Monday, January 21, 2013

Learning a craft from a youngster that grew up surrounded by the best.

Towards the end of 2012 I had the pretty neat experience of getting my hood for the "War Machine" punched on a piece of history, Ray Farhner's louver press, down at Wild Child's shop. I hooked up with Justin Greene, the son of a Kansas City icon in the Hot Rod/Chopper world Jim Greene.
Justin is a true cat and is keeping the vision of the original Wild Child's story alive and reincarnated by restoring the original Wild Childs custom shop here in Kansas City. His pride is huger than life. His vision is clear and it will be just as if the tradition of this shop was like it was back in the day. His attention to detail of where the history of the shop came from is meticulous. When most people would take and old shop and try to revitalize it, it would be gutted and what was old would be thrown out and all new would be put into place. Justin has taken the approach of being a hot rod archeologist by opening every box, unearthing every heap of what may appear as junk and saving the history and preserving it for the next generations to see and learn from.
This is where me as a 46 yr old hot rodder, took a lesson from a 20 something youngster and I realized that this kid "gets it".
I talked to Justin and was telling him I wanted to louver my hood on the Model A, he jumped right on it and said, "Well I still have Ray Farhner's old louver press down at Wild Childs, just let me know and we will do it." So I took him up on the offer. I meticulously took the hood and laid out the lines for the louver pattern I wanted. I went down to Wild Childs and met Justin after he told me he got the louver press dusted off, fired up and everything was working just like it did back in the day. The unique thing to this story was as I pulled into the shop's driveway I saw an older 70's Vette that had at one time some crazy paint job on it but looked like a majority was sanded down and primed over. It was like a show car that had been in storage for years and someone decided to start reviving it back in the day, it go put on hold and now it was just being driven around???
As I walk in with fellow PR Dave I realize that Justin is in there talking to an older gentleman with long snowy white hair and a scraggly beard that matched. As I get closer I realize that it is Justin's dad, Jim Greene, the original "Wild Child." I am introduced, Jim shakes my hand and in turn I feel like some childhood kid shaking his major league baseball hero's hand. Here is the interesting part that I realize what kind of man created Justin's personality and love for everything Hot Rod, Chopper and Kustom paint jobs. Jim is asking Justin about if he had the dyes set up right, if he made some test punches, etc.
Jim looks at my hood and asks me about my guide lines and pattern I had drawn out on the hood's bottom side.  I had taken the utmost care and measured 3 times and made sure I thought that I had given attention to the detail that would be needed in punching a hood. Jim looked at me and asked me, "Are those lines dead on?" I said, "I think they are pretty damn close." This my friends was where I learned that there was a true masterful art form in punching louvers that I had never anticipated. Jim then looked at me and said."Damn close doesn't get it in punching louvers correct." "Justin check those lines and make sure they are right before you ever begin." Jim then walked off, got in his car and left. Justin and I then started to set up for the louver process to begin. The phone rang and it was Jim asking his son if he checked over my lines and made sure they were dead on. I was at first just saying to myself "Sheesh, really?" Well so we began. The first louver was punched. I then thought the process was just going to be Bam Bam Bam and one row would be completed. Oh no, one louver was punched, the hood was pulled out and then it was reviewed with a square and tape measure to make sure that it was in perfect position. Justin looked at me and said, " I may be a bit OCD and paying too much attention to detail here but if the first one is off, they then progressively get worse and worse. This is when I started to learn that Justin had been taught by the best and the pioneers in the louver punching business. So I sat back, let Justin do what he was taught and aided him when he asked.
So my pattern consisted of a total of 74 louvers in three rows on each hood side. This process took over 3 1/2 hours. At first I was like, "Wow I wasn't anticipating this taking so long and that it was going to be scrutinized like a diamond cutter creating a beautiful gemstone." Justin looked back at me and educating me again and again during the process, but the moment that I "got it" was when he said he was taking pride in this old shitty Model A hood because this car was going to be around longer than he and I would be on this planet. Bam! that hit me like a baseball bat hit to the head! I then stepped back and thought I was a youngster to the Hot Rod world compared to the pioneers, but this kid may have gotten the grasp and cherished it harder than I ever did at his age.
The real joy was this last weekend I got a call from Justin and he said that he and his dad, Jim wanted to come down to our garage and see what we were doing. Jim Greene wants to come down to our garage? Well Hell yes!! So as I am working on my Model A I hear footsteps approaching and it is Justin and Jim. Jim asks me if this was my Model A and I replied "Yes". He then tells me of one of his first hot rods he built that was a chopped '32 Sedan. I tell him that I am very familiar with it and that his car was the inspiration for the build of my car. He looks at me with not much reaction as Jim is an older guy now and does not show much emotion. Well it must have touched him in some way because he wanted to see the hood that Justin and I did and he looked over it in fine detail and put his stamp of approval on it with a "You did a good job Justin." He then started to walk around to see what we were doing and so I gave him a tour. The best moment was as he looked over our projects and creations, he stated "It is good to see that you guys are building the stuff that I used to do, nobody is doing that anymore." That was the highlight of my time in the garage. The moment that an icon gave credit.
So Justin, thank you for your hard work. Every louver is lined up exactly with the louver before, after and along side its other counterpart louvers in the hood. I now look at every louvered hood today and I know what it takes to make a unique dye, set it up right and make sure that the pattern is dead on. I am honored to have the 1st hood punched after all these years and to know that the last person that ran that machine was Ray. Wild Childs is in good hands. It will be kept in its traditional ways of doing business and craftsmanship rather than someone taking it over for the name and bastardizing it like some did with the iconic Von Dutch name. You have my praise and my support in any way you need be to keep your dream of Wild Childs alive and headed in the correct direction.

The original and unchanged Wild Childs

Ray Farhner's louver press

74 louvers all in a row and precise as hell

The last louver punched by Justin

You don't get guests like this in your garage very often-Jim Greene
My inspiration, Jim's '32 chopped sedan



  1. Crafting or renewing things to my car is a great idea and i am kind of loving it so this is a good site ..

  2. Great post Eric! Thanks for reminding me to come back and read it!