Jimmy Shine’s bare-metal 1934 Ford pick-up

Jimmy Shine is a punk who surfs, drinks booze, gets tattoos and builds hot rods

Photographers: Matt Howell

Pomona, Los Angeles, is not the Californian dream. There is no surf here and there are no beach bunnies either. A huge truck bucks and weaves towards us down the single-track road. It’s 9am in the morning and the sun is already boiling in the sky. The 18-wheeler grumbles past, the driver staring straight ahead. Jimmy Shine turns his head slowly, watching the Kenworth as it goes by.

First published in the January 2007 issue of Street Machine

“You know, I’m just a punk kid who surfs and builds hot rods, gets tattoos and drinks booze. I just goof off my whole life,” he says.

Ten feet in front of us sits Jimmy’s bare metal ’34 Ford pick-up, one of the most significant hot rods of recent times and a car that links the very best of rodding’s past with its unwritten future.

Everywhere you look there’s innovation, craftsmanship and hard work. It’s a car that made the young Californian the talk of the rodding world, that suggests there is an awful lot more to Jimmy Shine than a punk kid who spends his life goofing off.

You know one of Jimmy’s cars as soon as you see it.

“It’s all about the detail. I love detail. I have my own style, a thumbprint. I grew up around motorcycles, race cars and hot rods. So whenever I build something, I draw on all of these different influences.

“The seats are aircraft ejector seats circa 1952. I cut them down and made my own framework — I guess there’s a little bit of a military theme. A lot of the stuff used in hot rodding was post-war military surplus. There are a few more pieces here and there because I wanted to emulate that period. Like the gas tank; I was told it was a hydraulic reservoir in a B52 bomber. The planes had eight of these. Of course, I cut it up and added shit to it.

“When I designed my front steering, I kicked the axle way out in front. It’s all nice and clean but the problem when I did that was there was no way to steer the car. The steering arms I made out of one-inch billet plate steel. I have 40 hours just in those steering arms to make them look like Ford pieces.

“The shocks are late models. I cut the heads off, made my own covers and welded them back together so they look like early shocks. It’s just another little detail.

“The dash is out of a 1940 Ford. I’ve shortened it and crowned the centre, and I made a piece to attach to where the normal ’34 dash would be. I made it fit so it has the same arc as the original cowl. I chopped it five inches and channelled it six; it’s still not done.

“I made the whole bed. There is enough square about this car so it could take a little bit of round. It’s just a goofy little car. I can’t believe how much attention it gets. Had I known how much attention it would get I would have done a much nicer job,” he says.

Jimmy’s big break came when he met Pete Chapouris.

“Meeting Pete was the turning point for me. I used to live right around the corner from him when I was a kid. I remember seeing Pete driving the California Kid in like 1973/4. But he was so far beyond me, he was an icon. I’d been building cars my whole life and even had my own shop for a while when I heard, through a mutual friend, that Pete was looking for some guys. At first I thought there was no way I was talented enough to work for that dude. Then I thought: ‘Fuck it.’ So I put together a portfolio of all my stuff and went to see him.

“At the time I was only building cars for myself and working at a concrete plant: it paid my bills and meant I could build my own crap and go surfing. I lived about 75 miles away from Pete’s workshop in Pomona but I drove up there to see him. I sat in his office and that was the important moment. To have that man’s attention and have him let me speak was incredible.

“He liked my stuff but was worried I lived too far away. I said: ‘If you give me the opportunity to work for you, I’ll move, I’ll live in my car and I’ll be early every day.’ A week later he called me up and said: ‘When can you start?’

“If it wasn’t for Pete, and all the other guys who’ve supported me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

The irony is that Jimmy’s fast becoming as much of a hot rod icon as Pete. But the mantle of legend-in the-making doesn’t sit comfortably.

“I still feel like that punk kid. It’s kinda weird going places and people knowing your name. I don’t know whether I’m worthy yet. I think I need to kick some more sand before I get more credit.”

The list of men Jimmy gives credit to, his personal heroes, reads like a who’s who of rodding and racing. “Tony Nancy, drag racer. He was outspoken, an underdog, always out there to win, calling the shots and doing it his way. Alex Xydius, Mickey Thompson, so many people. I pull so much from so many.”

There is a powerful underdog spirit at work in Jimmy, a spirit which may seem at odds with today’s high-dollar hot rod world.

“My truck didn’t cost me anything, just my time. Hot rodding is still for every man. There will always be the high rollers who have the dollars to lay down and get it done. My truck is kind of a crossover car between what people perceive as a rat rod and a high-dollar car. People think it’s a rat rod because there’s no paint or windows but it isn’t. I have years of engineering in that car. Nothing was used simply because I had it and could bolt it on. It looks low-dollar if you don’t really know what you’re looking at but to build it for a customer it would be a lot of money.”

No matter whether it’s high or low-dollar, rat rod or show car, Jimmy is clear about one thing: building great rods is about a whole lot more than one man and his welder.

“I have so much outside input in my cars. When guys pushing pencils in the office walk by and see me having trouble with something they make a suggestion and if it works I use it. Everybody has something they can do better than anyone else.

“In this industry you have to have a certain amount of ego and pride. If you don’t, you’re going to build crap. But you also have to be smart enough to know when to be humble, listen and take direction.”

Punk kid, shop rat, hot rodder and surfer, Jimmy Shine is pushing his art.

“I pretty much have my own set of rules I play by and sometimes they conflict with the rules of the masses. I race cars, jump motorcycles, surf, skateboard. I have a 14-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old daughter. I’m married, I have house and car payments. I’ve got shit to do at the shop, I’ve got to work.”

He looks at the coffee cup he’s been holding for the last hour and smiles. “Like I said, I just goof off my whole life.”


The world looks a whole lot different through the screen of Jimmy’s truck, especially when you’re the one with the steering wheel in your hands and the throttle under your right foot. The engine starts first go, it grumbles and thrumps as I find first gear. Up with the clutch, down with the right foot and lurch forward. All goes silent. Start the engine again, select gear, clutch out and we roll. Far from being terrifying, it drives nicely — but not too nice. It’s a true hot rod; it shakes, it vibrates, it smells fantastic.

Blip the throttle and it climbs forward, the velocity stacks spearing into your eye-line. You don’t think about comfort, you don’t thing about stereo systems at the wheel of a car like this. You don’t think anything other than for that moment it’s the best possible place to be.


This incredible 1968 Dodge Charger was built in eight and a half days for a television show that never got made. The idea was for Jimmy and a three-man team to build a car that was well put together, safe and capable of 200mph in a short amount of time. And it almost worked. “We would have been able to run that speed had we taken the car to Bonneville.

Because of the TV show we ended up running on a dry lake bed that was like driving in your garden — that kind of soil consistency. I would mash the throttle and it would cut down into the ground and I only had a mile to get up to speed. The best I could get out of it was 170mph!”

1934 FORD

Colour:Bare metal
Engine:1949 Ford Flathead
Internals:SCAT four-inch stroker crank with H-beam rods
Induction:Early Edelbrock intake with twin 97 carbs
Gearbox:1939 Ford
Shifter:1937 Ford custom
Diff:Richmond 3:35:1 gears
Suspension:Dropped ’34 Ford axle, ’40 Ford spindles, So-Cal/Shine radius rods, ’34 Ford springs, custom shocks, hidden Panhard rod (f), ’40 Ford, custom shocks, ’40 Ford spring, narrowed ’37 Ford wishbones (r)
BODYOriginal steel, top chopped five inches, channelled six inches, semi-bellypan, handfabricated pick-up bed, ’34 commercial grille, BLC headlights, ’37 Ford tail-lights
Wheels:Hand fabricated
Brakes:’40 Ford drums
Steering:’37 Ford