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Alan Kahan's Von Dutch'd T

by Pat Ganahl

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Von Dutch lamented that the vast majority of his artwork ended up in wrecking yards, and the sad truth is that very little true Von Dutch pinstriping exists today—even less from his earlier days, applied to traditional rods or customs. Although it’s neither from the 1950s nor flamboyant, the simple, classical-styled apple-green striping on Alan Kahan’s 1924 T coupe is one fine existing example of Von Dutch brush work. I’m not saying that Alan’s tall T is a lost hot rod, per se, but the original Von Dutch striping on it qualifies as lost art. Plus, the fact that Alan has owned this T since 1958 certainly qualifies it to be included in this chapter on “Keepers.”

In fact, the body of Alan’s T was rescued from the desert as true vintage tin by his scout master when young Alan was a boy scout. By the time he graduated from Van Nuys High School in 1958, Alan was able to buy the body, a 1932 frame, a 303-ci Olds engine and a Cad LaSalle trans from him, but it was four years before he got the car together, using a much-modified Model A frame and stretching the front of it 61⁄2 inches to fit the Olds mill. By 1963 he got the car painted black, including a set of original fenders stretched to fit and painted black by Dick Korkes at Barris’ shop.

Next came a stint in the Navy, during which Alan decided he needed to have the car striped by Von Dutch. When he got home in 1966 it took some doing to find him, but at that time Dutch was working out of his garage in Reseda, with surfboards (among much else) hanging on the walls, and where he was famously photographed striping at least one naked lady.

Alan made an appointment and drove up on a Saturday morning with his wife, who was eight months pregnant. When they got there at 9 o’clock, Dutch asked, “What kind of striping do you want?” Alan asked, “What do you think, Dutch?” He replied “We should do it like an old car.” The car had the apple-green Kelsey wire wheels, so they decided the color should match, and Dutch mixed it. Alan said it took him all day, from 9 to 3 o’clock, with Dutch drinking beer or wine the whole time. This didn’t even include the hood, which wasn’t made yet. The last thing Dutch did, and he climbed up on the engine to do it, was the cowl vent. It might not show in the photos, but to this day that striping is decidedly crooked—but not sloppy (the corners are perfect). When he finally finished, he said the job was $60. Alan noted that he hadn’t signed it, and Dutch announced that was $20 more. Thankfully Alan’s wife had $20 in her purse, but that was all the money they had. Though the “66” looks more like “62” today, that signature is still there.

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Later that year Alan swapped the Olds for a near-new, 225-hp “A code” 1965 Mustang 289 and C4 trans. You don’t usually think of a small-block Ford as a vintage engine, but this one is, down to the very rare cast-iron Cobra exhaust manifolds. It’s mated to an open-drive 1940 Ford rear end.

With the narrow Ford engine, Alan could get a custom, lengthened hood made to fit. After it was painted, he took it back to Dutch to get it striped to match the rest of the car. He said Dutch did it on a pair of sawhorses in his backyard, again mixing his own color. The striping on the hood and louvers is perfect, but if you look closely the green doesn’t match the rest of the car. Such was Dutch. Since that time late in 1966, Alan has changed nothing on the car, nor does he intend to.

What about that nice, red, 1929 roadster hiding in the background? Alan hasn’t had it nearly as long as the T, but it has a storied past of its own that was at least partially told when it was featured on the cover of the October 2002 issue of Rod & Custom.

And speaking of Rod & Custom, surely you remember the classic issue with Danny Eichstedt’s tall-top T-bucket coming straight at you on the cover? That was January 1971, and Alan’s tall T was featured on pages 58–59. In that feature, Alan was pictured with his wife and young son Aaron. Yep, the same son who was not quite born when Dutch was striping this T, and who grew up to be a founding member of the well-known Choppers car club, as well as the current art director of Rod & Custom magazine. It’s something about genes, and art, and growing up with hot rods.

 


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