Pinstriper; Rick Harris
Not everything in life is planned. Sometimes things just happen that define your career path and you may not even be aware that it is happening at the time.
I was fresh out of the Navy in November 1968. Had my heart set on a ’69 Z28 Camaro and one of my neighbours happened to be a Chevy salesman, so the deal was done, or so I thought. I had no credit, so I asked my dad to co-sign for the Z-28. “Hell no, you are not getting a Hot Rod” was his reaction- not the one I was looking for! My dad made it really clear that all he would co-sign for was a VW Beatle. Really, a Beatle! This was such a disappointment for me but I picked the fanciest Beatle they had (chrome, Empi wheels, Sun tach) and tried to find somebody to add some California pinstriping. The only striper in town was too busy with a new business to help me, but he told me what kind of paint and brush to get at the local art store. After much trial and error I got some designs on it. I went back to the dealership to show the salesman what I had done. I ended up striping new Beatles for $5.00 a car, you have to start somewhere!
In 1973 I went to Tulsa, Oklahoma to the Street Rod Nationals in a VW I painted that had just won ‘Best Paint’ at the Street Machine Nationals in Memphis, Tennessee. That weekend I met Chuck Babbitt from Costa Mesa, California and my life changed. For whatever reason, he took me under his wing and showed me all the subtle little things that a striper needs to know. We became great friends after that and I made many trips to visit and work with ‘Shaky Jake’ in Costa Mesa. Cancer took Shaky in ’78, but I still use what he taught me every day.
I have been striping now for 45 years and decided several years ago to teach others how to pinstripe. Too many of our great stripers are dying and taking their skills to the grave. I have 4 striping classes this year at a local art store. I try to limit each class to 10 students. I hope some of these guys and girls will keep it going. Nothing would be more rewarding than to see one of them become the next great striper!
I have had a great career striping and am very blessed to still be doing what I love at 66.
As published in PKG issue 44, June/July 2014.