THE ART OF AUTOMOTIVE CUSTOMIZING
DEADEND MAGAZINE GEAR TODAY
Pierson Cadillac 1959 Cadillac
Custom Capital Prunedale, CA
Jae Bueno’s Funeral Montebello, CA
GoldFinger 1941 Ford
Root Beer Float 1966 Lincoln
West Coast Cruisin’ Nationals Santa Maria, CA
Lone Star Round Up Austin, TX
Deadend Magazine Cruise Night San Jose, CA
Majestics New Year’s Picnic Irwindale, CA
Classic Legends Nagoya Japan
El Limpio 1962 Impala
Burrito Bike Ride Salinas, CA
Ventura Nationals Ventura, CA
McKibbenen Choppers The Praying Mantis Copper Killer
The One 1931 Ford
rogress is one of the most satisfying things in life, when we make progress we feel accomplished. Be it big moves or small steps, progress feels good in any portion. We have recently made a few changes that we would consider to be “big moves”. One of them is the obvious. We ﬁnally updated our website. We also made our team a lot bigger by teaming up with the former Local Hero crew from Japan. Not to mention we independently printed a book. The book was a major milestone for us. It has been a dream of ours to print our own book since Deadend ﬁrst started. Since our last update (years ago) we have also created the Custom Capital car show; it was a celebration of our ﬁrst ten years (you can read more about it in our feature). We also very recently started creating our own videos. Look us up on YouTube to see some of our work. Progress is measured in positive steps forward, no matter what the objective may be. Updating this site is the ﬁrst step towards a new more productive Deadend Magazine.
I know many of you are visiting our site for the ﬁrst time, so you may not be aware of the fact that we have been doing this since 2004. Eleven years seems like a long time, but to us it is only the beginning. So if you are reading my editorials for the ﬁrst time I would like to say welcome to the “real” Deadend Magazine. That may sound a little strange to some of you because there are no fake ones out there, but what I am trying to say is that we are not a social media company. We started by creating our own custom site; we photograph and write articles about the custom car world, we don’t just post pictures on Instagram. We do a lot more than that. It feels like a fresh start for us because we are bringing the site back, and doing what we love to do. Showing the world what we experience and what we love. Just about anything important in life requires dedication, without it you will never reach your full potential. It is a lot easier to be dedicated when you are having fun. That is why we titled this issue “Endless Summer”, because
we go to events nonstop the entire year and we have a whole lot of fun doing it. Our experiences on the road are priceless. We would never create the memories we do by sitting at a computer. We have met some of the coolest most interesting people because we do Deadend Magazine, in person. We’ve met people with so much knowledge and history, people who inﬂuence and inspire us, individuals who truly appreciate what we do and who understand that we do this because we share the same passion for classic cars. We meet anywhere from older guys who started building cars in the ﬁfties to young kids who are anxious to learn everything about cars. We have seen some of the most beautiful places in the world like the salt ﬂats in Bonneville and Mount Fiji in Japan. I don’t think people realize how much we have seen and learned in the past eleven years, I do hope they know that we have an enormous amount of appreciation for every single one of them who has ever helped or supported us in any way. It is good to be right back where we started, at deadendmagazine.com Jesus Espinoza
Creative Director Jesus Espinoza Art Director Juan Espinoza Jr Contributors Justin Fivella Writing Marilyn Espinoza Editing Brooke Guerrero Photography Hector Hernandez Photography Julian Nunez Photography Mira Okawa Photography Bryan Rusk Photography Deadend Magazine © 2015 All imagery contained herein is original and copyright protected. None of it may be reproduced in any medium without prior written consent from Jesus Espinoza and/or Juan Espinoza Jr
Cover: Scott Robert’s 1941 Ford Pick-Up Photography by Jesus Espinoza
or the most part, the concept behind building a custom car is to change it heavily and make it stand out. Some people understand that when it comes to style, sometimes less is more. We have interviewed a lot of builders in our time and the ones who impress us the most are the ones who try to make a car look like it is original instead of making it look totally different. I don’t mean original as in nothing was changed, I mean original as in that is the way they should have looked from factory. Some cars are referred to as “factory customs” because they have some radical lines or so much chrome. The 1959 Cadillac
Series 62 coupe is one of those cars. Mostly because of the taillights and high ﬁns, also because of the length and chrome. Randy Pierson and his father Scott built this car themselves mostly out of their garage, and they did an excellent job. When Randy ﬁrst showed us the Cadillac, he pointed out the rear fender well opening and we were very impressed. It is one of those small modifications that make a world of a difference but look like they were made that way. It looks better but it looks original. We asked Randy a few questions about this beautiful custom.
Photography by Juan Espinoza Jr Words by Jesus Espinoza
Q-Let’s get some basics out of the way. What is the drive train? A- Big Block 454, TH400 transmission, stock rear axle. Q-What about Suspension? A - Stock/rebuilt with cut coils Q-You used the perfect wheel set up, what is it? A- 1957 Cadillac Eldorado “Sabre” wheels with 1960 Eldorado center emblems in stock caps Q-The color you chose is perfect for this car, looks stock but I’m sure it is not. What is it? A- Custom mix Q-Tell us what major body mods you did? A- 1961 Impala rear wheel openings
Q- This car looks better to me than most 59’s. Did you change any of the trim or chrome trim? A- Front to back: 1960 Cadillac front bumper sucked up and in, custom stainless grille top bar, shaved crown emblem and “wings” on each side of the gunsights, relocated lower front fender “Cadillac” script emblem, modiﬁed 1965 Cadillac side trim 3/8” lower than stock trim, stock rear bumper; moved up and in (had to re proﬁle the rear quarters to ﬂow with the new bumper location), custom stainless ﬁller panel/gas ﬁller door, shaved rear trunk crown. Q-What can you tell us about the interior? A- It’s stock layout. Woven fabric is 1961 Chrysler New Yorker. Q-Why did you do such subtle mods to the car? A- I ﬁnd that the loudest cars have the least to say.
Q-What was your vision when building this car? A- Factory prototype. If you look at some of the concept sketches coming out of Detroit in the 1950’s you see a lot of stuff that makes perfect sense but got cut in production or ﬂuffed up with shiny B.S. so the cars would sell. The factory panel and trim ﬁt on production cars of that era generally sucks too. We wanted to make the car ﬁt and ﬂow like an original designer’s drawing. Q-Any family history with the vehicle? A- In 1999 my dad and I made a trip to A&A Cadillac in Brentwood, CA to buy parts for a ‘56 Cadillac I had just bought. Parked in the lot out front was a ‘59 coupe. It had OG white paint that was cracked and peeling and a stock black and white interior. My dad was in love. He told me that in 1959 his dad had test driven a new Cadillac Coupe, but settled for the more practical ‘59 Chevy wagon instead. Two weeks later I found him this one parked off of Mclaughlin Ave. in SJ. It was rattle can maroon and the interior was original black and white. The dude that owned it said he just brought it back from Mexico where it had been parked for years because of a cracked cross member. Everything worked but the left front tire was rubbing the inner wheel well. My old man paid him $3800 and we nursed it home... Q-How long did the build take? A- In 2011 the stock Cad 390 died. We thought we’d just replace the motor and tranny. One thing led to another and every inch of that car was gone over. We ﬁnished it Thursday before Memorial Day weekend 2014 and drove it to Santa Maria in time for the cruise. Q-You seem to have very good style, who/what are some of your inspirations? A- I was lucky to be around some talented dudes in my teens and early 20’s. The SJ scene was pretty tight back then. There were tons of super clean lowriders and the young greaser dudes were building some pretty groundbreaking stuff too. Pat Lash’s stuff always made me want to do better work and Cole’s red truck had a big impact because of its simplicity. I guess I still draw inspiration from all my original heroes, no matter what they went on to do with their lives.
Q-What do you enjoy most about the car? A- It cruises so effortlessly on the freeway. Q-Do you drive it often? A- My old man cruises it pretty often. He hits 5-10 shows a year and occasionally drives it down to visit me and my wife on the coast. He and my mom just joined a club called the Cadillac Classics and they do runs a few times a month. Q-What is your favorite part of the car? A- My buddy Mike Grifﬁn did an insane job stitching the interior and I love the fabric. I think the overall palette really compliments the car color. Q-Any plans to change anything? A- I might redesign the ﬁller panel above the rear bumper. I was going for minimalist simplicity that mimicked the grille bar, but it might be a little too minimal. Some days I like it, some days I don’t. Q-Anything else you would like to share about the car or build? A- My favorite fact about this car is that it’s a father & son garage build. 80% of it happened in my dad’s garage. If you care about your work and don’t compromise, there is no reason a garage build can’t be nicer than most “show cars.” It’s all about focus.
Photography by Jesus Espinoza & Juan Espinoza Jr Words by Jesus Espinoza
ne of the changes we have seen in the past 11 years of doing Deadend Magazine, is the number of people photographing classic cars; especially low riders. If I remember correctly, most of the photographers we met back when we started were shooting for other magazines. Jae Bueno was one of them. He was shooting for a few magazines and making a living with his photos, but he also had a personal blog. Having a blog and posting only original images was very rare at the time, especially when it came to low rider photos. There were plenty of blogs posting car pictures, but very few were people posting their own images. Most of them just posted cool cars they found on the Internet or simply pictures they took at car shows. Jae was posting some killer images on his blog from various events and photo shoots, and he had his own style. Aside from the good photography, he was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He was extremely friendly from the ﬁrst time we met him. It was really cool meeting a person I admired and it was an honor to have him tell us he had the same respect for our work. Sometimes we forget what some simple positive words can do
for a person. When we met Jae he told us we were an inspiration and that he hoped to travel one day as much as we did. Now a day, with so many people shooting low riders and covering the California classic car scene, it is becoming more and more competitive. Some people even see others as a threat instead of becoming friends and helping each other out. I get to meet a lot of good people doing what I do, and I can say that Jae Bueno was one of the more positive ones I have encountered. I am honored and able to honestly say we became friends. I know it has been a few years since Jae passed, but because of his work, he is far from dead. He lives on through his images and the impact he made on the world of low riding. Some of you may not be familiar with his work and thankfully his blog is still online where you can see some of his best work. I suggest you visit jaebueno.com These are some images we took at Jae’s funeral. A lot of people showed up to pay respect to a good man. RIDE IN PEACE Jae Bueno, our friend.
Photography & Words by Juan Espinoza Jr
he first question out of my mouth to Mike Alexander when I showed up to shoot his 1966 Lincoln was, “Did you choose the Lincoln, or did the Lincoln choose you?” Mike looked at me a little confused but ﬁrmly answered, “I chose this Lincoln!” You see, being a sixties Lincoln lover (and owner) myself, I am very impressed and at the same time pleasantly surprised when people choose to customize sixties Lincolns. I am especially impressed when they customize them as subtle and clean as Mike did. The 18.5’ boat of a car isn’t the most popular in the customizing world. If you’re a fan of custom trucks, the name Mike Alexander is a familiar one. Mike has designed, built and photographed many custom trucks over the past few years. When it came time to build himself an old American custom he wanted to do something a little different. He chose the 1966 Continental Coupe. He felt like the sedan version and Cadillac had been done, and done well. Once he knew the coupe was what he wanted to build, he searched and
found one in decent shape that was begging for his touch (in Las Vegas, Nevada). From there, he took the car apart and brought it to Steve Wilk to lay it ﬂat on the ground. Steve built a full custom four-link, and the body was reinforced for the new rear suspension. Up front, Steve and Max at Bio Kustomz built a set of custom spindles. Once the boys had the coupe laying on the ﬂoor, Mike chose Cragar Wires to give his car the old school look and feel he wanted. Mike and Dave Prater from Sparky’s Collision chose Mini Cooper Hot Chocolate Brown paired with Mini Cooper Pepper White for the roof to give a modern twist on a classic color scheme. As soon as I saw it cruising low and slow to our shoot location I was glad (and sure) Mike chose this Lincoln. I hope this car encourages others to build something not so common in the traditional custom car world.
Photography by Jesus Espinoza & Juan Espinoza Jr Words by Juan Espinoza Jr
or the past nine years, I’ve been making the trek to the Lone Star Round Up in Austin, Texas. Six and a half of those times I have driven, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The twenty eight hour drive (one way) is part of the experience as far as I’m concerned. If you’ve been to the LSRU, you’d understand. The atmosphere Steve and the rest of the Kontinentals create, is one that is unmatched by any car show anywhere. Call it Southern Hospitality or whatever, but the boys down in Texas sure know how to make their guests feel welcomed. I have no intentions of missing the next nine LSRUs and you shouldn’t either! Besides the stellar hot rods, customs, gassers and motorcycles, there is a great line-up of entertainment all weekend long.
Photography & Words by Juan Espinoza Jr
t has become a tradition for us here at Deadend Magazine to spend New Years Day at the Majestics Picnic, and we have no plans of changing that any time soon. We have been covering this event for years and we have seen it grow tremendously. It is becoming one of the years most popular lowrider events. There is easily a thousand lowriders that show up that day, which is the most of any lowrider event in the world today. Even the super shows that happen through out the year do not attract so many rides.
Being that it is held January ďŹ rst, a lot of Southern California clubs celebrate at the picnic. There is a barbeque going every 20 feet and some clubs even bring live bands to play music while they party. That alone makes it a fun show, not to mention the fact that cars are cruising around all day. Most of L.A.s best rides come out to kick of the New Year. If you have not experienced it for yourself, we recommend you come out next year and see what the hype is about.
Photography by Mira Okawa
Photography by Jesus Espinoza & Juan Espinoza Jr Words by Justin Fivella
omewhere along the journey; between the countless hours busting knuckles, cussing like a sailor and nearly throwing in the towel, our project cars become a part of the family. More than just a possession, they become a collection of memories and a piece of the very fabric from which our lives are woven. They, our cars, are intertwined in every great memory. Whether cruising with friends, hitting shows or parked in the family’s driveway, when we close our eyes to remember the good times, our cars are in every image. If ever you needed proof that cars are more than just possessions; that through the blood, the sweat, the cruises, the tears and the years they become family, this ’62 Impala is rolling proof. “The Impala was my father’s car and it’s been in the family for as long as I can remember; ﬁrst with my uncle and later with my father,” Jeremy Cadena said. Jeremy was raised in a house full of LoLos, twoand four-wheeled, and from a young age he came to appreciate the art of a clean cruiser. “My father, Jose Ignacio Cadena, AKA ‘Nacho,’ was always modifying his vehicles; he took great pride in keeping things clean and well cared for, from his Harleys to his Impala, his rides and his family meant a lot to him,” Jeremy said. Pride is an underlying theme throughout this tale of revival, love, family and the passing of one man’s legacy from one generation to the next.
“My uncle bought the car in the ’70s and believe it or not, it was used in a liquor store Ad. in an early issues of Low Rider Magazine, it’s kinda funny,” Jeremy said. The car before you might be ﬂawless, but it didn’t start that way. “It started as a rough roller with sky blue paint, a black vinyl top, an 8-track player, OG Honeycomb rims and the custom wooden steering wheel that still remains,” Jeremy explained. It was period correct, but by today’s standards it was more homebuilt than high roller. His uncle drove it daily throughout San Jose, but after being stopped one too many times by the ﬁve-oh, he parked it. And there it sat for many years until the passenger’s side rear quarter panel was crushed by a fallen tree. Although Nacho had owned another ’62 Impala, he’d always wanted his brother’s, even after years of neglect. “My father ﬁnally bought it in the mid 90s and it marked the beginning of a gradual restoration that took my brother, my father and myself many years to ﬁnish,” Jeremy said. Nacho’s plans of an affordable paint job went out the window the minute his eldest son Joe started working at an autobody shop. As luck would have it, Joe was able to lay down a ﬁvestar paint job without breaking the bank. Life underneath the paint was also ﬂawless, as Nacho’s oldest son hit it with hours of top-notch bodywork.
“My father loved the burgundy color of his ’89 Lincoln Continental, so he had my brother paint the Impala a similar shade, and when it was done, it was more than my father expected, it was beautiful,” Jeremy explained. In fact, the perfect paint you see today is the same stuff Joe laid down many years ago–a testament to his skills and his father’s dedication to keeping it clean. Speaking of clean, you didn’t think it was all paint and nothing else now did you? Nope, Nacho also added plenty of chrome, a stock style fawn interior, an upgraded stereo, 13x7inch gold Zeniths and air-ride suspension. “My father drove it everywhere, I mean everywhere, he was always polishing it and keeping it clean; I can remember him telling the kids to look, but not touch with a big smile on his face,” Jeremy said. “The Impala was at every family party– we worked all week to cruise with the family on Sunday.” Nacho enjoyed his Impala with his family for many years, but everything changed when the good lord had different plans for the patriarch of the Cadena family. “He was never a drinker, he was a hard working, successful man, but he got liver cirrhosis in his late 40s and had to have a liver transplant,” Jeremy said. Despite the illness and the associated pain, Nacho never let it deter him from enjoying the two things he loved most: His family and his Impala. “He drove it to the doctor’s, to the store,
everywhere; it made him young again,” Jeremy recalled. After a long pause he added, “My father always looked sharp in it, with his gum, his cologne and a comb. He was a jokester, but when he meant business, he meant business because he’d give you the third degree if you deserved it, but he also pushed us (his kids) to succeed and always told us he’d meet us halfway,” Jeremy said. A longer silence fell over the phone as I felt Jeremy reliving the good times; the countless cruises with his father, the long motorcycle rides on their Harleys and the memorable trip to the West Coast Kustoms Cruisin’ Nationals with his brother and father. I couldn’t help but feel the emotion. The silence remained, but I didn’t dare break it. I’ve learned the best stories don’t come from the head, they come from the heart. I took the opportunity to study the Impala, its ﬂawless lines and tidy details; it’s far more than a car, it’s rolling remembrance of a tight-knit family bound my iron and oil. After a long battle with his illness, the good lord ﬁnally called Nacho home on January 5, 2012. It was a devastating blow to the Cadena family and the lowrider community alike. Sadness was abound, but instead of crying they celebrated his life through stories, family and cars, just as Nacho would have wanted them to.
“I can remember my dad telling us that he was pulled over near Santana Row (the rich area) when he was 58 years old and the ofﬁcer asked him to stop driving a kids car and to go home, to which my father replied that he’d been apart of the Lowrider scene for decades, since the beginning, that it was his culture and it wasn’t something he was going to give up,” Jeremy laughingly recalled. Before his passing, Nacho thought long and hard about who to pass the car down to because it was important that his legacy carry on. “My father passed it down to my oldest son, Jeremy Jr., to keep the legacy alive,” he said. “It was important that the oldest grandchild get it so that the younger cousins could look up to him and so it would act as a reminder to stay out of trouble, to get good grades and to go to college,” Jeremy said. Since Jeremy Jr. is just 13 years old, Jeremy Sr. is the keeper of the Impala until his son is old enough to drive. Although Jr. is already looking
forward to the day he can cruise his family to the local spots, since taking delivery of the car, Jeremy Sr. has put countless hours into more ﬁnish work as his contribution to keeping the family legacy alive. As we hang our heads in memoriam for the loved ones who have passed, we instead must remember to keep our heads held high, because no matter if you’re riding wires, rockin’ wide whites or burning rubber at the drag strip, our cars are our culture, and our culture is our family. We must remember that the seat next to us is never empty, we only need to look to the sky as a reminder that our lost loved ones are forever riding beside us. Rest in peace, Nacho. You are missed.
Photography by Juan Espinoza Jr & Chino Hernandez Words by Juan Espinoza Jr
here are a number of events that we have been attending since we first started Deadend Magazine, Ventura Nationals is one of them. For starters, the town of Ventura is a good place to visit. Then if you throw in a bunch of classic cars, well that just makes it even better. It is one of those cool show that has grown a lot but still keeps true to its roots. A good group of people are involved in making it happen and they take very good care of us loyal attendees. Variety is one of the best things about Ventura. All types of traditional cars show up. More and more lowriders have been showing up every year and there is always a lot of cool motorcycles to see. This year they added the excitement of rafﬂing off a full built custom car. The proceeds beneﬁt the Lost Angels Children’s Project. We recommend you check it out this year, we know you will have a good time. Unless you do not enjoy classic cars, live music, the beach and good company…then maybe Ventura Nationals is not for you. Not to mention the Friday night art show in old town.
Photography & Words by Juan Espinoza Jr
y favorite color on a car is M black; it has been for years. My good friend Robert always
reminds me that there are so many great colors out there. In turn, I always remind him that in my eyes, black is the best one. So you can imagine how excited I was the ﬁrst time I laid eyes on Chris Casny’s 1931 Model A Coupe. The coupe is what I picture as soon as I think Hot Rod. In addition to the color, the coupe has everything going for it. The stance is just right, the chop, the nail-head motor, the wheel and tire combination, and the interior. Everything about this coupe screams hot rod. Chris Casny knew immediately this coupe was the one as soon as he saw the grey primered body sitting in his friend’s backyard under a few tarps. Chris called Aaron, the owner, but was told someone else had ﬁrst dibs
and that he would let him know if the person backed down. The next few weeks were tough for Chris. His wife was out of town and all he could think about was this coupe. He couldn’t help but call, leave messages and bug the heck out of Aaron, no luck. Chris was getting discouraged but was determined to get this coupe. It had to be his. As soon as Chris’ wife was back in town he was very upset and told her about his problems in getting his coupe. His wife handed Chris a piece of paper and said “Merry Christmas.” Turns out, Chris’ wife was the person who had ﬁrst dibs on the coupe the whole time.
Photography by Brooke Guerrero, Julian Nunez & Bryan Rusk Words by Jesus Espinoza
he state of California is the capital of custom cars; well at least in the sense of traditional style customs it seems as if most of the trend setting early customs were built here in the golden state. Also in the world of “Lowriding”, California is where it all started and where it continues to strive most. To me, the term “custom car” can apply to just about any vehicle that has been heavily modiﬁed or altered, but when we talk about customs we are talking about what is known as the “traditional” American custom. When we decided to celebrate our 10 year anniversary by throwing our very ﬁrst car show, we felt that the name was very important in case we chose to make it an annual event. So we chose the name “Custom Capital. Our goal is for the show to become the number one place to come see custom cars. Last year was our ﬁrst show but it already showed potential to become the real Capital of custom cars. It had a very relaxed atmosphere with a positive vibe, and just enough action with a great mixture of cars. We could not have asked for a better ﬁrst time event. The quality and variety of cars was
outstanding and we are still hearing nothing but good things about it. The problem with hosting your own event is the tremendous amount of work it entitles. It makes it very hard for us to take the time to take pictures like we do at other events. So we had to ask some of our friends for help, luckily we have some awesome photographer friends who were more than happy to help out. We hope this feature makes many of you really consider coming to the next Custom Capital and experience it for yourselves. There is no lack of car show here in California or in the states for that matter, but there is always room for improvement. We are working to make the Custom Capital better every year, and getting more good quality cars to attend. Being that we are at a car event literally every weekend, we have been studying all the events we experience to try and ﬁgure out a formula for creating an amazing show. We believe the Custom Capital has a bright future and we will continue to host it as long as the cars keep coming. See you there next year!
Photography by Jesus Espinoza & Juan Espinoza Jr Words by Juan Espinoza
“You got a name for this beautiful truck of yours yet?” I asked Scott Roberts at a car show a few months after we shot his 1941 Ford Pick-Up. “Gold Finger” he replied. “That’ll work”, I replied to Scott with a smile. But now that I sit down and think about it, we should’ve named his truck “Golden Touch.” You see, most people wouldn’t believe it but this is Scott’s ﬁrst car build, ever. Scott wrenches everyday, just not on cars. He didn’t grow up in a Hot Rod household. Scott works on elevators. He knows how to handle tools. However, handling tools and having style are two different things; two things that Scott clearly has when it comes to building cars.
The 1941 Ford Pick-Up was picked up by Scott and his wife at an auction in 2001. With a few ideas, the support of his wife Holly, and a few hot rod and custom magazines, Scott began researching what he needed to make his dreams a reality. He started by purchasing a Total Cost Involved Chassis. He then assembled the chassis and stripped down his pick-up himself. Scott did as much as he could before taking the pick-up to a shop he believed was a good choice. The pick-up sat there over four years before the fellas of Hot Rod & Custom Stuff from San Diego, CA rescued it and helped Scott in building the truck to what it is now. Lets hope Scott puts his “golden touch” on another hot rod soon.
Photography by Jesus Espinoza & Juan Espinoza Jr Words by Jesus Espinoza
ecoming friends with older guys who have been around the car show scene for decades is a huge advantage for us. These guys can tell us about the things we didn’t get to experience. People like Rod Powell and Lee Pratt have shared many very interesting stories with us, and we have learned a whole lot from them. One thing we learned is that there was a time when “Kustom” cars were not very popular in the show circuit. But no matter how small the world of traditional customs became, there was always a group of people that never stopped building them. The West Coast Kustoms Cruisin Nationals played an important part in keeping customs alive. From what I know, Rich Pichette started the West Coast Kustoms car club in 1982. That same year he started the car show. Although originally it was not much of a show, it was more of a gathering of customs. It was started as a place for guys with traditional custom cars to meet up and go for a cruise. It started out very small but with a very strong group of car builders like Rod Powell, Gene Winﬁeld, Joe Bailon, Sam Foose and many others. I believe Lee Pratt even drove his custom Chevy to the ﬁrst West Coast Kustoms gathering all the way from Iowa.
Very few car shows have history as rich as the Cruising Nationals, and no other show has been as inﬂuential for us here at Deadend. Growing up, we were mostly into lowrider cars, but after the ﬁrst time we went to Paso Robles we became huge fans of the traditional custom cars. We ﬁrst attended the show as teenagers, way before we started this website. The Cruisin Nationals was such a good experience for us that we have not missed it since. When we did start Deadend Magazine, we debuted the weekend of Paso. That was the ﬁrst place we ever passed out ﬂyers. Personally, we feel it is very unfortunate that the show moved to Santa Maria after being in Paso for so many years, but the roots and history remain and so does the attendance of custom cars. I don’t think there is a better place to see customs. Nothing will ever be as cool as Friday night in Paso Robles, but Santa Maria is getting better every year and is still the closest thing to the original. If you were lucky enough to experience Paso you understand why we miss it so much, but you also know that even though it is in a different town today, it is still the Cruisin Nationals and still the best show of the year.
Photography by Juan Espinoza Jr & Mira Okawa Words by Jesus Espinoza
t’s all about cruising. Car shows are cool but cruise nights are way better and much more fun. There is no cover fee, no cover bands, no vendor booths selling car insurance, and no ﬁve dollar trophy telling you that your car is better than the next. Cruise nights are the coolest car events in my opinion.
Paso Robles was the best car show ever, most of you who had a chance to experience it would agree. Paso had the feel of a killer cruise night, mostly because there was no fence around the show area and no ticket booth to pay to see cars. The Friday night cruise was like no other. The streets were ﬁlled with some of the best customs
in the world. And cars look best when they are moving, cruising Spring Street was an event of its own. Some of us never even registered our cars, we would just wait until they opened the streets back up and start cruising. Most of the fun was at night, cruising around and stopping at different spots to check out other cars. I am not saying the Deadend Magazine cruise night is anywhere near as cool as Paso was, but we are trying to bring back the same vibe. We have been holding our cruise night in San Jose California for the past few years now at the 4th Street Bowl. Cars from all over California and even some from out of the state show up and ďŹ ll the parking lot. One of the coolest things about
our cruise night is the variety of styles you can see there, everything from show quality customs to low riders, to hot rods and motorcycles. The atmosphere reminds me of the old Paso days, where you can just show up and hang out with other car enthusiast and have a good time. The bowling alley is very accommodating, it has a big parking lot, a fully stocked bar, pool tables and even a diner inside so you can grab a bite while you are there. We invite you all to come to our cruise night next year, it is the same weekend as the Gambino Sit Down and the Strangers BBQ, all taking place in San Jose making it one of the best weekends to be in Nor Cal.
Photography by Jesus Espinoza & Juan Espinoza Jr Words by Jesus Espinoza
n recent times, the Japanese car scene has been getting a lot of attention from us here in the United States. For the most part it seems everyone over here is impressed by what the Japanese are doing with our cars, but there are a few out there who think our cars should stay on American soil. I think they might change their mind if they experience the Japanese scene like we have. We have been attending car shows in Japan for a few years now. Deadend has had the pleasure of checking out the Mooneyes Yokohama show, CalFlavor, and a few others including the recent Classic Legends show. We have also visited many shops in Japan from the historical Paradise Road to the Fit Kustoms shop and many others in between. We have seen and observed that they have a tremendous appreciation for the American and Chicano culture, and they have been embracing it for decades.
For those who canâ€™t make the trip out to Japan and see it in person, The Local Hero blog was the best way to see the cars that were being built in Japan. Toshi Shimizu and his team of bloggers did a great job of showing the rest of the world what the land of the rising sun has to offer. So when Toshi informed us that he was teaming up with Oryu (editor) of 38Timez to host the Classic Legends, we knew we had to be there. Toshi and Oryu put together one of the best shows in history! They set out to show everyone that Japan is no longer just buying up nice cars and calling them their own. Things have changed, the Japanese are now ďŹ nding stock cars and customizing them to put
their personal touch to them just like we do here. Cars are being built from the ground up over there with limited resources and stricter laws. Before, we would see cars in Japan and recognize them from California, but now we are seeing cars that are new builds and customized in Japan. We have met many Japanese who own and drive chopped or radical customs that were built at home by groups of friends and car club members. The Classic Legends show lived up to the hype. It was a huge success and is still being talked about to this day. Toshi and his team
gave the locals a big treat by shipping over the 3 time lowrider of the year champion 1963 Impala “El Rey” and the legendary 1964 Impala “Gypsy Rose” known as the world’s most famous lowrider. They also shipped over a few other cars and motorcycles form the U.S. Those of us who ﬂew in from other countries got to see the best Japanese lowriders and customs. Classic Legends will deﬁantly go down in history as one of the best car events ever.
Photography by Jesus Espinoza, Chino Hernandez & Juan Espinoza Jr Words by Juan Espinoza Jr
fter our ﬁrst time attending the Behind Bars Inc. bicycle ride in San Jose, CA, we told the fellas Dom and Boogie that they should host a bicycle ride in our hometown Salinas, CA. They answered back…“You should host one!” A few months passed and the more we thought about it, the more we knew Salinas needed a bicycle ride. Since we believe Salinas is unique and different from any other town, we ﬁgured we needed to make our bicycle ride unique and different. We chose to encourage people to bring out their custom bikes, beach cruisers or vintage bikes and we would in turn, end the ride with a free burrito and rafﬂe for anyone who pedaled a few miles with us. We are proud of how the people of Salinas and surrounding areas have reacted to the Burrito Bike Ride. Every ride we host, keeps growing. We never imagined how many people from different walks of life would get together and ride the streets of Salinas with us. It really is fun for the whole family. I mean who doesn’t like to enjoy a nice ride around a beautiful town ending with a great tasting burrito?
Photography by Jesus Espinoza Words by Justin Fivella
A Local Legend An artist, a bike builder, a friendship and choppers far ahead of their time,
very town has a local legend, a guy so good at his craft and so talented that he walks on water, and during the 70s in the Valley, Tommy McKibbenen was a god. “I ﬁrst met Tommy when I was a senior in high school and even though I was much younger and couldn’t afford my own bike, it was the small start to what would eventually become a lifelong friendship that lasted until he passed,” Steve “Lightning,” Arnett said. “Around the Salinas area in the 70s he was a god to the bikers and his oneoff creations were out of this world.” His two-wheeled creations might have been unrivaled and revered, but like many creative souls, his was a tormented one. Although his choppers might have been some of the cleanest and most innovative creations of their time, fabricating Choppers only occupied a decade of the softspoken, eccentric artists’ life, the rest was spent searching. “He was always searching for his true passion and he never stopped looking, funny thing is, he built some of the best choppers I’ve ever seen, but he only ﬁnished 11 of them before he quit the business, packed up and headed for the hills,” Lightning said. “He was a creative type that tried many forms of expression from painting, sculpting and metal working to sketching; he never stopped searching for his true calling and when he got really good with crafting jewelry and oil paintings, sadly his diabetes prevented him from fully exploring it,” he added. Like many artists, McKibbenen had seasons to his life and for but a decade he unknowingly created some of the baddest choppers to ever roll California’s Central Valley. “He was so ahead of his time, I mean not just for the style and the quality of the craftsmanship, but because every bike was built to be ridden,” Lightning said. “Don’t believe me, I’ll ride ﬁgureeights on the long bike with ease, it’s that maneuverable, and not at the expense of stability because it tracks straight as an arrow,” he added. Somewhere at the intersection of function and form we ﬁnd perfection, and perhaps that’s why McKibbenen’s bikes are so revered even decades after they were built.
The Praying Mantis The “long bike” as Lightning calls it was born from raw materials in 1972 after McKibbenen spent months crafting it before famous painter, John Cappola laid down the black paint that still remains intact. Unlike one-stop shops of today, back in the day a chopper build was far less complete. After a chopper was built it was little more than a frame, forks and boxes of parts–ﬁnal assembly was on you. This proved a problem for the original owner who never assembled the beauty. It would take the talented hands of another local guy by the name of Joe Vargas to ﬁnally get the bike rolling and registered in 1975. Speaking of rolling, Vargas was a biker in every sense of the word as he amassed over 80,000 miles on the raked-out chop until he sold it to Lightning. Although it went through several top-ends, one bottom-end, a transmission and other consumable parts, the frame, paint and much of the original build remain–it’s a survivor. Chopper guys will immediately notice that both bikes aren’t built around Shovels, Pans or Knuckles, but rather the smaller Sportster. Lightning explained that McKibbenen prefered the integrated motor and transmission cases of the Sporties, saying that it offered more options when it came to frame design and extra features. Speaking of frame design, it’s a handbuilt piece with a 30-degree rake and a 4-inch stretch. Being the artist that he was, McKibbenen borrowed inspiration from everywhere, even from the British. “The frame holds the engine oil just like some Triumphs, Tommy looked for artistic innovation everywhere and he thought the British bikes that carried the oil in their frames were cool,” Lightning said.’ After accumulating nearly 100,000 miles with Vargas in the saddle, he parked it in 1990 when a newer Harley found its way into his garage. The Preying Mantis sat collecting dust in his garage until the year 2000 when Lightning bought it.
“I’d always loved that bike and could never afford a McKibbenen chopper when I was younger, but when Joe told me it was for sale, I showed up on his doorstep with the money in hand,” Lightning said. He may have waited three decades to buy it, but the “long bike,” as he called it was his. Over the 10 years it sat in Vargas’ garage it had become the pissing pole for his dogs and was altogether ripe with neglect. But underneath the dog piss, grime and grease lay a diamond in the rough that still wore its original paint, sissybar and handlebars, Lightning just had to bring it back to its former glory. “I brought it back and it looked just as it did when Joe (Vargas) bought it decades before, but with some patina from all the miles, I even found the January 1987 Issue of Easy Rider that featured the bike, it was pretty cool,” he said. Lightning may have been a senior in high school when he met McKibbenen, but he ﬁrst saw the artist’s work a few years prior and instantly became a lifetime fan. “I was only 15 or 16 when I saw my ﬁrst McKibbenen bike, it was his very ﬁrst build that he called the “Black Turd,” I saw it at a local guy’s house, he paid Tommy to build it and I couldn’t take my eyes off it, even if it was just a frame and forks at the time,” Lightning said. The ﬁrst time he laid eyes on a McKibbenen bike, he was a changed man. Although he was but a broke high-school student, his perseverance and love for the one-off choppers would not only lead him to eventually owning the largest McKibbenen collection in the world, but it would connect him with the artist himself. “He took a liking to me because I was humble and artistic, I’d built a chopper of my own at 19 from a brand-new Harley with custom underbike struts, the ﬁrst I’d ever seen, like what Arlen Ness ended up doing, and from there McKibbenen and I hung out more and more until we cultivated a friendship,” Lightning said.
“I remember he built a crazy VW-powered trike that was ahead of its time with side-byside seating and a low stance, like stupid low, maybe no taller than a couple of feet, that I saw at the Fresno Autorama and when I heard it was on display at the local VW dealer I cut class in high school just to see it,” Lightning said. John “Lightning” Arnett might have earned his nickname from the lazy janitor “Lightning,” on the Amos ‘n’ Andy show during a stint as a construction worker, but he was anything but lazy when it came to custom cars and bikes, as his chopper build at 19 would be the ﬁrst of many. Over the next 10 years Lightning stayed in contact with McKibbenen as he traveled throughout California in search of his lifelong artistic muse. The relentless journey would lead him out of choppers and deeper into the ﬁne arts, eventually taking him to a small house near Mount Shasta where the visionary slowly deteriorated from diabetes. When Lightning got word that his old friend wasn’t doing well he made the journey to see him. As fate would have it, McKibbenen would pass not long after the visit. “While I was there I tried to buy the trike, but I just couldn’t swing the money, I instead bought various pieces of his art and I believe I was one of the last people to see him before he passed,” Lightning said.
Copper Killer Decades before copper was cool, McKibbenen incorporated the soft material into the build of the smaller chopper before you. It was considered weird and offbeat back then, little did he know that one day it would become innovative and unique. It was yet another sign McKibbenen was far ahead of his time. “The small bike was the sixth or seventh chopper McKibbenen ever built and in addition to the unique copper accents, it was the ﬁrst swingarm bike he ever build,” Lightning said. A gentleman by the names of Rick McCommery commissioned McKibbenen to build the bike and as Lightning recalls, it was challenging for the him to incorporate the swingarm into a traditional chopper build. Never one to give up on a challenge, McKibbenen didn’t craft a frame from scratch, but rather he took the stock unit and massaged it to perfection, even incorporating an oil-in-frame design like the Praying Mantis. “It was an impressive bike back then, more of a custom bike that was built to be ridden, but I
could never get over the fact Rick threw a ’74 Springer fork on instead of paying Tommy to build him a custom one, it’s still something that bugs me today because I know how much better it could have looked but it was just too expensive for Rick at the time,” Lightning said. Custom fork or not, like all McKibbenen bikes it was as beautiful as it was bad, as it too was ridden all over California, racking up 40,000 miles before it was eventually parked. It too escaped disaster and decay over the years, only having received some paint modiﬁcations and normal maintenance and repair. “I remember Rick was always polishing that damn copper, but boy when it was shiny did it look good, people didn’t really get it back then, but it always looked good,” Lightning said. The copper bike was the second McKibbenen bike that Lightning acquired and it wouldn’t be the last, as he bought another one, his favorite of all the bikes in raw frame form. It’s far from complete, but will one day see the light of day.
“I’d always loved McKibbenen bikes and as fate would have it, I not only would become friends with him, but I would unintentionally become the owner of the largest McKibbenen collection,” Lightning said. Over the decade that the artist turned momentary mechanic was building choppers he completed just 11 examples; three Shovelheads, one Knucklehead and seven Sportster 900s. Lightning owns three McKibbenen bikes and plenty of spare parts, but like the artist and builder who spent a lifetime chasing his muse, Lightning feels that a change is in the air. “I’ve chased these bikes my entire life, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that my passions have changed and hot rods are where my heart is, I’ve been toying with selling them but they’d have to go to the right person who’d appreciate them for what they are and not change them, but instead preserve them,” he said. They say we don’t ever truly own anything, that instead we’re just the curators of these relics and after our journey is done we pass them along to the next Gearhead who’ll continue carrying the torch. Like the artist that inspired him, perhaps Lightning isn’t done searching for his true inspiration either. His chopper afﬁnity aside, he’s built dozens of wicked rods and customs over the years and is more widely known as the creator of the infamous car club, the “Turd Heads.” It’s been a good run for Lightning and instead of looking at parting ways with the McKibbenen bikes as sad, we should celebrate the fact he’s still searching for what makes him tick. We should all be so lucky. Why with life, responsibilities and the like it’s hard to keep the passion burning. But Lightning and McKibbenen are proof that if you love something, never give it up.