Saturday, July 24, 2010

We've lost another good one ... Larry Watson

Larry Watson's 1958 Thunderbird, the first panel painted custom car. 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, Larry had invented the Panel Paint Job. Caption & Image Credit:

We’ve lost another friend. Larry Watson Passes Away
Ccontributed by Dave Robertson & James Groth - July 21, 2010
(Dicken Wear for Astor Classics) Services July 31st in Westminster, CA.

Another one of the legendary leaders of our hobby has passed away. Larry Watson, the kid who changed the way we paint customs (and hot rods), died of cancer on Tuesday morning, July 20.

Watson was born in 1939 and grew up in the Los Angeles community of Bellflower. By the time he was in high school, his talent was already emerging and Larry was gaining notoriety among his friends by 'striping their cars.

He was still a teenager when Watson's House of Style opened in Long Beach in 1956 and had already built the '50 Chevy, now known as Grapevine, that has become one of the world's favorite and most famous customs. His panel-painted '58 Thunderbird, '59 Cadillac (fresh from the dealership), and '57 Cadillac quickly followed the Chevy into custom car history.

Larry Watson's 1950 Chevrolet - The Grapevine was sold to Phil Swaggart of Eugene, Oregon in 1959. The car stayed in Eugene until it was destroyed in the mid 1960s. Caption & Image Credit:

Exposure at local cruise spots like the Bellflower Clock drive-in brought Watson local attention, and exposure in numerous custom car magazines of that period stretched his fame to the rest of America.

After his remarkable start in the '50s, Watson was not left behind by the changes brought by the 60s, and continued to innovate. By that time, he had already created or perfected many of the paint styles and techniques that are copied today. He has been credited with inventing scallops (to cover up some paint runs, as the story goes), panel paint, seaweed flames, and lace painting. He experimented with new looks including fades, veils, and cob webbing, and new materials including metallics, candies, and pearls.

His influence and his talent never faded. When Ed Roth's Orbitron was discovered and restored in 2008, Watson-who had painted several of Roth's customs, including that one, in earlier years-was consulted regarding the correct paint, based on his personal recollections of the original formula.

Two years ago, Watson paired up with the equally legendary Gene Winfield to host the first Winfield and Watson Custom Car and Hot Rod Gathering. That successful event was repeated in 2009, and the third annual Gathering has been scheduled for October.

Larry Watson left many impressive accomplishments and undoubtedly had more to do. His loss, like his legacy, is great.

Dave, Larry & Matt at Astor Classics in Anaheim, CA.


Below are the Pics from the "Checker Past" (Art Astor’s Museum) event where I had him come and hangout -- about 1 year ago -- He didn't tell me he was suffering.

Larry and Friends at Art Astor's Auto Museum.

Services are scheduled to be held on July 31st in Westminster, CA.

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