I started painting Cars & Choppers in the 60's - Then in 1969 I opened ~ "Jeff's Place Custom painting" which soon became the best known place to in Southern California to have anything with wheels custom painted during the entire 70's era and into the 80's.

We were a full service shop, that did ahead of it's time Extreme One-of-a-Kind custom fabrication, bodywork, painting, lettering, airbrushing, pinstriping, Etc, Etc, Etc.

"Jeff's Place" actually went on to become world famous by being featured in a French film about about American Car Customizers & another one along the same lines from Belgium. And I was extremely honored to be a guest on the Johnny Carson show ~ showing Johnny how to Airbrush a 'Van Mural'.
Because the Van craze was in full swing during the 70's era.

This was wayyyy before sign computers & 3 stage paint mind you ....Lol..... and here's an example: when Nat Quick didn't want to do it anymore ~ I took over painting the single stage paint of the Red - White - Blue graphics on all the NHRA Drag Racing - Safety Safari trucks - and then 'Hand Lettered' that entire NHRA logo on everything as well.

Same with the 'Lil racing decals 'n logos on the bottom of Funny Cars & Dragsters too....it was an ego boost when people thought the little sponsor logos were stickers, when in fact ~ they were HAND PAINTED.....now a days, the entire paint scheme on a Race Car can be a giant screen printed "Sticker".

Anyway....
We had so much work at Jeff's Place, that I actually had a day shift and a night shift crew, as well as about 20 - 30 constant part timers.
The shop also had a store front selling wheels, tires, waxes, all kinds of custom accessories, Hats, T-Shirts, Etc, Etc, Etc.

It was a highly visible 7,500 sq.ft. shop that was within yards of a major freeway off ramp, right next to a Motel 6 and a Denny's restaurant. It was located on a corner of a light industrial complex & had tons of parking room, was very well lit up at night, Etc.....so in his early years a little known Top Fuel Funny Car driver & my friend, John "Brute" Force ~( years before he became NHRA's 16 time World Champion of course )~ used park his race rig there because he knew it would be safe. Which I didn't mind, because after all, it was good for business.

Although that big rig of his used to constantly set off the building alarm at 3:00 in the morning when they either came home or left for a race, which wasn't funny at the time to me or the Anaheim P.D.....lol
I enjoyed that shop 'cause it was like a constant daily car show and not only did groups of little kids on their bicycles show up all the time to "Oooh 'n Ahhh" the various Custom Cars, Trucks, Vans, Boats, Race cars, T.V. / Movie cars, or any other crazy ISCA Show Car that might have been there, but so did the guests of the Motel across the street, customers of Denny's, Etc.
And we were not that far from Disneyland......which at that time, honored me with being the '"Grand Marshal'" of one of their 25th year anniversary parades. Jeff's Place eventually became a well known tourist stop & we sold tons of T-Shirts 'n Posters featuring the "Jeff's Place" logo that famed Drag Racing automotive Hall of Fame artist Kenny Youngblood designed for us.

The huge list of Automotive Magazine articles, cover shots, Newspaper articles, Posters, Movie & T.V. cars, Famous People, Endorsements, Paint Awards & life long friends I have garnered over the last 47 years from having this business is almost endless, Etc, Etc, Etc.
Along with several famous I.S.C.A. (International Show Car Assoc.) touring show cars and National Champions, and last but not least, the dozens of Nationally known N.H.R.A. dragsters 'n funny cars I was lucky enough to put my talent on in some way ~ even if it was a quickie last minute 24 hr repair :-)

I was - and have been - truly blessed.

In 1982 a jealous competitor burned my shop down to dust 'n ashes and around the same time I had been friends with Boyd Coddington for years ~~(way before he became a Hot Rod Icon)~~ and occasionally I would rub out & buff his attempts at painting cars at home, in his mere 2 car garage.
When he quit working for Disneyland (as a machinist) ~ around the same time period my shop got burned down ~ and wasn't going to build Hot Rods at his home any more because he was moving into a large professional building, he asked me to be "'Hot Rod's by Boyd'" first in house painter.

Although I was humbled & felt truly honored by such a request.... I was (no pun intended) -burned out- on painting cars & the huge monster of a business I created from it, and thus, turned him down.....I decided instead to take a much needed break and refresh my sole & went to work as a photographer for Hot Rod, Street Rodder, Car Craft, and several other car magazines, Etc.

But the custom creative bug is just plain in my blood, so in the mid 80's I opened up another shop with ONE employee  (me)  called: "The Custom Sign Studio" specializing only in Airbrushing, Hand Lettered Signs & and of course my beloved "Hand Painted Pinstriping".....and that business too, was very very successful.

During this phase of my career, I was lucky enough to do some background signs used in the 'Motley Crue' rock video ~ Dr. Feelgood.....met the guys & ended up painting their Harleys. Lettered Elizabeth Taylors' yacht ~ the "Cleopatra" . Pinstriped Sylvester Stallones' limousine.... Yada, Yada, Yada.

During my 47 + year career I've had the tremendous once in a lifetime opportunity to meet & create my talent for the "who's who" in the T.V., Music & Movie business, and I've had the honor to work for (and become friends with) some of the most well known NHRA Drag Racers, owners, builders, painters, and mechanics of both past & present times, and can happily say: I knew 'em when!

Alas,
Jeff's Place and the Custom Sign Studio are only memories now, along with the 60's - 70's - 80's - 90's decades.

In 1992 I moved to beautiful Couer d' Alene, North Idaho and never looked back at California ever again.

In 1993 ~
Thanks to a suggestion by fellow pinstriper Dave Whittle, I re-invented myself as "" Von Dago ""
In the utmost of honor & respect for the man who started it all "Von Dutch"
 - (who had recently passed away) -
in order to hopefully keep his name & the memory of as he called it:
 Modern Hand Pinstriping  ~  alive!

The people in my life who have truly inspired me to become who & what I am are:

"My Dad" --- Ken 'Von Dutch' Howard --- Ed 'big daddy' Roth --- Larry Watson --- Ron Lester --- Dave Whittle --- Kim Dedic --- Nat Quick --- John 'the Zookeeper' Mulligan --- Glen Weisgerber and last, but certainly not least --- Kenny 'Blood Did It' Youngblood --- who I consider my most personal mentor & have the utmost of respect for.........God Bless and THANK YOU ALL.