R.I.P.: Dean Jeffries, 1933-2013

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Famed Los Angeles based car designer and customizer Dean Jeffries, who created the Monkeemobile, the bubble topped asymmetrical Mantaray,  and a number of other famous custom, tv, and movie cars passed away in his sleep at the age of 80, Hemmings reported today. His first name was appropriate as he was looked up to by three generations of car customizers. Highly regarded by just about everyone in the car hobby, Jeffries was a modest and soft spoken man who didn’t make much of a fuss when folks like George Barris would take credit for work that Jeffries had actually done. Perhaps that was because he was a gracious man and Barris did give him his start in the business. Born in California, Jeffries hoped to get into the Art Center school to learn how to design cars but he spent so much time actually working and playing with cars that his grades weren’t good enough. Though he regretted never getting his high school diploma, Jeffries was very smart and many of his cars are as mechanically interesting as they are aesthetically pleasing.

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Stationed in Germany while serving in the U.S. Army, he learned how to pinstripe from a German furniture maker. Back in the states, he continued his training with Kenneth Howard, aka Von Dutch, which led to a job striping cars for Barris.  The rest, as they say, is history, which you can read in this fine obituary by Dan Strohl over at Hemmings’ blog. Part of that history was the fact that Jeffries did the finish body work and paint for Carroll Shelby’s first Cobra. The photos and video of Jeffries and his Mantaray were taken at the 2012 Detroit Autorama. His Monkeemobile is owned by a Detroit area collector and it was photographed at the 2012 edition of the car show held every year by the employees of GM Design the week of the Woodward Dream Cruise.

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