“THE KING OF PAINT LAYS IT DOWN ON THE VON DUTCH BUS!”
I took a trip recently to Phoenix, Arizona with a good friend and fellow striper, Kenny Grum. What we experienced was better than a trip to the Grand Canyon…better than striping on Noah’s Ark.
By way of the grapevine, I’d learned that the Von Dutch Bus was in Phoenix. It had been purchased by a pinstriping legend by the name of Steve Kafka from the party who had originally bought it at auction after Von Dutch’s death. Come to find out, he’s good friends with one of my pinstriping hero’s Alton Gillespie – probably the finest painter that walks the planet. Alton actually hung out with Von Dutch in life and on the bus. Alton’s also been doing some work on the bus with Steve.
Kenny’s friend Slow, who knows Steve and has done some painting on the bus, knew exactly where the bus and Steve’s shop was and turned us on to its location. We didn’t hesitate to set off on our “Von Dutch Pilgrimage.” When we arrived, Steve invited us in…we BS’d a little then we cut to the chase, “we want to see the bus.” He said, “well, hell, I’ll take you out back where it’s at.” The bus was outside, behind the Steve’s shop.
We asked if we could go in, he said, “sure.”. He took us inside and proceeded to show us all the things he had had to acquire to get it back to its original shape when Von Dutch was working out of it, painting, doing gun smith work, making knives, etc. He found and purchased the original 1947 Sheldon Lathe, drill press, ban saw – that Von Dutch had actually used. The bus had a “thing” going on for sure, you could feel Von Dutch’s presence there (well, I could anyway).
After we had left (Steve must have realized that we’d been doing striping for years – how much we were into the whole Von Dutch thing), called us up and asked if we could come back tomorrow and.…..are you ready for this….do some striping on this gem of modern history….we said we’d be honored. I think we got the best part of the whole job….we got to paint the doors on the bathroom of the bus. I got the inside bathroom door spot and Kenny got to stripe the outer door.
The picture of the striped refrigerator had this story behind it. It was at a shop that Von Dutch used to hang out at quite a bit. Von Dutch striped it. Steve acquired the refrigerator when he got the bus.
The gold leaf Von Dutch sign on the back of the bus was done by a guy out in Washington, Jon Honacane. He restored the sign for Steve.
To think of all the cool cats that worked, ate and slept on that bus is mind blowing. Von Dutch, Alton Gillespie, Steve McQueen, Ed Roth, Agent 99 (came to visit a few times). Steve McQueen and Dutch were friends, monkied around with a bunch of motorcycles and built stuff together.
My thanks to Steve Kafka for an amazing experience – a once in a lifetime opportunity, and confirmation that wishes you put out into the universe with sincere interest and appreciation will never be denied.
Check out this video of Steve walking you around the bus: