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Larry Watson Flames part 2


In this second part of the story on Larry Watson’s flames, we take a look at the flames Larry created in the later part of his career as custom car painter.

In our first article on the Larry Watson Flames, we showed how Larry quickly developed his own style of flames in 1957-58. In this article, we will show you some samples of the flame paint jobs, Larry created in the later parts of the 1950’s up to the 1970’s. He refined his already unique style of flaming cars.

Larry Watson’s long licked flames were ultimately combined with another style of painting he developed: the outline, or panel paint job. Larry did one or two of these combined style paint jobs, which are totally unique, and have been copied ever since. But as these photos show, the more simple long licked, and free standing flames, were the most popular.

In the next ‘Larry Watson Flames’ article, we will highlight a few cars Larry painted with flames. How these flames were created, and how some of them developed over time.

[box_light]This article shows a selection of cars that were flame painted by Larry Watson. The photos come from the Larry Watson Personal Photo Collection. More on Larry’s personal collection can be found in the Larry Watson section on the CCC-Site. Or on the Custom Car Photo Archive.[/box_light]

CCC-Watson-Jim-Griepsma-57-01-WLarry added an interesting combination of scallops, and flames in gold,  and candy red to Dutchman’s Jim Griepsma’s 1957 Ford Ranchero. Although Larry did outline the flames on this car, this photo is actually posed.


CCC-Watson-Orange-56-01-WLarry painted Harvey Buthoff’s 1956 with the orange candy, and pale banana pearl. The flames are done with very long licks in a heavy outlined in the light color with black faded outlines/shadows. The flames are only added to the rear quarter panels of the car. At the front the color separation ends in a scallop at the top of the front fender. This scallop is again outlined in fading black to continue the them.


CCC-Watson-John-Drew-56-01-WJohn Drew’s ‘56 Chevy was painted lime-fire metallic with sea-weed flames in candy green with candy root-beer tips over a silver base and pinstriped in black. One interesting aspect in the design of these flames is that they are totally free standing. They do not have a base that starts at the end of the hood or headlights like a lot of other flame paint-jobs had.


CCC-Watson-Corvette-01-WWonderful symmetrical free standing, long licked flames on this Corvette custom for Darol Jorgenson.


CCC-Watson-Walt-Drews-01-WLarry covered the complete length of Walt Drews silver painted 1961 Dodge in candy purple flames. He outlined them in gold, which gives a nice contrast between the silver and purple.


CCC-Watson-Corvette-02-WOverlapping, long licked flames on LaVonne Bathke’s 1958 Corvette. Larry enhanced the look of this already very wildly outline painted customized Corvette, by adding the flames only in the cove section of the car. The flames are painted the same colors that are used for the outlines on the rest of the car, making it subtle even though the actual paint job is rather wild, especially for the type of car.


CCC-Watson-Corvette-Pinkys-02-WLarry Watson adding the bright yellow striping on Pinky Richard’s Corvette. As we can see in this photo, the flames were done in black “Salt & Peper” flake paint. An article with a step by step on the flame job on this Bill Hines created custom Corvette, will follow. Stay tuned. 


CCC-Watson-Corvette-Pinkys-01-WThe pinstriped flames in Pinky Richard’s 1957 Corvette were already done on an earlier version of the car, when the rest was painted yellow. Later, when Pinky asked Larry to redo the car, he decided the flames in the cove would stay, and the rest of the paint-job would be inspired by that. Larry did add some red, and orange to the cover flames. After this photo was taken, Larry would add some more black, and red striping to the flames on the rest of the car.


CCC-Watson-George-Mitobe-01-WGeorge Mitobe 1957 Ranchero is a typical mild custom from the late 1950’s. But what makes this custom really special is the totally unique, and genius paint job in dark gold, and candy green that Larry Watson added to the car. Two typical Larry Watson styles are combined on one car: the gold “outline”, and the long licked flames. Thus making it a one of a kind creation. 


CCC-Watson-NickDeMattie-Ranch-01-WThe flames on Nick DeMattie’s 1957 Ranchero are done completely different from anything else Larry had done before. Freehand, with no masks used in black and orange over a yellow base, done in the mid 1960’s.


CCC-Watson-70sflames-02-WOne of Larry’s later flame paint jobs is much more traditional. Starting with a solid base on front of the car, with very nice and elegant long licked flames, covering the rest of the hood, and cabin of this mid 1960’s Chevy pick up truck.


CCC-Watson-70sflames-01-WLarry painted this 1929-30 Chevy panel in gunmetal gray, and covered it with vertical free hand airbrushed stripped flames. Probably not as elegant as some of his other flames, but this was done in typical late 1960’s early 1970’s style. Possibly at the car owners request. This photo was taken at Larry’s Firestone Blvd shop.


CCC-Watson-80sflames-01-WSeries of photos of Larry Watson, painting this black van with some more traditional yellow to red flames. Sadly, the photos in Larry’s personal collection, do not include a photo of the completely finished versions of this van.

Sources and for more info:

    • Watson Custom Car Confessions by Thom Taylor and Larry Watson
    • KustomLand, The Custom Car Photography of James Potter by Thom Taylor
    • Custom Rodder magazine Winter 1992
    • Rod & Custom Magazine June 1996
    • Kustoms Illustrated magazine #27 to #34

[box_light]Go to part ONE, part THREE or part FOUR of the Larry Watson Flames articles to read more about Larry’s trend setting flame painted cars.[/box_light]






Rik Hoving

Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)

One thought on “Larry Watson Flames part 2

  • The lime fire green ’56 Chev with flames is an outstanding example of Larry Watson’s creativity and great use of color.

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