There's a sure-fire way to make everyone not just notice a car but recognize it as something cool, something special, something menacing: paint flames down the sides of it.
Yeah, there's something about fire on cars that makes people look. It creates a type of tension; fire emanating from cars usually has an inauspicious outcome. But cars themselves are born of fire; blast furnaces use it to render iron from ore. The internal-combustion engine itself relies on fire to transform chemical energy into heat and pressure. And likely because of its association to cooking we tend to think of fire as power itself: The one who can command a great fire will eat well and, presumably, attract mates. And if you think about it, most guys have fooled themselves into thinking the same way about their cars. Suckers.
The trick, of course, is wielding fire appropriately. We know a lot about the paint part if only because of the collision industry. But the flames themselves don't have a legitimate counterpart like that; they require a little bit of artistry and as your dad, math teacher, guidance counselor, drill sergeant, and department supervisor probably told you over the years, artists are good-for-nothing bums. We need someone to tell us how.
Meet Art Himsl, artist. In his role as good-for-nothing bum he's made a respectable career by shooting dramatic, compelling, beautiful, awe-inspiring, complex, and—here's the key—coveted paintjobs for more than half a century. Though it's unfair and likely impossible to pigeonhole him as a specific type of painter, he's developed a cult-like following for his flamework. "I flamed my first car sometime in the 1950s," he says. "It wasn't much of anything to look at of course; you could call it my first attempt." He was in high school.
Recently we got an enviable opportunity. Our pal Mike Chase followed along as Himsl flamed Vic Edelbrock Jr.'s 1932 five-window coupe, from United Pacific Industries, a closing step in a Brizio build ("Edelbrock keeps Roy busy building cars and Roy keeps me busy doing flames," he notes). It's a rare and valuable chance as craftsmen who've elevated their work to art-like status are willing to reveal just how they get their trademark look. But this month and next Himsl will reveal the basics of a successful flamejob.
We're also going to take the opportunity to show some flame styles. Not all are famous or even noteworthy but they offer ideas for would-be flame sprayers. Himsl himself even reveals some of the more nuanced elements of a successful flamejob.
Armed with this information, anyone with access to spray equipment can successfully lay down hot licks, no drama or insurance claims required.