Vintage Metal TV
Larry Watson, one of the great customizers and painters from the day!
Larry Watson is a legendary custom painter and pinstriper born in 1939. In 1955, at the age of 16 Larry began to pinstripe. His inspiration came from watching Von Dutch striiping while sitting on his bicycle outside of Barris Kustoms in Lynwood. One day his friend Gary McNaught came by the house and asked if he would come along down to Barris Kustoms and watch Von Dutch stripe a car. Von Dutch had moved his operation uptown working out of "The Crazy Arab's" Competition Body Shop at 7201 West Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. Instead it was Dean Jeffries doing his first striping for George Barris. The car he pinstriped was Johnny Zupan's 1949 Mercury. Larry stepped over the rope at Barris and asked Jeff where he had bought his brushes. Jeff then answered "What do you want to do. Put me out of business?" At the time it was only Von Dutch and Dean Jeffries who applied what they called Modern Striping. Larry answered that he just wanted to stripe his own car, but Jeff still wouldn't tell him. Larry went to an art store and bought some brushes, and he went to Jackson Paint Store and bought some copper paint. He spent the next two days striping his 1950 Chevrolet, the Grapevine. Once completed he drove his newly pinstriped Chevy over to the Bellflower Clock Drive-In where everybody wanted to know how the hell he could afford a Von Dutch artwork on his car. He told them he had done it himself. Nobody believed him, they even thought he had had Von Dutch sign Larry's name on the striping. Harvey Budoff called the bluff, and pulled into Larry's driveway with his car one day after school. Larry finally found out where Von Dutch bought his brushes and paint. It was in a little store down on Compton Boulevard, west of Long Beach Boulevard in Compton. Harvey Budoff's 1950 Ford was the first car Larry pinstriped for a customer. After visiting the store he bought some German brushes and white 1-shot. He spent the whole day pinstriping the car. He put an eyeball on a spoon with blood dripping out of the spoon in the back of the glove box. Larry didn't tell Harvey about the artwork, but his girlfriend eventually found it. After that Larry was the hit of the drive-ins, and every time he got home from school there would be three or four cars sitting in the driveway ready to be striped. Amongst the most notable cars being pinstriped in Larry's driveway is Duane Steck's 1954 Chevrolet - The Moonglow.
Larry applied his first flame paint job on Buzzy's Ford. Von Dutch was doing crab-claw-style flames, so that's what Larry also did. Walking back and forth to get the flames symmetrical, the paint job took 6 hours. After Buzzy cruised the Clock with his newly painted Ford, other people also wanted Larry to lay flames on their cars. After painting a brand new 1956 Oldsmobile he laid in bed thinking about what he could do in order to make the job go faster, he was tired of the 6 hours work it took. Laying in his bed he hit upon the idea of using with tissue paper and a bright red china marker. That was it, after that it took only 2 hours. In 1956 Larry painted his first Metallic paint job, and his first scallop job. The first car he scalloped was Bob Schremp's 1954 Chevrolet. Bob had Branson Auto Body in Artesia paint his car. During the job they put a run underneath the trunk and one on the hood, so he turned to Larry and asked if he could cover the runs up.
Upon graduating from school in September 1957, Larry opened his first shop Watson's House of Style in north Long Beach, California on Artesia Boulevard. Larry decided that he wanted to start a new trend; customizing with paint. In order to promote his new trend, Larry bought a brand new 1958 Ford Thunderbird that he took to Barris Kustoms for som mild modifications. Bill Hines and Bill DeCarr that worked at Barris Kustoms nosed and decked the car, shaved the handles and rounded the corners. After that Larry painted the car with six coats of pearl over a fine metallic silver base. Larry didn't tint the pearl with transparent mixing black toner that eliminated the cloudiness, and he thought the car turned out too bright. Larry thought the bright look made the car look way too large, so in order to fix it up, Larry taped the panel lines of the bird with 1-3/4 inch tape and shot candy apple burgundy over it. With this paint job many thinks that Larry invented the Panel Paint Job. The Thunderbird was the first car featuring a silver pearl and candy burgundy paint job, but before he painted panels on his own car he had already paneled Zeno Stephens' 1955 Mercury. Zeno wanted something different, no scallops or flames, so Larry body paneled it. Larry painted the car in Titian Red and striped it in gold. After painting the car Larry never saw it again, not in a magazine, or at a car show, nowhere.
One day George Barris called Larry and asked if he could do some paneling on the Rod & Custom Dream Truck. He was just starting to paint Candies, and he'd shot this Candy Lime over silver. There were a few mistakes, so he called Larry and asked if he could cover them up with scallops in Candy Burgundy over silver metallic. In 1958, not long after painting the Rod & Custom Dream Truck George called Larry again, and asked if he could take over the paint department while he, Dean Jeffries and Bill Carr were going back east on a 2 month tour. When George called they were building a pizza parlor in front of Larry's shop, so he said ok. When Dean Jeffries returned from his trip back east, Dean and Larry were kicking ass together, knocking out three or four scallop and flame jobs a day, and pinstriping their asses off in between. After about 4 months he relocated back to hie own shop in Bellflower.
In 1960 Larry applied his first Metalflake job on Ron Aguirre's Corvette, the X-Sonic. The X-Sonic did also feature Watsons first fade paint job. As Aguirre kept modifying the car, Watson painted it six times. Between 1960 and 1966 Larry got tired of all the masking and striping, and he started doing mostly straight candies with Metalflake or Pearl tops, or Pearl bottoms with matching Candy tops. In 1963 or 1964 Larry did his first Coweb paint design on a 1963 Pontiac. Larry developed the Coweb paint look by spraying Acrylic Lacquer without using thinner in it. Larry was kicking ass working anything from 12 to 20 hours a day, 7 days a week. He had 5 or 6 helpers. At the peak in April 1966 Larry had 54 cars in the center arena of a car show sponsored by the Tridents Car Club held at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. At the same show he also had over two dozen motorcycles upstairs. At that point he figured that he couldn't get any further, and he decided to sell the shop and get out of the business.
In 1966 Larry sold his shop, that was then located on Lakewood Boulevard in Paramount. After selling his shop he moved to Mexico to pursue an acting career with his wife. While Larry was away, two other "Watson" custom paint shops sprung up, one in Downey, and one in Burbank. When Larry returned to California in late 1966 he opened up a new shop on Artesia in Lakewood. Larry determined that he had to get his name back on the show circuit. Watson left the custom car scene in favor for a blossoming Tv and movie acting career. He painted ND striped numerous luxury or sports cars for actors, actresses, directors, producers, or casting directors to gain entree. Between 1967 and 1985 Larry ended up in 141 different shows, such as MacGyver, Columbo, and Mission Impossible.
In the late 1970s Larry Watson worked on a movie he wanted to produce called "The Paint Booth". Working for the movie he visited car shows handing out flyers on cars he wanted to use in the movie. For the movie Larry was looking for racers, hot rods, customs, and stocks 1956 or older. The backside of the flyer shows a print of Larry's business card. On that card he promotes his business as "Watson's Custom Auto Painting", Since 1955. His shop is located a 5576 Melrose in Hollywood. On a later business card he has changed name to "Theatrical Auto Body", Complete Auto Painting Since 1969. The shop is still located at 5576 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood.
Today, Larry is retired in Apple Valley, California, and is putting the finishing touches on his private museum loaded with pictures and artifacts from his custom car and TV days.