By CHARLIE BARONE, Executive Editor
As much as the auto body industry has evolved, the art of pinstriping has stayed essentially the same for the last 100 years. While the striping paint may have changed slightly, those thin, graceful stripes have adorned vehicles and artwork for centuries. Pinstripes are used as a way to accentuate body lines of a car in the same way women paint their eyelids, brows and cheekbones--what's pleasing to the eye can be made even more so. The key is subtlety.
Nothing quite says hand craftsmanship like a hand-painted pinstripe. Classic car bodies have traditionally been striped in ways to enhance their lines. The massive hoods and bulging fenders of Gatsby-era Duesenbergs and Packards are often burnished with the delicate highlights of a pinstripe. In addition to the outline it provides, the pinstripe also gives the artist an opportunity to pick up a color from in or around the car, such as the interior or trim color. And when the artist adds his own flourish to the work, it becomes that much more of a personal expression. Some stripers add their own trademark to the stripe, such as distinctive spear at the point, or a trademark dead end at the trailing edge.
Artists in the Industry
Shoppet is geared specifically to body shop work--unlike some other stripers, he does not get involved in sign painting or vinyl graphics. Besides recreating both factory and custom stripes, he's the guy who paints the crossed polo mallets on Mrs. Von Snodgrass' Benz, the tri-color stripe on the lounge singer's Caddy, the name of a thoroughbred on the breeder's Wagoneer. "I do lots of horse's heads," he smiled.
A real veteran of the body shop trade, Shoppet striped cars at the dealer body shop where I first entered the trade in '73. In fact, he said, he even striped Roger Penske's early race cars. During his career he has seen lacquer and synthetic enamel come and go, but his methods and materials are basically unchanged from the '50s when he started. How many people can say that?
Over the years, Shoppet has had to endure plenty of paint fumes, dust and noise while working in area body shops. Just the same, he derives most of his business from area collision repairers. Shoppet's very dependable and available--two attributes not commonly found in those with his artistic ability. Because of this, he's been very successful, as have a number of stripers around the country. Their overhead is low, they do little or no advertising, and their assets are their hands and eyes. But commercial success is not always what drives stripers.
Cheaters Sometimes Prosper
Interestingly, some freehand striping artists do occasionally use the tape stencils themselves. Typically, they charge less for the work if they use a stencil. But as Shoppet proved to me, an artist with his ability can have a double stripe on a door and fender finished in the time it would have taken a painter to lay out the tape stencil. Unfortunately, many of our readers don't have a guy like Larry at their disposal, and have to rely on their own devices to recreate pinstripes on their customers' cars.
Fast gave a quick rundown of the process of building brushes: "They are made with the tail hairs of a Siberian squirrel," he explained. "There are three varieties of the squirrel--the Cazan, which is the brown squirrel; the Blue squirrel is the black fiber; and the Talahutky provides the gray, and is almost extinct. All are Siberian squirrels, and the trappers come into Leningrad for the pelt auctions a couple of times a year. Over the last few years, we've seen prices driven up as a result of the fur market problems. We buy the hair at 2.5 in. lengths to get a 2-in. brush. The hairs come off the squirrel pelts in Germany and comes to us in a 2
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