During my junior and senior years I often had a car waiting for me when I got home from school to stripe. Pin-striping was new in this town and my car was good exposure, most work was from cruising the local drive in restaurants on weekends. I was charging $5 to do a car until a saw a Roth ad in Car Craft pocket book that advertised Hood and Trunk striped $15.00! I’m thinking, man a guy could get rich doing cars. Note: At this time (1957-58) I had a lawn cutting job – – – grass cut, hedges trimmed and raked, it took all day, and the pay was $5.00! … and this was a good paying job. My brothers were caddying all day at the golf course and made $10! I made $0.75/hr at the grocery store I worked. I also had a small art studio in the basement at my parent’s house where I painted t-shirts, with felt tip pens! I had no idea what an air brush was. Don’t remember what I charged for T-shirts but sweat shirts were $5.00, including shirt. My junior year there was a TV show called ‘Sea Hunt” and I never missed it, Loyd Bridges was my mentor and I began reading ‘skin diver’ magazine (all I still have) took a correspondence course, hooked up with a friend and we went diving at a local quarry on a regular basis (still have all my original dive equipment from that time). I always knew I wanted to serve in the US Navy. One week after graduation I was headed to boot camp (I had actually joined and sworn in, in my junior year). I served on an Air-craft carrier as an electronics technician. C.O. one day had a request for a diver. I responded along with 2 others, and our 1st assignment was a full inspection of a damaged submarine. Shaft packing collar was loose and made a terrible noise on sonar, making it very difficult to perform undetected during our ASW patrols (anti-submarine warfare). From then on I was on call for underwater inspections and repairs on this ship (USS Leyte CVS 32) and later on the USS Boston CAG-1 (the Worlds 1st gaided muscle crusier). Throughout my Navy career I continued to follow the mid-west and ‘West coast’ customizers. Watson was the most talented and to this day I don’t think anyone compares. I was at the time contemplating UDT Navy dive school, but I would have had to re-enlist for another 4 years! My interest in cars won out over heavy recruiting to re-up, and I was honorably discharged.
Well I’m out! Got a good job as a maintenance engineer at Continental Baking Company (Wonder Bread) in Dayton, Ohio, acquired a 1957 Ford Convertible, and immediately customized the hell out of it! Scallops, grille, shaved, interior, etc. all done in a car garage I rented. I toured the drive in restaurant scene regularly and won my first trophy with it at a major car show. Eventually sold it and bought a 61’ Corvette – – – and immediately customized it with paint and wheels (still own it today and it is again under the knife undergoing serious surgery). I’m 21 and during this time period I had rented a 3-car garage and did customers cars too (light body work, painting, pin-striping). This was my first real man cave! Somewhere here in early 60’s I attended the Detroit Auto Show at Cobo Hall. I exhibited motorcycles and cars there but most memorable was the hours and hours I spent watching Stanley Mouse he was only 16-years old painting shirts. He was the best, the fastest, in the country. He is the most amazing shirt painter I ever met. He introduced me to the air brush and I refer to his early catalogs even today. After four years employment I was fired over a fight with another employee. Out of work, and girl friend mad, I made four house payments in advance and headed to LA in my 61’ Vette I perceived myself being ‘Buzz’ on Route 66! Full of over confidence and adventure I arrived in the city of Long Beach, rented a room, and went straight to Watsons in Bellflower. I was certain someone would discover me. I dropped a couple names and he allowed me to look around at some projects they were doing. Harvey’s Broiler was the cruise capital of LA and the place all car people gravitated to in the evenings and I blended in best I could. I spent about 3 months ‘hanging out’ at Watsons, Harvey’s, Barris’s and looking for work. Broke, no job, undiscovered, I headed east. I rented a building, upon my return, (was really happy to be back) I started my own business – – – again without any encouragement or support (emotionally or financially). None! Recalling a semester in college of how vain people are (everyone wants their name on the building), and how insignificant your name really is, but how important business identity is, I named it ‘The Egyptian” Custom Body and Paint. I was born in Egypt . . . Ohio. I did motorcycles by the dozens! I was a really good painter, and everyone wanted an Egyptian paint job – – signed and dated. Nobody had candy apple paint like mine. It appeared you could stick your finger in it and stir it. Having the secret formulas that I learned out west, and from Mike Alexander (Alexander Brass, Detroit). I protected these formulas and changed labels on all cans because everyone wanted to know what I used and would stop by act friendly and scan my inventory. I was barely making ends meet, but I’d never been happier. My favorite motorcycle is a customized Ariel Square 4 showed if for 2 years, (still have it) restored it in 2008 and was awarded ‘best like in show’ at state concours event. My favorite car is “Shboom’ a 1957 customized Ford Victoria. Showed many times – – magazine cover car 3 times. I bought the ‘grasshopper’ 1931 Ford pick up from the ‘A’ Brothers about 1964. Showed it, used it as a shop truck, and sold it back to Mike Alexander 37 years later! He recently restored it and sold it for $130,000.00.
I’m unchanged after all these years. I still love old cars, bikes, and water sports. I would rather be at work, or my studio more than any place else. I’m a 7-day a week guy. I love art. I still dive, and logged over 2200 dives in the Atlantic, Pacific, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Sea of Cortez, and the Red Sea. I no longer sky-dive but I have 241 jumps. I’ve been a boater, and water ski competitor since 1960 and still active in the sport. I’ve been married once, and have 2 kids (1 boy 1 girl). My kid’s mother jumped ship when they were in kindergarten and 1st grade. I was a single parent for 19 years, but my children and I were and still remain today, very close. My closest friends are mostly people in the trade that I’ve met over the years. All my work is fun, most my fun is work. I’ll keep going ‘til I’m gone. Life has been very kind to me. We Artists thought we raised the ‘bar’ years ago, but today’s talent has set it so high we can’t even touch it! Major accomplishments and tributes would include being 1 of the first 50 stripers to be inducted Mack brush hall of fame in 2001. Re-painting the ‘Golden Sahara’, back in the 60’s, redoing the “Kookie’ 77” Sunset Strip car, and touring the show circuit with them. Painting John Lennon’s Bentley, lettering and striping cars for Don Garlit at his museum (probably 10-15 vehicles) in Florida. Work for The Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg Museum, The ‘Roach Coach’ show car Project, I’ve been a part of a number of Terry Cook projects including ‘Scrape’, Air craft graphix for Corporate air craft and helicopters, Duesenbergs for the Imperial Palace, Leo Gebhardt and John O’Quinn collection and many cars for the Packard Museum, Nose art on F-16’s-18’s, and static display aircraft at US Air Force Museum. Awards, tributes, magazine covers and articles could never be accomplished by myself alone. It’s a terrific support team here and I owe much of my success and recognition to my staff – – past and present.