RACERS AND RAYS
One of Dean’s friends from his hometown of Lynwood
was future Indianapolis 500 winner Troy Ruttman, who
introduced Je;ries to his racing friends and sponsors.
When Dean painted Ruttman’s J. C. Agajanian-sponsored Indy race car, the upstart artist got invited
to spend the month of May in Indianapolis with the
Agajanian team. ;is became a regular pilgrimage
for him and his kit full of brushes and paints, for the
next 33 years. His client list steadily grew at Indy; he
was eventually retained by Mobil Oil to make sure its
sponsored cars looked great, and prominently sported
the petrol company’s “Flying Pegasus” trademark.
;ese were the days before sponsor logos were simple
decals; in his busiest year there, 22 of Indy’s 33 starters
bore Je;ries’s meticulous, hand-laid artwork.
As the Fifties wound down, Dean’s paint and
striping business was doing well, but he wanted
something more. When George Barris won the
Oakland Roadster Show in 1958 and 1959 with
the “Ala Kart,” Dean figured the best way
to be taken seriously in the hot rod
and custom car world would be to win at Oakland
with a roadster of his own. Starting with chassis
components from a pair of old Maserati Formula One
racers, Dean used quarter-inch steel tubing to define
the shape of a radical design. Long, low, and swoopy,
the asymmetrical single-seater was equipped with
a tilt-up bubble top, and fitted with a hand-formed
aluminum body covered in pearlescent white paint.
Powered by a Shelby Ford 289 V8 and rolling on
Halibrand magnesium wheels, the “Mantaray” handily
One of Dean's oldest rods is
a chopped, channeled, and
sectioned textbook example of
his art, and it sits parked in his
showroom, looking as good as
the day he painted it.