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Larry Watson At Work




The Larry Watson Personal Photo Collection contains mostly photos of the cars, bikes and boats Larry painted in his long career. But some of those photos, taken by Larry’s friends show the master at work. We have selected those photos and will share them in two articles, to see take a closer look at Larry at Work.

[box_light]This article shows a selection of photos of Larry Watson painting and striping cars. All these¬†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. Special thanks to Roger O’Dell for scanning this amazing material and sharing them with us on the Custom Car Chronicle.[/box_light]
Some of the magazine back in the late 1950’s and 1960’s showed the work of Master Painter Larry Watson in their articles. Mostly these articles showed Larry’s work using photos of the finished cars. A few magazines did share some of the techniques Larry used, and even showed the master at work. But most of those photos, were staged. Larry would hold a pin-stripe brush and acted like he was actually striping an already striped car. Or he was asked to hold a paint gun, and act¬†like he actually painted scallops or flames on a car.

Fortunately for us some of the photos from Larry’s Personal Collection show Larry actually doing some of his work for real, not staged. Masking, painting, removing masking tape and paper, and striping. There is even one set of photos showing the complete step by step of how Larry painted some sea-weed¬†flames. One set was about the flames painted on Pinky Richard’s 1957 Corvette, which¬†we covered in this¬†CCC-Article. And one set of photos show Larry add the flames to Al Lazarus his 1955 Chevy which can be seen in this¬†CCC-Article.¬†Photos like this give us a bit of an insight in how Larry and his employees worked back in the day. One thing that we noticed is that a lot of the work was done outside the actual paint booth, even some of the painting.
Lets take a closer looks at some of the photos. They are used in no particular order.
CCC-larry-watson-at-work-01-01This¬†photo was taken at one of¬†Larry’s first¬†shops (most likely his 1016 E Artesia Shop). The Chevy Hart-Top in the foreground is¬†Jim “Bones” Noteboom’s, thru its window we can see the taped of flames on Al Lazarus his 1955 Chevy. And Larry himself has climbed, on his socks, on the beltline of a customer Mopar to paint the roof, or add some flames to it.
CCC-larry-watson-at-work-01-02Applying some light gray with fading red accented scallops to an unidentified 1957 Chevy.
CCC-larry-watson-at-work-01-03This looks like the hood wind-split on another 1957 Chevy that is being painted yellow by Larry. Notices that Larry used news paper in the early days to mask of the rst of the body. And in this case only small sections were taped of, not being worried about overspray.
CCC-larry-watson-at-work-01-04Saint Vasquez his 1950 Chevy Convertible getting taped for its unique wild scallop paint job¬†by Larry Watson (left) and Gary Mc Nutt (center) and another unknown helper at Larry’s E Artesia in North Long Beach shop. Larry had previously added some gold scallops and striping to this car. But now it was time for the ultra scallops. This photo also shows the glued on metalflake detailed hubcaps, and the old scallops on the hood that Larry did previously and which will be covered up with the new scallops. It is also amazing to see the size of Tape Larry is using to lay out the design of the scallops.
CCC-larry-watson-at-work-01-05After Bill Hines and Bill DeCarr had mildly customized Larry’s Personal 1958 T-Bird, he painted it silver platinum Pearl inside the Barris shop where he rented some space at the time. The next day he would add the panels in candy burgundy.
CCC-larry-watson-at-work-01-06Larry Watson even painted a few Big Rigs, however they were to big for his paint booth, so he had to do them outside in the open air. This old Mack Truck will be done in gold and candy red, Larry is adding the dark gold in this photo. Interesting is to see that Larry used both masking paper as well as news papers to mask of the truck.
CCC-larry-watson-at-work-01-07Larry Watson was best known for painting cars, but he also did a lot of bikes. In this photo Larry adding some clear coats to a solid black painted¬†gas tank for¬†a custom bike. For some reason Larry is painting this outside, possibly to have the best possible light there is. This photo was taken at Larry’s¬†Artesia Blvd shop in Bellflower where he shared shop space with his friend Bill DeCarr.
CCC-larry-watson-at-work-01-08Larry Watson at his Rosecrans Blvd. shop in Bellflower. Larry can be seen here painting the frame and front fork of a bicycle. Larry is wearing his paint pants and is ready to add some paint to the front fork he is holding in his left hand. Interesting to see is the table for the smaller parts to be painted covered in overspray.
CCC-larry-watson-at-work-01-15Larry Watson pin striping an California Highway Patrol bike tank. Roger O’Dell told me the story that several of the guys at the California Highway Patrol bike team where good friends with Larry Watson. One of these guys was Custom Car and Hot Rod historian Greg Sharp. They all had their helmets and parts of the bikes specially painted by Larry and striped by Larry. Very much like the official items, but with special paints‚Ķ and of course much nicer than the work items. Roger was told that the guys had to hide the helmets when their patrol unit was inspected, but that was all worth it.¬†
CCC-larry-watson-at-work-01-09Larry Watson photographed by Jim Potter while he was duplicating the flames he had laid out on one side of this 1949-50 Mercury. Look at the wide tape Larry used to tape up the flames on this Mercury. There is no date on this photo, but by the looks of Larry and the style of flames I say this is in late 1956 or 1957, before Larry developed the much longer sea weed flames. This black&white photo was used in an article on scalloping (round-up and how to) in an issue of Car Speed and Style magazine. 
CCC-larry-watson-at-work-01-10Another outside painting photo at the E Artesia in North Long Beach shop. This time Larry is painting some scallops on a 1957 Chevy. Possebly this is a pale yellow Chevy with silver with red outlined scallops.
CCC-larry-watson-at-work-01-11We are not quite sure if this is actually Larry walking on the right of the photo, or one of the guys that helped him. But we wanted to share this photo here anyway, to show that they guys did use some sort of protection back then. Most of the photos from the Larry Watson Collection we can see Larry, or others in the paint booth or outside painting with no protection at all. The photo is taken at the Rosecrans Blvd shop and the guy is wearing a mask of some sorts while carrying his paint gun, paint and thinner.
CCC-larry-watson-at-work-01-12Another nice close up photo of Larry striping the fresh intricate scallops on the Saint Vasquez 1950 Chevy Convertible. As you can see this photo is not staged. Larry is actually striping in this photo in his hand striped sweater and work pants. This photo gives us a nice look at the glued on glitter on the hubcaps…¬†remember this was before Metalflake paint was invented.
CCC-larry-watson-at-work-01-13Larry painting the darker fogging parts on Jim Parker’s 1957 T-Bird. One thing I noticed on this photo and many others in the Larry Watson Collection, is that the trim parts where not removed before painting. In this case it is most likely because most of the trim pieced are outlined in white, and is covered with tape. But on the three small louvres this is not the case. After Larry was done with the fogging he would add candy blue to the panels.¬†This¬†does make me wonder if the fogging was done in dark blue, or perhaps gray?
CCC-larry-watson-at-work-01-14I really like this photo of Larry cutting cutting the chrome tape to size on Junior Conway’s 1958 T-Bird. Larry had just painted the main body in candy red, and the top in silver with white outlines.
Continue to the Second part in this series on the photos showing Larry Watson painting and striping the cars and bikes.
And remember, don’t do it like these guys back in the day. Use a good mask and other protection every time you spray some paint.

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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)

8 thoughts on “Larry Watson At Work

  • Priceless, Rik. Thank you and the fellows who share these stop-action snapshots. The way things were, the materials, techniques and tools of the trade, take us all back to the 50s. Seeing Larry Watson working his magic under the conditions that just were, gives us a much more deep appreciation for the images you share of what he was able to create: art in its purest forms!
    Larry Pointer

  • It’s funny, I was just thinking about Larry painting, his techniques and materials the other day as I was prepping my Merc for primer. In our mind we imagine these paint jobs looked fantastic, but I wonder how they actually looked compared to today’s paint jobs. I thought of him using 1 inch tape to lay out flames and scallops, painting outdoors and the early materials and wondered if my paint will turn out half decent with modern materials even though I don’t have a booth. I doubt it will turn out anything near as good as Larry was able to produce no matter the materials. ūüėČ

  • Very cool article Rik some really good pictures. It is always fascinating for me to see in progress and action shots from back then. David lacquer paint is much more forgiving to these types of spraying environments than modern paints are. Having sprayed both in my garage I can attest to the fact that the quick drying times of lacquer make it WAY easier to avoid getting crap in the paint as compared to modern paints.

  • hi rik, nice story on watson, i see he did a lot of awesome paint jobs without wearing a mask, thats a no no , maby you could sujust to the guys to remember allways wear a mask when spraying even if its only a little thing your spraying, just something for there own health that would be nice, just a thought,

  • Rik, not to take anything away from larry watson or the story, i have much respect for the way larry watson painted period ! that’s the way it was done back then & that’s the way i myself painted cars,bikes outside or in a garage useing laquers which were more forgiving. and the newspapers wow!! talk about flash backs! sqauting down, climbing on the cars with socks to tape or spray a pattern & wrapping a rag around the old school siphon gun so it would not drip out the breather hole. love it ! & like memo ortega said use a mask! a good one! even for the small jobs. thanks for the memories.

  • ah, yes danny the lacquer paints were more forgiven, danny you sure painted a lot of cars , awesome paint jobs i seen you did back then an still doing some on your dragsters,

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