Dean Jeffries, Famous Hollywood Car Customizer, Dead At 80

One of history's preeminent automotive sculptors and engineers passed away at home on Sunday, May 5, 2013. Dean Jeffries, also known as "Deano" began pinstriping cars with the legendary Von Dutch in Lynwood, California, in the early 1950s.

Jeffries pinstriping lead to custom painting, and then to custom fabrication. Jeffries started his craft in Lynwood before moving to Sunset Blvd, then to his long-time shop on Cahuenga Blvd in North Hollywood. Jeffries fabricated some of the most innovative custom cars and hot rods of all time. Jeffries painted the infamous words “Little Bastard” on the tail section of actor James Deans Porsche.

Other stars that would visit his shop included Gary Cooper, Steve McQueen, James Garner and Jay Leno. Jeffries first major success was in the 1964 Grand National Roadster Show with his asymmetrically styled Mantaray, which featured a Maserati Grand Prix chassis and a Cobra engine.

Other cars from the Jeffries stable include the “Monkeemobile”, the original Green Hornet's “Black Beauty”, James Bonds’ “MoonBuggy” from Diamonds Are Forever, and the 35 foot long 12 wheel “Landmaster” built for the movie Damnation Alley.

Jeffries was also enamored with the Indianapolis 500, where he crewed for many years for the legendary AJ Foyt. Jeffries also painted many of the Indy 500 entries, and in fact one year painted 22 of the 33 starters in the field. Later in his career, Jeffries was involved in motion picture production, not only from a vehicle construction standpoint, but also as a stunt driver and stunt producer.

Some of the movies he was involved in included “What’s Up Doc?”, “The Blues Brothers”, “Honky Tonk Freeway”, “Roger Rabbit”, “Romancing The Stone” and “Die Hard: With Vengeance”.

In his semi-retired years, Jeffries could occasionally be found as a special guest at car shows across the country, but his passion was to be at his shop five days a week restoring his personal car collection and meeting with old friends.

Dean Jeffries was born on February 25, 1933, and is survived by his sister Evonne and his son Kevin Dean Jeffries of Lake Elsinore. Those close to Jeffries know that he is now reunited with the love of his life, his beloved Row, who preceded him in death by 4 years.


A private family burial will be held, and a Celebration Of Life with Jeffries' friends is on the drawing board for late May. Details will be posted at www.DeanJeffries.com

Photo: Tom Cotter via Hemmings