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When Murals Ruled
Remember the Custom Car shows at Alexandra Palace and those organised by Roger Attaway and Graham Kelsey at Belle Vue in Manchester during the 70 and 80s? They were major events for auto enthusiasts and still hold fond memories for many of those who attended. Back then though, top quality street rods were few and far between and the craze was custom paintwork with murals in particular taking centre stage. I was never a particular fan of murals and I havenít really changed my opinion to this day, but I can still appreciate the amount of time, effort and skill necessary to produce them. The likes of Ray Mumford and Geoff Ridgeway left their mark on a whole wave of customised cars and were highly regarded for their intricate airbrushing skills.
In the 70s, paint finishes such as metalflake, flip flop, candy, vreeble and pearlescent were all the rage, but were very costly to lay down due to the high amount of labour needed to get good results. Today, an equivalent metalflake paint job that would have taken 100 hours can now be accomplished in a substantially shorter period of time, thanks to the availability of two-pack lacquer, one coat of which can give the same results as several coats of air drying lacquer.
Of course, paint finishes have come a long way since the 70s and now even the mainstream manufacturers offer some very trick finishes which owe much of their origins to the 1970s. For those of you who would like to take a look at some of the custom paintwork that was wowing the crowds on the show circuit back in the mid-seventies, weíve dug through the DRCReview archives and found a representative selection of images of cars and bikes for you to enjoy. Mind you, we're a bit sketchy on some of the captions for these images, so if any readers can shed any further info, then please do get in touch. Just email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A touch of Jason and the Argonauts about this Escort van. "It was owned by Tom Reynolds and called Vanpire," says Keith Harman
I seem to remember these neat flames adorned the sides of an early Citroen. "The car, a 1952 Light 15 model was owned by Teri Smith," adds Keith
Custom-painted 67/68 Mustang called Mardi Gras. "I don't know who owned it but it was a Chelsea cruise regular and was scrapped as I once found a custom-painted door lying in a scrapyard in West Drayton," says Keith
Extensive scroll work on this 70s Mustang. "It was the personal car of Mech Spray custom painter Pete Darwell," explains Keith
Obviously a vary patriotic van driver. "This Transit was owned by Manchester Ford Dealers H&J Quick's and was painted by Geoff Ridegway," says Keith
Heavily muralled American van. The Van Shop is still going strong to this day
Even Ed Wimble's Fad T featured murals. "This paint job was the second to go on the car in a year, and also the second front end (dragster style torsion bar), as I couldnít stand the design of either of the originals," says Ed. Most people know this T bucket with the first, variegated candy tangerine and black paint job, but that was only on the car for a couple months. The paint here was inspired, again, by the kind of work Art Himsl was doing for Nor Cal rodders such as, Andy Brizio and Cub Barnett etc back in the early seventies. Itís a white pearl base with lemon gold candy pearl and tangerine candy pearl panelling. Simple western landscape silhouette murals on either side and rear frame crossmember. And both, Black Cobwebbing, and White Veiling (a decorating technique sometimes used by Larry Watson back in the sixties (look up Ed Rothís Druid Princess show car for this technique). Unfortunately, I again disliked this paint job because I basically didnít like the idea of mural paintings on cars (a bit girly really donít ya think?) and should really have gone for an older and simpler sixties style of paint. However, and unfortunately, murals were the thing back then, so it had to be."
A little out of focus, but you can still see all of the airbrush work that has gone into this composition
Custom paintwork, a jacked up rear, sidepipes and furry dice - those were the days!!
Another car that still exists in original guise is the Ray Mumford muraled Mustang - French Connection
Resurrection, a neatly executed British chopper shown at the 1975 Custom Car Show in Alexandra Palace
Three more british bike based chops with the Route 66 Vette in the background and the futuristic (at the time) one-off car created for the UFO TV series
More airbrush work on this Mustang above/below. "This '70 Mustang was named 'Night Fever, it was owned by Robin James and muraled by Geoff Ridgeway," says Keith
This clean and unfussy Mk1 Capri owned by Tony Coe looks as good now as it did back then.
Heavily muraled Vette - a desireable chrome bumper model. Wonder what's happened to it now? "I think this was another Pete Darwell paint job by Mech Spray," says Keith
One of our all-time favourite dragsters - the Competition Coupe - a heavily cutdown Topolino-bodied rail
Safari mural on the boot of this Ford Popular. Wonder if the owner still has that number plate! "The Ford Popular is the old 'Puddle Jumper' street rod which is still around but now competes in the 'Gasser Circus' as 'The Red Baron' owned by 'Jan'. Additional info from Keith
Not quite sure where this paintwork is going, but there's a heck of a lot of work involved.
Refreshingly different for the 70s - a plain coloured Model B. Check out those indicator stalks. "This was one of the first 'glass 1932's and was owned by Rob Whitewell." Info courtesy of Keith
Buttoned upholstery in this C-Cab. Seems like everyone was sponsored by Alcan back then! "The C-Cab was owned by Graham Flowers and was called ExRovert, on account of its Rover V8," says Keith
The Page's Panic altered takes pride of place on the CC stand
John Baldachino's Fordson van was a major show sensation and featured a chromed Jaguar rear end, custom candy paint and a very trick (for the period) interior. Of course, it's now back on the road, albeit repainted in a straight shade of orange. See recent NEC Classic Car Show story to see the car as it looks now
"The Shotgun T was built by Glyn Dobinson and survives intact somewhere in the North." Info courtesy of Keith
Stripteaser was one of the nicest turned out cars on the drag strip and went as good as it looked with its heavily reworked straight-six jaguar motor under a stretched Minivan body. It was a real crowd pleaser and is sorely missed
Route 66 Vette
Roz Prior's Ex-Priddle slingshot and Rick Fielding's Imagination altered in the background
I remember seeing this Model B sedan (above) in an old copy of Custom Car circa 1975, when it was owned by John "Spats" Wilkinson. It is now owned by Dave Griffiths and appeared in Custom Car again in Dec, 2005. Thanks to Keith Hadley for the updated info.
Where is this car now? It's one of the many cars owned by a private collector somewhere in Buckinghamshire
Story & Photos: Andy Kirk
Additonal caption information kindly supplied by Keith Harman