’re going to remove the tape as soon as you’re done painting.

Gloss black chassis paint shows every little imperfection. I used a sharp file to knock down rough castings on the axle and spindles.

Also to round off the edges of the shock brackets I fabricated.

A good coating of High-Build Self-Etching primer works great to prepare the surface underneath.

Shoot the primer wet, like you would a topcoat. Shooting the primer dry leaves a coarse surface that has to be sanded out, and dry primer doesn’t.

For an area like this holding folded 320-wet ‘n dry sandpaper flat works about the same as a sanding block. Notice the high spots appear, indicating the surface is flattening out.

Deeper pits in cast pieces requires more coats of primer. Lay it heavy, and sand them out.

Removing the brake drums was the best way to do a first class job. Using HBSE primer on the backing plates, and axle housings and sanding smooth left a perfect substrate for the high-gloss 2K chassis paint. Wear a good mask and use lots of compressed-air to blow off the brake dust before painting, otherwise you’ll have a ton of dirt in the finish.

Shoot a tack coat moving fast enough to avoid runs, but slow enough to ensure good coverage. For the second coat start spraying as soon as the tack coat is almost dry to the touch. Some paints have a window and starting too soon, or too late will cause the paint to attack itself and wrinkle. So far I’ve never had this problem with 2K Aero Sprays. Also I haven’t encountered any problems recoating the next day with up to five more coats. It’s the heavy coats that give this axle assembly the look of powder coating.

Contrasts in black. The frame got the glossy treatment, and the body will get the semi-gloss treatment next. I hope to have the body undercoated, and painted ready to put back on the car by early October.

A good heavy coating of 2K Aero Spray makes the drums look powder coated

Joe’s 2nd Annual Mini-Bike Reunion

Saturday, September 21st 2013, my friend Herman, and I made a banzai run out to La Crescenta, California for Joe Sebergandio’s mini-bike reunion, or as its officially known, Joe’s Minibike Reunion. The event is held in a really nice area up in the foothills at Crescenta Valley Park.

A lot of people don’t realize this, but the safest form of two-wheeled transportation for a fully grown man to ride is a mini-bike. The reason being a person with any kind of height at all has to curl up in a fetal ball position to ride one of the things. Along comes something that stops the mini-bike dead in its tracks, and the rider launches over the handlebars and safely rolls to a pill bug configured stop.

This is a Chris Cycle. I’ve got a real soft spot in my brain for all of the nostalgia attached to these things. Before I got my minibike in 1964, I had a friend named Robert Mench that used to let me ride his Chris Cycle. Robert lived up in the San Jose Hills above West Covina, and sometimes the rich people that lived up there would call the cops… And that’s how I learned to ride a two-wheeler very fast in on and off-road situations. Who knows, were Robert and I the original Motard racers?

I could be wrong, but I remember the Candy Green being a little darker than this. Maybe it was the fog created by 2-stroke oil that made it look darker. These things went pretty good for a 50cc motor, and made a distinctive two-stroke carb, and muffler moaning sound.

You’ll see at the end of this article that this minibike is pretty darn close to being the minibike I got as a 12-year old kid in ’64.

I’m not a big fan of plastering stickers all over something unless it came that way. The SMS Trailmaster sticker is the only one that might have been on this bike originally.

As in sold, this bike changed hands early in the morning. The milk crate makes a pretty good impromptu stand.

White tires make this old Simplex look older than it is. Simplex was started in 1935 in New Orleans, Louisiana, by a Harley-Davidson dealer.

I’m guessing this later model Simplex is no newer than a ’75 since the company folded in 1975… duh.

A relative of the Tote Gote I found this Mini Gote in the swapmeet area.

Two Tacos with a Briggs motored Bonanza at the end. Maybe it’s a Tecumseh motor, I never was into the lawnmower-powered stuff.

Here’s a dog in a chair.

Now the dog is getting ready to look me in the eye like I owe him money.

You can tell there was a really good mix of the different brands produced. It seems like almost every state had a minibike manufactured within its border. In The early 60 to the 70s California was stuffed to the gills with companies building minibikes.

They’re selling Taco minibikes brand-new again, and here’s one now… or is it?

Notice this Chopper style minibike has a kickstarter just like the old Harley’s did. The OD of the sissybar is larger than you’d find on an old chopped Harley.

This Bonanza is really nice, and its quite similar to the one “Hoss” Cartwright was riding on the cover of Rod & Custom.

Based on the bolt-together frame, I’m guessing this is an early Taco. The bolt-together frame made the Taco kits cheaper to ship. The 3 horse Briggs & Stratton was most common engine to be found.

Near zero rake (steering head angle) means this minibike turned faster than it went.

Here’s a homebrew if I ever saw one… or should I say, saw two?

I don’t know what make this bike is. I do remember Clinton motors, and my friend, Billy Evans that raced Bug karts with West Bend motors used to bag on Clintons for being big-time slow.

Built in Washington state, this is a Tule Trooper, they were in the same genre as a Tote Gote. I like the word genre, its not a big word, but people that like to use big words, like to use genre in their vocabulary.

Here’s my all time favorite minibike its called a Flexo. There always used be a Flexo ad in the car magazines, and I dreamt of having a Flexo with a West Bend motor.

This is a Bug Trail Scout with a Hodaka Ace 90, or it could be Ace 100 motor.

I’ll bet it has a lot of chain noise, probably sounds like an old Ironhead Sportster running without any oil in it.

This thing has the most rudimentary of brakes, notice it’s a friction brake that rubs against the rear tire. Emergency auxiliary brakes were usually outsourced from Keds, or Converse, not Raybestos.

No, Miss Minibike wasn’t a dog. Remember when Dobermans were the media’s favorite dog to malign? In some cultures Dobermans are really liked when they are seasoned properly. Does this minibike meat objectify dogs?

Me thinks the early Honda minibikes were knock-offs of American made minibikes. That said, most of the minibikes made in America were pretty rustic in comparison to the factory engineered and built Japanese stuff.

I never cared for the look of Honda’s stamped sheetmetal frames. Those silly Japanese, anyone knows a proper anything is fabricated from steel tubing.

Unless the tube frame looks like it came from a lawn chair. Here comes the hate mail from the Honda guys.

Notice how the exhaust header is cleverly engineered to act as a sump guard.

Bare metal always looks cool.

I would have mounted the gas tank transverse behind the seat, that’s the look I liked back in the early 60s.

It’s a one-off special: This Mini-Rat to the untrained observer just looks like a shrunken Hodaka that maybe the factory built. Look at the photos and it almost comes up to the owner’s kneecap.

Cole Foster fabricated the gas tank. The spec sheet said Cole spent over 30-hours building the tank. It would take me 30-hours to fabricate a flat number plate.

See the beauty of building your bike is you can mount stuff wherever you want it. I would have hung the tank under or on top of the backbone (top tubes) and mounted the gas cap Frisco style.

This bike is either owned by an old person that built an onboard breathing apparatus, or some super trick thing the minibike dragsters like to do… Here comes some more irate hate mail.

OK, so that’s not a heart-rate monitor on the gas tank. The bike is an HPE Cat Eliminator.

There was a miniature Army guy running around near this thing. I think it might have been a little kid.

Another serious drag bike. OK now I get it, all those tubes are lines to a puke tank with a breather.

A Bonanza MX with a hopped-up Briggs & Stratton running what looks to be a Mikuni carb.

This was a really clean little custom with nice paint and the tank mounted in the perfect spot to recreate mass levels of nostalgia, and the other jazz more better writers than me would write. *For more information on how you can become a famous magazine writer making big money fill out this matchbook cover, and send it to Carlos Danger, PO box 44, NY, NY.

This is a Rupp L100. Mickey Rupp started Rupp Manufacturing in Mansfield, Ohio in 1960, and built a proverbial crapper full of minibikes and go-karts during the Golden Age.

Here’s the minibike I’ve owned since my dad bought it brand-new in 1964. We looked at all kinds of trail bikes in ’64. I still have the sales brochure for the ’64 Triumph Mountain Cub we almost bought. The Triumph was my favorite, I wouldn’t mind still owning a ’64 Mountain Cub.

As pictured this is the third paintjob for the bike. I hated the Mickey Mouse clamped on handlebars it came with, so in 1965 I made these riser-less bars. The next set of handlebars I made in that style, were on my ’68 XLCH that made the August ’76 cover of Easyriders.

Recently I stumbled onto an October 1964 edition of Karting World with a road test on a SMS Trailmaster 80 minibike that was almost exactly like my bike was when new. I didn’t do the burnouts, those were done by the neighbor kid.


As seen here the side cases are in bare aluminum, my next project is to use Eastwood Detail Gray to paint the cases. Detail Gray is a perfect match for early Honda, and Hodaka motors. Maybe some other Japanese brands too, it’s a bitchin’ color. Note the original ID tag on this motor is in mint condition.

Color it Nostalgic

A low-cost plastic Lazy Susan makes a great easel for painting both sides of a motorcycle gas tank, or any round object without having to move from side to side. The double-decker plastic Lazy Susan shown here I’ve had for at least three decades. I just dug it out of my paint cabinet the other day while I was looking for something to paint the brake drums for the Hot Rod to Hell on.

Distinctive colors trigger memory — One look at the yellow overspray left on top, and I slipped into nostalgic memories of the last time I used the Lazy Susan for an easel. The Hamster yellow overspray was leftover after I painted the heads and barrels (that’s cylinders for non-Harley folk) for my friend Gene Koch’s ‘85 FXR. As I remember it the year was 1990 and Gene was getting ready for Sturgis’ 50th birthday celebration. If any of you have a collection of Thunder Custom Motorcycle Cards Gene Koch’s bike is card number 64. The caption reads “A paint job to match his Hamster T-shirt.”

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Eastwood’s ‘Shop Talk’, Episode 15: Kevin Tetz Talks Shop With Jay Rowlands – Director & Driving Force Behind The Movie, CLUTCH

Rhetorical Question: Who Doesn’t LOVE a good car chase scene?!

In this episode of Eastwood’s ‘Shop Talk,’ Kevin Tetz chats with Jay Rowlands: writer, director, producer, editor, stunt-driver & lets not forget, actor of the independent film, Clutch.

Jay has a love for American muscle cars in films, so deep in fact; he spent the last 12 years producing ‘the most driven car film ever made’.

It takes vision and follow-through to get things done, which is exactly why Jay lives by his montra, “make stuff happen”.

So sit tight, listen to Kevin and Jay chat it up & don’t forget to keep up with Kevin via Eastwood’s Blog & Youtube Channel!

Like what you hear? SUBSCRIBE and listen to Kevin at home, in the garage or on the road!

Have ideas for the show, or questions you want answered on the air by Kevin? Feel free to shoot Kevin an email at, we’d love to hear from you!

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The Race of Gentlemen 2013 Coverage

Lemmy from Motörhead once said “If you think you are too old to rock ‘n roll, then you are.” and the same goes for driving your classic cars and bikes. Too many people are afraid to drive their classics because they’re “too old”. The guys at the Oilers Car Club wanted to put on an event where Pre-War autos and motorcycles could be driven like they were back in their heyday. This is how the The Race of Gentlemen was born in 2012.

The idea was simple, pick a beach and setup a grassroots style 1/8th mile drag race next to the water. No fancy digital time clocks, no staging, no burnout pit, and no egos, just 2 men and 2 machines going all-out in the sand. Word spread quick in the hot rod and vintage motorcycle community and the debut event last year was wildly successful. I was extremely disappointed I couldn’t make it, and I made sure I cleared my calendar for this past weekend to see this unique event for myself.

This year the event was held appropriately in Wildwood, NJ. For anyone not familiar, Wildwood is an old, well known beach town in the Northeast. Wildwood has made a point to keep the retro feel and many of the businesses still use old neon signs that look straight out of the 50′s and 60′s. The race itself was held just off the boardwalk directly in front of the old amusement park. This made for some pretty epic photos with the big ferris wheel in the background. With the hype surrounding this event (especially after coverage last year in Hot Rod Magazine), I made sure to get there bright and early and stand in line to be one of the first on the beach. Once you got down to the event it was like going back in time. The Oilers had done a great job of making retro signage for the event and even a timing tower that looked period correct.

After the staff went over the race rules with the drivers, the lovely flag girls made their way to the starting line and the cars began lining up two by two. Before each race the flag girl would quickly go over how she would start the race and the drivers would be off. The classes were broken down pretty simply into “bangers” (inline flathead four cylinder engines) and V8 flatheads. I’m pretty sure that this may have been one of the largest gatherings of flatheads on the east coast in a while. I’m still getting chills from the sound of all of those flathead V8′s at WOT (wide open throttle)! After the first wave of races the drivers took a 30 minute break and the crowd was able to go into the “pits” and check out all of the cars and bikes and chat with the drivers. It was refreshing walking around, no one had an attitude, or was too worried about prepping for the next bracket, everyone was just happy talking cars and sharing information about their ride.

After the break the racing started back up and went until the final races which ended around 5PM. Unlike most drag races and shows, the crowd wasn’t leaving before the event was over or as soon as they heard the winner, this was more than that. I found myself roaming the pits with the rest of the crowd, chatting with the drivers of some of my favorite cars and bikes and hearing the story behind their car and racing it. I was really surprised at how far some of the drivers and cars had come from. A club from Colorado made the trip and actually took home some wins, along with some cars from New England and the southeast. Many of us stayed until the cars were kicked off the beach and everyone retired to their hotels for the intermission between the race and the Saturday night party. That’s right, the Oilers not only put on a killer laid back nostalgic race on the beach, but they also put on an equally cool beach party later that evening. A lineup of rock bands, a large bonfire, and good conversation kept the crowd around until the wee hours of Sunday morning.

After leaving the party I decided to go roam Wildwood a little bit and see what sort of gems were hiding in the parking lots at each of the hotels. I was pleasantly surprised to find some REALLY cool classic cars and bikes hiding that spectators had driven to the event. I can definitely see this getting much larger and classic cars and bikes taking over the entire town for the weekend. I hit a lot of car and bike events around the globe each season and I can honestly say this is one of, if not the BEST event I’ve been to in years. The Oilers have the right idea and the friendly, laid-back vibe they all have spreads to all of the participants and spectators and makes for a successful event. I can’t wait for next year! I’m hoping one of these years I can get a car there to race myself, I want to scream down the beach with sand spraying everywhere!

Check out the rest of the photos I shot Saturday below.


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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.

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

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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