John Dole (photographer),
Patrick Sullivan (writer)
Southern California custom car guru Skratch laughs cautiously about the flowing script across the front of his Skratch’s Garage T-shirt that reads, “I ain’t the best but I’m better than you.” After a pause he admits, “Well, it’s kinda true.” And he makes a damn good case for it.
Skratch is best known for his skill as a pin-striper from his four-year stint on TLC’s Overhaulin’. But unlike most others in the world of kustom kulture, he can do just about anything: frames, suspensions, sheet metal, wiring, painting, bodywork, welding. “That’s where my name comes from,” he says, “’cause I do everything from scratch.”
As a rule, where there are hot rods, there are tattoos. Even pin-striping, Skratch’s specialty, shares similarities to tattooing—from its protected craft and specialized tools to the act itself. Skratch grew up in a family of mechanics but didn’t discover pin-striping until later in life, after hanging out with tattooer buddy Oliver Peck at Elm Street Tattoo in Dallas. “I was down at the shop one day and they started messing around with pin-striping brushes,” he explains. “So I went and bought some brushes and paint and worked on that instead of tattoos.”
Skratch picked up his first tattoo, the iconic logo for Clay Smith Cams, in the ’90s. Now he’s pretty well-covered, and tattooer Sid is finishing up his back piece of a giant Oldsmobile motor. “I don’t get that much car stuff anymore,” says Skratch. “It was all mostly car-related at first, and now I have wacky stuff, like an eagle with no head that Oliver did.” The rest of his work comes from Baby Ray, Eric Maaske, Sam Chamberlain, Chad Lambert, Geoff Horn, and Jens out of Old Bones in Sweden.
If it’s not obvious yet, Skratch doesn’t spend much time in the first few gears. He has worked with companies such as Tyler Surfboards, Bell Helmets, Barry Grant carburetors, and Cherry Bomb brand mufflers, and has collaborated with names as wildly different as Roger Miret (Agnostic Front vocalist and Dirty Devil brand clothing founder) and Christian Audigier (infamous Ed Hardy bedazzler). He’s owned a garage since he was 19 and sleeps less than four hours a night. All of this isn’t to say that Skratch is the best—but there’s a hell of a good chance he’s better than you.