Dean Jeffries; 50 fabulous years in hot rods, racing & film. Book Review
I am sure many of you do not know who Dean Jeffries is. Those of you who think you know who he is probably are like me and don’t know who he really is. I remember him as a great custom car and hot rod builder from the 50s and not much more. You know, one of those guys like George Barris, Gene Winfield or Darryl Starbird but maybe not as famous.
The story of Dean Jeffries just released by Motorbooks, written by Tom Cotter, forward by Bruce Meyer and photos by David Newhardt opened my eyes to an entirely different Dean Jeffries than I had ever imagined. This book sat on my table for a few days before I picked it up but once I did it stayed in my hands until I had finished it! I liked this book a lot.
Jeffries is famous for his beautiful creation the Mantaray. This car was way ahead of its time. Not one corner of the car is the same as any other; the driver sits off center; the bubble top was like no other of the day; it was on the cover of Hot Rod; featured in one of the beach movies with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello and was a Grand National Roadster Show winner.
Even if you knew this fact I bet you didn’t know that Jeffries played a role in the movie and actually drove the Mantaray in the movie. He was also a stunt man for Frankie. It was this car and this movie that changed Jeffries from being just a custom car builder to Hollywood celebrity and race car fanatic.
Dean did a lot of stunt work for movies and choreographed this complicated crash seen for the movie Honky Tonk Freeway.
This is the Mantaray and it looks as beautiful and fresh today as it did over 40 years ago.
He called such people as James Dean; Gary Cooper; James Garner; Jay Leno; Jane Mansfield; Steve McQueen; Ryan O’Neal and all four of the Monkees as friends. As for racers he also includes Mickey Thompson; Dan Gurney; Parnelli Jones and AJ Foyt as special in his life. In some parts of this book it almost sounds like a gossip column of the rich and famous.
Here is Dean today with one of his most prized possessions, a GT 40 roadster. There were four built and this is the only one that remains restored today.
Most notably is the ongoing disagreement Jeffries has with George Barris. It seems Barris likes to take credit for some of Jeffries (and others) work. It was actually Dean Jeffries who built the Monkeemobile not Barris! Barris and Jeffries once had shops in the same complex and worked together closely on projects but one disaster broke them apart. You will need to read the book to find out what that was. One of the most startling revelations in the book is not that Jeffries built two Monkeemobiles but that he built both of them from brand new Pontiac GTO convertibles in only two weeks! That’s it; two weeks for two cars! That is better than Chip Foose and his army of assistants on Overhaulin!
Arguably, Dean’s most famous car, the Monkeemobile. This car was built in 10 days!
The Table of Contents looks like this:
PART ONE THE MAN
- The Car Crazy Kid
- Von Dutch and “The Kid”
- The Barris Years
- Hitched at High Speed
- Shop of the Stars
- Barris vs. Jeffries
- A Lasting Legacy
PART TWO THE MACHINES
- The Mantaray
- The Kyotes
- The Falcon Python
- John Mecom”s Deano Toronado
- The Murderous Porsche
- The Coyote Gullwing coupe
- The Green Hornet’s Black Beauty
- The Monkeemobile
- The Landmaster
- Dean’s Radical Rolling Shop
PART THREE THE MOTORSPORT
- The Indianapolis 500
- AJ & Jeffries
- The GT40
PART FOUR THE MOVIES
- Death Race 2000 (1975)
- Honky Tonk Freeway (1981)
- Mother, Jugs and Speed (1976)
- Romancing the Stone (1984)
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
- Stunts by Jeffries