Get the print version of Barracuda to see LOTS more photos, text and art, including a Von Dutch portrait by Coop and pinstriping in the layout by Von Franco. This issue (#7) and other issues of Barracuda with Von Dutch-related articles are available on our kustom newsstand.
In the early 1950s, pinstriping on cars was all but non-existent. Pinstripes hadn't appeared on an American production car in about 20 years. And the last time they were seen, they were usually slavishly following the contours of the car's body.
And then along came Von Dutch. Working from a shop in Southern California, Von Dutch almost single-handedly revived the art. His freestyle pinstriping method had lines shooting out in all directions, with sharp angles, evoking a feeling of frenzy and speed. His smooth lines could suddenly erupt into a sharp point, making intricate "spider web" designs and images like faces and animals. By 1958, pinstriping had become a bona fide craze. Von Dutch's designs were so popular, that people would bring their cars from all over the country just to be "dutched."
At one point, Von Dutch's daily driver was a slightly customized '56 Ford. By 1971 or 1972, Von Dutch had wrecked the truck a few times, and there wasn't much left of the body. Something had to be done with it.
There happened to be a cab from a '47 Kenworth semi laying around. So, with his love for resurrecting the obsolete and building something unbelievable, he took the body off the Kenworth and somehow fit it onto the Ford frame. The truck was reborn as a "Kenford," also known as the "Raunchy Utility Vehicle."
The passenger's seat is little more than a piece of plywood on a hinge. In front of the passenger's seat is one of the Kenford's more intriguing features -- a brass-topped tube with "Tube Le Dump" engraved on it. This tube is a beer can ejector designed by Dutch for a '66 Olds Toronado he used to drive. The tube leads to the road below, so Von Dutch could get rid of empties without having to toss them out the window while driving.
Inside the engine compartment are some very Von Dutch touches, including louvers pressed into a piece of sheet metal that can't be seen except if you open the hood and look down towards the ground. On that same plate is pinstriping running underneath a wiring harness. There's also a handy little work light mounted next to the firewall.
"He liked models of efficiency," says Bob Burns, a long-time friend of Von Dutch's who would own the truck shortly before Von Dutch's death, "He thought he could make something better than you could buy, so why not make your own truck?"
Shortly after Von Dutch's death, artist Robert Williams commented on him in an article in Street Rodder, saying: "I can't overemphasize the influence he had on young blue-collar America. He was a spiritual God -- he seemed to add a soul to nuts and bolts, a spirit to machinery as it were, that no mere engineer could do. And when he put striping brush to sheet metal -- well, it gave the vehicle a karma all its own; it came alive!"