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Pinstripes and Panels, Ohio Valley-Style

A recap of meets in Ohio and Kentucky

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February is arguably the dreariest month of the year. Yuletide cheer has been placed in storage for another nine-plus months, the Super Bowl party has come and gone, and people are left to trundle about amidst cold, miserable weather.

To help, Pinheads, stripers and other assorted vehicle-graphics buffs combat the late-winter blahs, Shane Syx, of Syx Pinstriping and Graphics (Fairborn, OH), and Steve Chaszeyka, proprietor of Wizard Airbrush Graphics (New Middleton, OH), hosted February events.

A bunch of Rat Finks

Syx spearheaded the Rat Fink party at the 40th Annual Carl Casper Custom Auto Show at the Kentucky State Fairgrounds in Louisville. The show featured Casper’s legendary show cars of movie and TV fame, including one of the Batmobiles that revved through the Batman movies and "KITT" of Knight Rider fame, among others.

Auto aficionados from across the Bluegrass State and beyond filled the showroom with more than 500 souped-up and immaculately kept roadsters ranging from a 1910 Ford Model T through early ’60s Corvettes to late-model Dodge Vipers. Amidst the high-octane vintage autos and omnipresence of The Fast and the Furious, last year’s cinematic paean to Generation X and Y’s street rodders, approximately 20 Pinheads held a "Rat Fink party" in memory of the late, legendary cartoonist and pioneering car builder Ed "Big Daddy" Roth (see ST, June 2001, pp. 64, 102 and 118).

Pinheads came from as far away as Massachusetts to pinstripe, flame or apply Roth’s trademark "Rat Fink" logo — a green, beady-eyed, canine-toothed vermin with a gold "R.F." symbol emblazoned on a red tank top. Using hundreds of pints of 1Shot lettering enamel, those in the Rat Fink booth embellished such items as panels, gas cans, aluminum barrels, a rear wing for a midget Outlaw sprint car and a stainless-steel, freestanding tool chest.

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Syx enjoyed assembling such a wealth of talent in one place. "There are literally about 200 years of pinstriping experience in one booth," Syx explains. "But there are no egos here. We all have differing talents, and we all have techniques that we can teach one another." Bruce Cambriello, proprietor of Bruce’s Gold Leaf, Truck Lettering and Striping (Revere, MA), has been in the business for more than 25 years, while serving as a fireman, a post from which he recently retired. (Not surprisingly, fire trucks are among his favorite vehicle-graphics jobs.)

He’s relishing the opportunity to pursue his pinstriping passion fulltime. "I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my retirement," he says. Rookie Pinhead "Big" John Christienson, who "fools around" in Syx’s shop on occasion, has only been striping for a few months, but said that he’s enjoying the chance to learn from veteran pros. "Everyone’s been very willing to teach me little tricks to help me improve," Christienson says while pinstriping gas cans with an Excalibur brush.

Those in attendance plied their trade to help Syx raise money for three charities: The Children’s Miracle Network, a nationwide association of hospitals dedicated to treating ill and injured children; Home of the Innocents, a Louisville, KY-based home for battered children; and All I Want for Christmas, a Louisville charity dedicated to giving Christmas presents to needy children. According to Syx, the Dayton and Louisville Rat Fink booths raised more than $3,000 for the charities.

A more intimate group of Pinheads gathered in Dayton, OH, in early February at the 39th Annual Dayton Autorama at Hara Arena. The smaller show — approximately 120 cars were featured — attracted six pinstripers from Ohio and Michigan. Syx and Ray "El Vago" Smith, owner of Paintco (Tecumseh, MI), attracted a crowd by striping a navy-blue Chevy Suburban with royal blue and white 1Shot. The jam’s guest of honor was Ilene Roth, Big Daddy’s widow. His wife of three years, she attended most shows with "Big Daddy" and has continued to travel nationwide since his passing on April 4, 2001.

She reflected on the reception she’s continued to receive since his death. "I didn’t know what to expect before I started attending shows with Ed," she says. "But the outpouring of kindness people have shown Big Daddy and I, and have continued to show me since his death, is amazing and humbling. He gave so much to everyone, and I think generations of future Rat Finks will continue to pass it on."

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