From the Blackwatch archives–

The year was 1966, and Steve McQueen was on top of the world. He was the reigning “King of Cool” who had the rest of Hollywood’s leading men eating his dust.  McQueen’s “hard knocks” path gave him an attitude and a lust for life that was flat-out unapologetic. So back In 1966, when Sports Illustrated wanted a Hollywood headliner to review the top new GT’s– Steve McQueen was the clear choice. Make that the only choice. Not Newman, or Garner, or… you get it.


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Dean Jeffries Pontiac GTO Monkees Car - Monkeemobile

Pontiac GTO Monkeemobile built by Dean Jeffries. The car was featured on the NBC network’s comedy television show “The Monkees” starring Davey Jones, Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork. Created from two Pontiac GTOs, the visually radical Monkeemobile was an instant hit with fans of the show. This shot shows the dragster-inspired parachute deployed at Dean Jeffries Automotive Styling offices on Cahuenga Boulevard in Los Angeles. 

Legendary painter, customizer, racer, and stuntman Dean Jeffries is one of those guys whose soft-spoken nature has allowed other, more self-promoting figures (read: George Barris, the Don King of Kustom Kulture) to steal a lot of his thunder. Barris has tried to hire on Jeffries as an employee many times over the years, and Jeffries always rebuffed– preferring either to rent his own space, or work freelance. Their histories are forever entwined, and the tales of rivalry, and particularly Barris’ trickery, are the stuff of legend. Many of Dean Jeffries’ most recognized works (like the Monkeemobile, for one)– George Barris came behind and unrightfully claimed credit for them. It’s dumbfounding and downright sleazy– we’ll get to that later.

Dean Jeffries grew up immersed in Los Angeles auto culture– his dad was a mechanic, and next door to his dad’s garage was a bodyshop. The young Jeffries was drawn to the creative expression allowed in bodywork over turning a wrench (“too greasy!”) like his ol’ man– the bodyshop became his hangout of choice. After returning from the Korean War, he became buddies with another future legend of Kustom Kulture— Kenny Howard (AKA Von Dutch), and started pinstriping.

“We’d do freelance pinstriping on our own, then get together and hang out. I also worked during the day at a machine shop doing grinding. But pinstriping really took off then–I was painting little pictures and medallions on cars. My first job was pinstriping a boat. I didn’t have no shop back then. You were lucky if you got $5 for a whole car. If you got $25 in your pocket in a day you were King Kong. I thought it was great.” –Dean Jeffries

More than anything else, I’ll always remember Dean Jeffries for painting the infamous “Little Bastard” badge on the Porsche owned by his racing buddy– James Dean.

“For years Barris claimed he painted it– now he just says he can’t remember and somebody in his shop painted it. Sure. I used to bum around with James Dean. I wasn’t trying to be his movie friend. We just had car stuff between us. We hung out, got along together real bitchin’. But one day Dean asked me to paint those words on his car, and I just did it.” –Dean Jeffries

Love this pic. There’s the obvious knockout pinup, Carol Lewis (Dean Jeffries’ high school sweetheart in front of his ’47 Merc), posing for his pinstriping pleasure, but also check out Dean Jeffries’ paint box. “The Modern Painter Has Arrived.” It’s an incredible piece of work in itself.

“The above shot comes from a publicity shoot done ironically, at Barris’ shop, with George behind the camera. Jeffries was just out of high school, and Barris tried to hire him, but Jeffries wanted to sub-contract to Barris, so Barris cleaned out a storage area in his shop, and Jeffries based himself out of there. Pretty slick on Barris’ part– he could grab Jeffries any time he wanted a striping job.” –Thanks to Irish Rich for the story on Carol Lewis.

Carol Lewis’ custom 1956 Chevrolet– Dean Jeffries high school sweetheart.  –image via Kustomrama “It was Jeffries who was having dinner across the street from Barris’ shop when he spotted the smoke coming from the start of the disasterous Dec. ’57 Barris shop fire. He ran across the street and broke in, and managed to get Lewis’ 56 Chevy out of there before the flames got too out of control. Lewis’ Chevy was done in a similar style as Jeffries’ ’47 was.” –Irish Rich

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james dean competition motors porsche spyder 1955

James Dean on the lot of Competition Motors with his infamous silver Porsche 550 Spyder not long before is tragic death on Sept. 30, 1955 – Image courtesy Jimmy had finished shooting George Stevens’ epic “Giant” (notice his hairline was shaved by the studio to play the older, receeding Jett Rink). With the film in the bag, he was now free to race.


james dean rolf wuetherich last photo porsche

The day of James Dean’s tragic death behind the wheel of his Porsche Spyder is well documented, as professional photographer Sanford Roth was accompanying Dean for an article on the actor’s passion for racing in Collier’s Magazine. This image shot by Roth in Hollywood on the morning of the accident, shows Dean and Rolf Wütherich preparing for a weekend of racing and camaraderie. That this would be Dean’s final hours, or that Wüetherich was about to experience a life-shattering event, was clearly the furthest thing from either one’s mind. Julien’s Auctions sold an 11×14-inch print of this shot, taken from Roth’s original contact sheet and mounted on foam core, for  $1,500. It is confirmed to be among the last “official” images taken of the actor before his fatal crash. via

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James Deans "Little Bastard" Silver Porsche Spyder

James Deans “Little Bastard” Silver Porsche 550 Spyder. This shot was taken just hours before Jimmy’s tragic death.


James Dean’s love for speed, racing and “living on the edge” are all well documented in many books, documentaries and bios– so I won’t belabor the point here.  Check out the video after the jump for a “James Dean legend” primer.  What is fascinating is the tremendous staying power, cult status and curse stories that surround not just James Dean, but also the 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder that he tragically lost his life in.  The Porsche 550 Spyder is now forever linked with James Dean– it’s nearly impossible to recount one icon without the other.


ames Dean and his 1955 Silver Porsche Spyder-- "Little Bastard"

James Dean and his 1955 Silver Porsche 550 Spyder– “Little Bastard”

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Iconic Auto Design | The Porsche 911


The Porsche 911 (Targa shown here) is one of the most iconic and recognizable sports car designs for pure form and function-- hands down.  Though the world has in large part past it by in terms of innovation, it is and will always be a classic.

The Porsche 911 (Targa shown here) is one of the most iconic and recognizable sports car designs for pure form and function-- hands down. Though the world has in large part past it by in terms of innovation, it is and will always be a classic. The term "Targa" came from the Targa Florio road race in Sicily, where Porsche scored many victories in the 1950s and 1960s. Basically a convertible with a stainless steel-clad roll bar and removable roof panel, the Targa was definitely an automotive icon of the time. --Image by © Car Culture/Corbis


By the late 1950s, it was painfully obvious to Porsche that it’s workhorse 356 sports car (released in 1948) was getting it’s doors blown off by the competition in terms of performance and price.  An innovative and inspired redesign was badly needed, and in Fall of 1963 after years of development and refining, the 911 was launched.  For brand purists, it remains the only true Porsche– the only model that truly harkens back to the heritage of the original 356.  And what a heritage it is.  The birth of the 911 was largely a family affair– a daring initiative mostly instigated by Ferry Porsche, son of founder Ferdinand, with his own son Butzi Porsche alongside as the body stylist.  Porsche could hope, but surely never could have known with certainty that the new 911 would carry the Porsche torch well into the future, and ultimately become a design and engineering legend.  

The longevity of Porsche’s 911 is no accident.  Porsche-style has labored very thoughtfully over the years to constantly freshen and innovate the 911.  They’ve done an incredible job keeping it up to date, all the while staying true to the design and spirit of the original 911– not an easy feat anyway you slice it, and a very commendable one at that.  Those of us in the design industry can certainly acknowledge the mastery involved in keeping a classic icon relevant while remaining faithful to it’s essence.  The art of timelessness evolving with the times.


The 911 was Porsche's design successor to their 356-- a classic beauty in it's own right.

The 911 was Porsche's design successor to their 356-- a classic beauty in it's own right.

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