Thursday, December 17, 2009

Les Dunham

Maverick is an overused word these days and it seems the folks who refer to themselves as mavericks rarely deserve the title. The ones who do, could care less if they are or not. Les Dunham seems to be the latter. If you read old custom mags, Les's name pops up randomly. He's not the kind of guy who stayed hemmed in by any one type of custom. You'll find references to a 50 ford pick-up, a v-8 chopper, an all fiberglass show-rod and who knows what else. Les would get an idea and run with it, no matter how over the top, and it seems the mans approach payed off. Les started Dunham Coachworks in the 60's and it's still there in Boonton N.J. today. Les's attitude, and a little timing, would eventually gain him a prosperous business, fame, and the lasting title: "Father of the Pimp Mobile" . I wonder what Boyd Coddington or Chip Foose would have said if approached by a New York pimp with ideas on building a custom Cadillac. The answer would likely be along the lines of: " I don't do that kind of work." Well Les, like in everything else he did, saw this as an opportunity to do something unique, and with that decision, added an important element to American auto culture.

After building the first Pimp Mobile, the orders to build more started coming in and Les's creations would become part of the North East pimp aesthetic. He would find himself a key architect of pimp style. A pimp spends more time in his car than anywhere else, it represents who he is and Les would be the guy they trusted with creating it.

So it's the seventies and Hollywood wants to cash in on urban culture. Blaxploitation films are being made and Dunham built cars are already on the streets waiting for staring roles. By the time the projectors stop, Les's cars are seen around the world in two landmark films: SuperFly and James Bond Live and Let Die. It's important to note Les created this style. He didn't follow the trend, he started it. And after the movies were made there was no reason for him to stop.

The mid seventies gas crisis left car buyers with choices devoid of that classic American, over the top, luxurious  design. Excess was frowned upon  and the mid-century attitude of the 50's was viewed as ugly. Cars where toned down, smaller and humble. So the buyer that wanted a glitzy custom, a flashy, big, American car had to have one built. The place to go would be  Dunham Coachworks and Les ends up selling customized Cadillacs worldwide, to Pimps, Texas oil barons and anyone else who wants to strut there stuff with there feathers out. He continues to build cars to this day and since the early seventies has created some reoccurring designs. The two most popular being the Corvorodo and the Caballista. Both cars are based on the corvette chassis, with body designs hearkening back to classic American Luxury. The Corvorodo (the design featured in Live and Let Die) is a blend of Corvette and Eldorado, a true luxury sport coupe. The Caballista, a later design, being Corvette and early touring car.

Les has always done what he wanted no matter how out of step, and in doing so, inadvertently changed the face of American car culture and became a creator of pimp style. He never went looking for an audience, his audience found him. He's a real custom guy, a real maverick.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dirt Bikes!

Remember that guy who lived in your neighborhood growing up? The one who was a little older than you and your friends, rarely wore a shirt, and smoked cigarettes like he invented it? Well that guy road a Dirt Bike. He never wore a helmet or any other riding gear. He wore Vans, or Chuck Taylors with Blue Jeans, and when he did wear a shirt, it was a beat up concert shirt like: Iron Maiden Number of the Beast tour, circa 1983. That guy didn't care about Motocross, Supercross, MotoX or the latest in shock technology. He road a Dirt Bike for the same reason he wore that Maiden shirt. Because it was dangerous and he didn't give a fuck. He didn't want to practice riding and jumping so he could win races, that's boring. He wanted to ride illegally, on the street, to the SHOP & GO to buy beer with a fake I.D. . Dangerous.