Monday, November 2, 2009

Von Dutch Monday VII

This is Von Dutch's lathe. The photo is from a Von Dutch article that Ed Roth did on Von Dutch while he was in Calabasas, CA, for his April '68 issue of Choppers Magazine. The print quality wasn't really good on the original magazines, so I've cleaned up the photo as best I could.

All of Von Dutch's shop equipment, like his band saws, bench sanders and grinders, louver presses, and this lathe were all works of art in their own right. Dutch would take old shop equipment (the lathe was said to be close to 40 years old at this time in '68), and disassemble, rebuild, refurbish, paint, pinstripe, and engine turn panels on them, and they were as beautiful as they were functional.
Now what strikes me as strange, is that the photos Roth took for the story clearly show all of Dutch's equipment installed in his shop. The story goes that somebody from the Calabasas building codes dept. came up to Dutch's shop, and told him he couldn't have a "machining facility" on his property, so Dutch is said to have procured his "ex-Long Beach Transit Co." (actually, the bus came from McDonald Douglas' sprawling plant in El Segundo, and was used as an employee transport bus) '53 GMC bus, and Von Dutch said he installed his equipment in it to beat the property codes.

Now, I was up in this area in '70, and at that time the Calabasas area was pretty much tumbleweeds and rattlesnakes. I find it hard to believe that on property that was zoned agriculture to begin with, that Calabasas came up and told him he couldn't have a "machining facility" on the property, when they did tolerate mechanical work and spray painting, a transit bus parked on the property, a horse, some goats, and Steve McQueen's White-built WWII armored halftrack parked there - which Dutch would be prone to tear all over his property in. And, add in the fact that Von Dutch was always firing off rifles, pistols and cannons at all hours of the day and night, that story seems far fetched. But, who knows?

It's my guess that Dutch got the bus, installed all his equipment in it, and already had a future plan in place to split in it, and earn a living from it on the road. I think he invented the cover story to throw people off, and cover what he was really planning. He eventually did split from California in his "shop bus", when fate forced his hand, and he left for Arizona in it, and stayed there for 3 years. But, that's another story.

Here's a good closeup of Von Dutch's lathe, as installed in his bus. The picture has a little sun glare on the R/H side, because of the light coming in the upper windows. The inscription on the mounting pedestal, in German translates out to Von Dutch's Weapon and Motorcycle Factory of Calabasas.

Here's a picture of Dutch at work inside his bus at his Calabasas home. You can see his lathe set up in the background, at what would have been the right front of the bus. Again, photo from Sundays With Von Dutch. The interior floor of the bus has been described as ".....littered with metal shavings, cigarette butts, and beer cans".
And, here's how Von Dutch's lathe was presented for pre-inspection, lot # 038, at the Brucker Collection Auction at the Peterson Automotive Museum, in May, of 2006. The winning bid for Dutch's lathe was $21, 275.00 Seems like a bargain, when you consider Dutch's Snap On screwdriver that he engraved with his name on the handle, went at that same auction for $1,700.00 I'm really surprised the Bruckers didn't sell Von Dutch's old socks and longjohns at that auction.

I have a photo somewhere of the lathe set up on this very table inside the Santa Paula workshop, but I'll be damned if I can locate it.


Ryno said...

I was fortunate enough to walk through what remained of that bus not too long ago. A friend who worked at the local Ferrari/Lambo/Bentley repair shop called us over for a lunch run one day. We pulled through the gate and saw it in all it's rotten glory. It was a little sad, but the sadness quickly turned to amazement when I saw all the little cool things VD had done to it. Random striping here and there, a swazi near the makeshift shitter, a burned out hot-plate, still intact. And a ton of modification in order to make it a "shop". Not much of the equipment was left, but his touch, and his brush-strokes were all over the place. I heard a "collector" had bought it and was hoping to restore it to some level that might make it worth something. But I think it was worth more to me seeing it in the dirty, dusty, beat-to-shit, almost windowless, skeleton of a bus that it once was.

Irish Rich said...

I thought Steve Kafka (the pinstriper - "This ain't lowrider style pinstriping, THIS is Kafka style pinstriping!") bought the bus to restore, from the two guys that bought it at the Scottsdale Barrett-Jackson auction in Jan. '07?

What happened to that deal? Here's the Von Dutch resto website, but you can see it hasn't had an update since Dec. '07. Any more you can add to your comment regarding this?

Ryno said...

Rich...I saw it at Symbolic in San Diego.

The paragraph talking about the drill-press and the rebuild of the motor and the wheels is very disheartening. I don't think it was that long ago, but i guess it may have been. I saw it days after it was rolled into the place, and as much as I hope they didn't do those things to it, it's probably true.

I heard it went to Barret/Jackson and sold for somewhere in the neighborhood of $45k. That site seems to have a better account of what happened to it after that point.

I guess it was that long ago...Damn time flies. I hope it's in better shape than when I saw it. I don't think the guys at Symbolic had an idea of what they had. Whoever brought it to them wanted to make a buck. Hopefully it's in better hands.

Irish Rich said...

Cool, thanks for the additional info.

Steve Kafka said...

Hi Guys,
I happened to find your posts and thought I'd try to fill you in on whats been going on.I've only been doing e-mail for 7 weeks so bear with me. After procuring the bus I made the decision to do as accurate and respectful restoration as possible. I have help from Dick Odette, an 84 year old friend, and the guidance of Dutch's family and friends. The bodywork and exterior paint are done, now I'm waiting for Alton Gillespie and David Hightower to do some pinstriping and the appropriate lettering in the next two months or so the outside should be finished. I'll try to get more updates soon. Steve Kafka