Photo by Sondre Kvipt, courtesy Kustomrama.
Bill Hines had been around in the auto customizing scene for so long and remained so active it seemed as though he was immortal. While his legend will live on, the hobby bid a fond farewell to Hines at age 94, when news of his passing on May 20th spread through its ranks over the weekend.
Hines, born in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1922 and initially raised in Jackson, Tennessee, moved to Detroit in 1932. Leaving school in 11th grade, Hines opened a gas station in Lincoln Park, Michigan, down the river from the Motor City where in addition to supplying motor fuel, he began doing custom bodywork and paint.
After WWII, Hines began moonlighting at a Nash dealership owned by the father of fellow customizer Dick Dean. By 1953 Hines had left the mundane aspects of vehicle maintenance behind and opened his own custom shop in Detroit. That year, his work won the “Best Custom” award at the Detroit Autorama.
Between 1958 and 1960, Hines divided his time between Detroit and California, beginning an association/rivalry with George Barris. After settling permanently on the West Coast, Hines expanded his reputation from just “The Leadslinger” to “The Godfather of Hydraulics,” becoming well known for installation of adjustable-height hydraulic suspension on custom cars and lowriders.
Even after the heyday of the kustom, Hines remained in the business, customizing cars to suit the tastes and trends of every era through the present day. His diminutive stature and trademark cigar stub endeared him to even the latest generation of customizers, many of who met him for the first time through his 2004 appearance on Jesse James’s Monster Garage television program.
Hines will be missed, but he will live on both in legend and through the customs he touched, including his Lil Bat, Marty Ribits “Golden Nugget,” Tats Gotanda’s “Buddah Buggy,” and the Monster Garage “Old-School ’54 Chevy.”