I started painting Cars 'n Choppers in the 60's - Then opened ~
"Jeff's Place Custom painting" ~ in 1969, which soon became the best known
place to in Southern California to have 'anything' with wheels custom painted
during the entire 70's era and into the 80's.
We were a full service
shop, that did ~ ahead of it's time ~ 'Extreme' One-of-a-Kind custom
fabrication, bodywork, painting, lettering, airbrushing, pinstriping, Etc, Etc,
"Jeff's Place" actually went on to become world famous by being
featured in a French film about about American Car Customizers & another one
along the same lines from Belgium. And I was extremely honored to be a guest on
the Johnny Carson show ~ showing Johnny how to Airbrush a 'Van Mural' :-)
Because the Van craze was in FULL swing during the 70's era (at least in
This was wayyyy before sign computers & 3
stage paint mind you ....Lol..... and here's an example: when Nat Quick didn't
want to do it anymore -- I took over painting the single stage paint of the RED
- WHITE - BLUE graphics on the NHRA Safety Safari trucks - and even 'Hand
Lettered' that entire NHRA logo on everything as well.
Same with the
'Lil racing decal / logos on the bottom of Funny Cars & Dragsters too....it
was an ego boost when people thought the 'Lil sponsor logos were stickers ~ when
in fact ~ they were HAND PAINTED!!!.....now a days, the entire paint scheme on a
Race Car can be a giant screen printed "Sticker" :-)
had soooo much work at Jeff's Place, that I actually had a 'day shift and a
'night shift' crew, as well as about 20 - 30 constant part timers.
also had a store front selling wheels, tires, waxes, all kinds of custom
accessories, Hats, T-Shirts, Etc, Etc, Etc.
It was a highly visible
7,500 sq.ft. shop that was within yards of a major freeway off ramp, and right
next to a Motel 6 and a Denny's restaurant. It was located on a corner of a
light industrial complex & had tons of parking room 'n very well lit up at
night, Etc.....so in his early years a 'Lil known Funny Car driver & my
friend, 'John "Brute" Force' ~(years before he became NHRA's 10 time World
Champion of course)~ used park his race rig there because he knew it would be
safe. Which I didn't mind 'cause after all, it was good for business.
(Although that big rig also used to constantly set off the building alarm at
3:00 in the morning when they either came home or left for a race - which wasn't
funny at the time to me or the Anaheim P.D.!!!!
I enjoyed that shop
'cause it was like a constant daily car show - and not only did groups of little
kids on their bicycles show up all the time to "oooh 'n Ahhh" the various Cars,
Trucks, Vans, Boats, Race cars or any other crazy ISCA Show Car that might have
been there, but so did the guests of the Motel across the street, customers of
Denny's annnnd we were not that far from Disneyland...and at that time, they
honored me with being the 'Grand Marshal' of one of their 25th year anniversary
parades, Jeff's Place eventually became a well known tourist stop & we sold
tons of T-Shirts 'n Posters featuring the "Jeff's Place" name & logo that
famed Drag Racing automotive artist Kenny Youngblood designed for us.
The huge list of Automotive Magazine articles, cover shots, Newspaper articles,
Posters, Movie & T.V. cars, Famous People, Endorsements, Paint Awards &
life long friends I have garnered Etc, Etc, from having this business is almost
Along with several famous I.S.C.A. (International Show Car
Assoc.) touring show cars and National Champions, and last but not least, the
dozens of Nationally known N.H.R.A. dragsters 'n funny cars I was lucky enough
to put my talent on .
I was - and have been - truly blessed
In 1982 a jealous competitor burned my shop down to dust 'n ashes and around the
same time I had been friends with Boyd Coddington ~(before he became a Hot Rod
Icon)~ for years and occasionally rubbing & buffing out his own attempts
at painting cars in his home 2 car garage.
When he quit working for
Disneyland as a machinist around the same time period and was not going to build
Hot Rods at his home/shop any more because he was moving into a large
professional building and asked me to be "'Hot Rod's by Boyd'" ~ First~ in
Although I felt truly honored by such a request... I was
(no pun intended) -burned out- on painting cars & the huge monster of a
business I created from it, and thus, turned him down - instead to take a very
much needed break and refresh my sole 'n went to work for Hot Rod, Street
Rodder, Car Craft magazines, Etc,Etc, as a photographer.
Did that for
awhile and had an extreme blast traveling all over the country and being around
nothing but the best Custom Hot Rods our hobby has to offer, plus it was soooo
much fun to do that AND get paid for it as well....Lol :-)
'custom' creative bug is just plain in my blood, so in the mid 'ta late 80's I
opened up another shop with ONE employee (me) called: "The Custom Sign Studio"
specializing only in - Airbrushing - Hand Lettered Signs & and of course my
beloved "Hand painted Pinstriping".....and that business too, was very
During this phase of my career, I was lucky enough to do
some background signs used in the 'Motley Crue' rock video ~ Dr.
Feelgood.....met the guys & also ended up painting their Harleys.
During my 40 plus year career I've had the tremendous once in a lifetime
opportunity to meet & create my talent for the "who's who" in the T.V.,
Music & Movie business ....AND..... I've had the honor to work for (and
become friends) with some of the most well known NHRA Drag Racers, owners,
builders, painters, and mechanics of both past & present times, and can
happily say: I knew 'em when.....Lol :-)
Alas, 'Jeff's Place' and the
'Custom Sign Studio' are only memories now, along with the 60's - 70's - 80's -
In 1992 I moved to beautiful North Idaho and never looked
In 1993, thanks to a suggestion by fellow pinstriper Dave
Whittle, I re-invented myself as "" Von Dago "" .... in honor & respect for
the man who started it all --- "Von Dutch" --- and to hopefully keep his memory
of 'Hand Pinstriping' alive!
The people in my life who have truly
inspired me to become who & what I am are:
"My Dad" --- Ken 'Von
Dutch' Howard --- Ed 'big daddy' Roth --- Larry Watson --- Ron Lester --- Dave
Whittle --- Kim Dedic --- Nat Quick --- John 'the Zookeeper' Mulligan --- and
last, but certainly not least --- Kenny 'Blood Did It' Youngblood --- who I
consider my most personal mentor & have the utmost of respect
for.........God Bless and THANK YOU ALL.