THE SHOP

Performance & Hotrod Business - December '14

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84 n Performance & Hotrod Business n December 2014 BUSINESS just out of Norwich, Connecticut, telling me to keep it between the lines and wake him up if anything happened. I was 15 years old. It was the same year I learned how to weld. My school wouldn't allow me to take auto shop, as I was an art major. So I took welding and became the best welder in my school. All the gearheads would bring me their broken car and bike parts to fix. On my 16th birthday I skipped school, got my driver's license, picked up my first car, a 1969 Mustang and the journey really got going. I did all the wrenching on that car and on the many Mustangs that followed. I drove my dad's delivery truck for five years. I would find a shady spot to pull over and have lunch, thumbing through issues of car magazines, dreaming. I loved reading the tech articles. And the paint jobs blew my mind. I would examine them closely trying to figure out how they created those incredible effects. And then one night in 1979 a friend dared me to paint his Harley tank and a new journey began. At that time I had no idea that one moment would steer my life so drastically. My Gearhead Future The early '80s saw me with a little run- down shop in the low-rent end of the city. It was pretty much a hobby shop for my Mustangs, which numbered around 30 at times. Those were the high and heady days of insanely priced bargain muscle cars— when you could pick up a running '66 Fastback Mustang for $400 or a sweet '77 Firebird Formula with T tops for $300 or a 1968 Cougar GTE 427 for $600. The '60s and '70s muscle cars were like crack for us; we couldn't get enough. My friends and I would fill up our yards with them. Take $300 to a swap meet and fill up the truck and trailer with parts. '60s Mustang doors were stacked like cord- wood between the trees in my backyard. Rows of 289 and 302 heads lined up the bench. Stacks and stacks of milk crates filled with parts. I was 25 years old and my gearhead future was infinite. The journey had its ups and downs. There was a time when I swore I would never have my own shop again as the downs had been too rough. I had a great welding job and I lived in a rented house full of boxes as I only unpacked what I used. A boyfriend at the time took it upon himself to unpack those boxes and found some custom painted parts of mine. When I told him I had painted them, he com- mented it was a shame I had stopped painting, as the work was so good. And the journey resumed. A few years later the unexpected death of a custom painter friend of mine affected me so deeply that for the first time I got very serious about my custom work, and I never looked back. I pushed through the hard times no mat- ter what after that. I was determined to become the respected custom painter my friend had always believed I was. I honed my craft. Always trying to take my abilities and ideas to the next level, knowing that you are only as good as your latest project. The competition is always right there, waiting to push past if you dare to rest. The years rolled by and my work appeared in and on the covers of the magazines I read as a kid. My paint won some of the top awards in the country. I wrote seven books on custom painting and worked as a journalist for car and motor- cycle magazines. I appeared on NBC News, The Today Show, Musclecar TV, and I even competed on the first TV car design competition, TruTV's Motor City Masters. I had come a very, very long way from that young teen driving that underpowered delivery truck, looking at car magazines and dreaming. There's a rush from doing what we do. It's different for all of us. And I'm not talking about winning car or bike shows or making the cover of a magazine. Although that is a rush in itself. It's that sense of wonder of seeing what you created. The vision you had when you started. Finding 2007—On the set of the "Today Show" in Rockefeller Plaza where my team, "The Chopper Chick Crew" built a motorcycle live on the show. 2012—The '33 Factory Five Hot Rod I painted on Musclecar TV.

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