Obit of the Day: Designer of Hollywood’s Great Cars
In 1966 Dean Jeffries was contacted by the producers of television show The Monkees. They wanted a distinctive car for the four young men who comprised the TV-created music group, The Monkees, to use as their ride on the show. In just ten days Mr. Jefferies had carved up a Pontiac GTO to create The Monkeemobile.
It was that artistry that made Mr. Jeffries famous. He would be called upon time and again to design unique vehicles for TV and film. For the short-lived Green Hornet TV series he modified a 1964 Chrysler Imperial to create the Hornet’s famous “Black Beauty.” (The car cost $50,000 to design including 30 coats of “metal flake, pure black green pearl of essence lacquer hand-rubbed to a high gloss”.) In 1971, he created the MoonBuggy driven by Sean Connery in the Bond film, Diamonds are Forever.
A race car enthusiast, Mr. Jeffries would also paint cars for the Indianapolis 500. At the start of one race 22 of the 33 cars at the line were painted by Mr. Jeffries.
It was this love of cars that brought Mr. Jeffries together with James Dean in 1955. Both men were in their 20s when Dean asked Jeffries to paint his Porsche 550 Spyder. He did, and added “Little Bastard” on the trunk. About a month later, Mr. Dean died in the same car at the age of 24.
Dean Jeffries, who would also work as a stunt driver on films including The Blues Brothers, The Fugitive, and Die Hard: With a Vengeance, died May 5, 2013 at the age of 80.
Sources: LA Times, deanjeffries.com, greenhornet.wikia.com, and IMDB.com
Top, The Monkeemobile, courtesy of cartechbooks.com
Middle: “The Black Beauty” with “Kato” (Bruce Lee) and “The Green Hornet” (Van Williams)
Bottom, James Dean and his Porsche 550 Spyder courtesy of silodrome.com