And even though Darryl Hollenbeck, the owner of Vintage Color Studio in Concord, CA, has won three America's Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) awards and a handful of Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance awards with his cars that are regularly featured on the covers of magazines such as Street Rodder and Rodder’s Journal, Hollenbeck has never become jaded or complacent due to his success.
Along with other top car painters and fabricators, Hollenbeck's 1932 Ford Highboy Roadster wowed SEMA attendees during all four days of the show. The 2016 AMBR winner differs slightly from your traditional Highboy approach while still retaining much of its original look.
"Cory Taulbert at Webb Automotive Art handled the chassis fabrication and then we got it back to install its Edelbrock crate small block, and a T5 Borg Warner trans," Hollenbeck said. "Once we were done with the paint, Bill Ganahl coordinated the final assembly, and friend Sid Chavers stitched the leather and 1969 Cadillac fabric interior combo. I’ll guarantee you it’s the nicest roadster here with 10,000 miles on it."
Hollenbeck's '32 Highboy won Vintage Color's third America's Most Beautiful Roaster award earlier this year.
Darryl Hollenbeck, 49, grew up in Concord, CA with a family that was destined to paint or rebuild vehicles as a profession. Darryl's grandfather, uncle and father were all highly-regarded car painters, with his father Dale gaining national acclaim for his work before passing in 2003.
Hollenbeck has been painting vehicles since he was a teenager. "I was using lacquer back when I started painting cars as a kid," he explained. "The first car I ever painted was a 1968 Mustang done in black lacquer. When waterborne paint was mandated almost 10 years ago now, I struggled with it for a short time and was a little skeptical about it. I was wondering if the waterborne would last and questioned its longevity, but now I use the PPG Envirobase exclusively and it is outstanding. They are a great company and extremely supportive. Their products are user-friendly and they know what painters go through, which means that their customer support is exceptional across the board."
A veteran painter, Hollenbeck entered the industry on the collision side initially. "I worked with my uncle and my father at H&K Auto Body in Oakland, CA, and that is where I started working right out of high school," he said. " I was there for about four years and then I bounced around working at body shops in the East Bay. I always had an urge to do complete customs, and pretty soon, I was able to do them. I always wanted to be strictly a painter, but at the beginning to break in, I had to do it all."
Hollenbeck's career really gained momentum when he landed a job at Acme Custom Cars in Antioch, CA, a top customization shop with a great reputation for doing award-winning work. "I was able to really expand my horizons there and refine my painting skills," he said. "They gave me the responsibility and I thrived on it."
Currently, Vintage Color Studio is booked for at least a full year, and Hollenbeck's work is always in demand, it seems. If you want a classic car with an award-winning paint job, Hollenbeck's name is a household word in northern California and many of the country’s top rod builders have his name right at the top of their list.
When Hollenbeck gets a classic hot rod in his shop, it's already down to the bare metal, and that's when Vintage Color Studio does its magic. "We fill in the gaps and prepare it for paint and then we paint it," Hollenbeck said. "The car is then sent back to the restoration shop, which is usually Roy Brizio at Roy Brizio's Street Rods in South San Francisco, CA. It is a great relationship that works well, because they have an amazing track record of success between the two and are also related through marriage. Also, I am married to Terri Brizio, Roy's sister, which surely does not hurt."
Hollenbeck has painted vehicles for car collectors all over the world, and a few years ago he stumbled upon a niche that consists of rock stars including two guitar legends. He has now done four cars for James Hetfield, the lead singer of Metallica; two for Eric Clapton and one for Jeff Beck, who used to be in the Yardbirds with Clapton many years ago.
Hollenbeck painted this award-winning 1937 Lincoln Zephyr for James Hetfield of Metallica a few years back.
Hollenbeck is a serious artist and businessman, but he also enjoys the camaraderie that comes along with the job. "One of the great things about this business is that I eventually become friends with many of our customers," Hollenback said. "It just happens naturally, because they give me a ton of responsibility with these vehicles and I value that. These are their children in a way, so I want to do an incredible job for them. That is also why I get a lot of repeat clients, because they know I am totally dedicated to every project I do."
After working on any car, Hollenbeck still gets a rush when he sees the finished vehicle right before the rest of the world gets to. "When we return it to the rebuilder, it's all in parts, so we can't really get a good idea what it is going to look like. But when we finally get to see it--with all of the upholstery and driving--it is always a thrill!"
Hollenbeck still loves the business, even though the work schedule is often insane. "It's tedious work with 10-14 hour days, but it sure beats collision repair, that's for sure," he said. "When you fix a car, you just return it back to what it was before. But when you rebuild a car, it's like creating a whole new vehicle, and that's why I love it. Getting in shows, winning awards and being featured in magazines is nice, but in the end, I am taking something old and making it look spectacular and that's why I have not had a vacation in 17 years and don't have any planned anytime soon."