Thursday, 25 April 2013 21:10

Third Generation Custom Painter Was Born Into the Business

Written by Melanie Anderson
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Darryl Hollenbeck, 45, of Vintage Color Studio in Concord, CA, is a third generation custom painter and car restorer. His grandfather owned one of the first body shops in Oakland back in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s and later sold his shop to Hollenbeck’s uncle. Darryl’s father worked in the shop as well, with Darryl joining the family business at age 21.

With 25 years experience, Hollenbeck has owned Vintage Color Studio restoring hot rods and custom cars for the past 10 years. Most of the vintage cars he works on date back to the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, with the ‘newest’ car he’s ever worked on being a 1966 Shelby Mustang.

“I love cars. I was born into it,” said Hollenbeck. “I love the challenge of taking something old and rusty and turning it into something beautiful and award-winning.”

Hollenbeck has won several awards, including the award he won for painting John Mumford’s 27 T Roadster, built by Roy Brizio Street Rods, which won “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster” at the recent 2013 Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, CA. He’s won that award twice. The first time he won the award was in 2005 for painting Paul Hansen’s Moal Built 1932 Roadster called ‘Seduced.’

Over the course of his career, Hollenbeck has custom painted well over 100 cars, many of which have graced the covers of hot rod and custom car magazines. Several of those magazine covers are featured on his website at He owns three hot rods himself—a 1950 Mercury from his late father, a 1957 Chevy Wagon and a 1932 Roadster that he’s still working on.

Some of Hollenbeck’s favorite projects include restoring historical cars that were originally customized back in the ‘30s and ‘40s. For example, Hollenbeck restored a 1949 Mercury that belonged to Sam Barris (George Barris’ brother). Hollenbeck said this car was the first Mercury to be chopped and customized and it was a new car when Sam Barris did it in 1949. Hollenbeck also restored the 1936 Ford Jack Calori Coupe, which was the November 1949 Hot Rod Magazine Cover Car, and was Best in Class Winner at Pebble Beach in 2005.

Another famous historical car that Hollenbeck has worked on is the Ala Kart, originally customized by George Barris and owned by Richard Peters. The car survived a fire that destroyed Barris’ shop in 1957. The car, named from a menu at the time George Barris, Richard Peters and friend Blackie Gejeian met at a local coffee shop to discuss the car, is based on a 1929 Ford Pickup and cost $15,000 to build. Peters and Gejeian built the undercarriage. It won the prestigious “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster” award at the Oakland Roadster Show two years in a row in 1958 and 1959. The Ala Kart is known for being the first show rod that turned into a model car kit. The Ala Kart was restored by Roy Brizio Street Rods in 2011 and Hollenbeck did the paint and body work on the car with Art Himsl doing the graphics.

Another favorite project Hollenbeck worked on was Vic Edelbrock’s father’s 1932 Roadster that was restored by Roy Brizio Street Rods in 2004. Otis Victor Edelbrock, who died in 1962, was an American automotive aftermarket performance parts engineer, racer and is considered one of the founders of the hot rod movement.  The 1932 Roadster was the personal car of Edelbrock Sr. and was also as a test vehicle back in the ‘40s at the El Mirage Dry Lakes in southern California.

Hollenbeck said the average project takes about three months, from start to finish, with the paint work itself taking about 10 days. Some of Hollenbeck’s famous customers include English rock guitarist Jeff Beck, singer Eric Clapton, and James Hetfield of Metallica.

The recent change from solvents to waterborne paint isn’t something Hollenbeck is thrilled about. Like many painters, he appreciates routine and using the new water-based products has changed up the way he’s used to doing things.

“Now we gotta try to make water base work for what we do, and it’s geared more toward the collision industry,” he said. “It does have its advantages in what we do, but you get used to doing something a certain way, then all the sudden the EPA changes everything on you.”

He says waterborne is easier to use, but takes longer to dry between coats. For example, he said it used to take him eight hours to paint a Roadster with solvent and now that same size car takes about 12 hours to paint using waterbase.

He also acknowledges that the water-based paint colors are more vibrant, but adds that a custom line of water-base products for custom work doesn’t exist yet. Hollenbeck has been using PPG for nearly 30 years, since he was “in high school and just starting to mess around with paint,” and says the PPG brand is very user-friendly.

“There isn’t a custom line of water base,” he said. “For instance, Candy Apple Red isn’t available in water base so you have to figure out how to make it and that takes more time.”

According to Cindy Schauer, Segment Communications Manager with PPG, the company is not launching a new waterborne platform for the custom painter, but over the last few years, PPG has made some products that work well with their current waterborne brands, Envirobase High Performance and Aquabase Plus, that make it easier to use in a custom finishing situation.

Darryl Hollenbeck’s Vintage Color Studio, 2330 Bates Ave, Suite B-1
Concord CA 94520
Phone : 925.671.7773

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