Of Panels and Pearl – A Peek Inside Darryl Hollenbeck’s Vintage Color Studio
Vintage Color Studio founder and boss man Darryl Hollenbeck had zero choice when it came to his path in life. Born in 1965 to Bay Area custom car enthusiasts Carol and Dale Hollenbeck, he is a 3rd generation painter and customizer. His grandfather Lester painted customs with his uncle Denny in Oakland back in the 1950s – that’s them below navigating a crashed ’57 Buick.
Darryl started sanding, priming and painting with his late father Dale and Uncle Denny before he was a teenager. High school soon followed. His first “hot car” was a ’68 Mustang. Growing up in Concord, California with friends Mike Wenger and John Aiello he already had a solid connection to East Bay custom legends – guys like Art & Mickey Himsl, Bob Monroe, Richard Zocchi, John D’Agostino, Jerry Sahagon, Bill Reasoner and Dick Faulk. He was right in the middle of it but had to make his early bones doing “crash work” at local body shops.
Along the way, Darryl developed a drug addiction. But that stopped when he got sick and tired of being sick and tired. In 1994, he got clean and went to work for Sahagon Custom Car Concepts also located in Concord. He honed his skills under Jerry Sahagon who gained worldwide fame with a series of radical 60s customs. It was at Sahagon’s that Hollenbeck realized he could hang out his own shingle. In 1997, he teamed with John Aiello and longtime friend Mike Wenger to open “Acme Autobody” and so began his journey as a respected custom car painter.
The Acme crew performed yeoman’s work on Zocchi, D’Agostino, and other prominent custom owners’ cars. Several of those customs scooped up signature awards at the Grand National Roadster Show (then based in Nor Cal), the Sacramento AutoRama and Goodguys shows in Pleasanton. The drive for success was on.
The Acme gang eventually dispersed to go their own separate ways but their reputation preceded them. Once word got out Hollenbeck was looking for his next gig, Steve Moal of Oakland’s Moal Coachbuilders hired him where he worked alongside master metal man Jimmy Kilroy and the Moal family. But the goal was always to have his own workspace so he left Moal’s to work out of he and wife Terri’s Concord Garage. He neatly evaded the EPA and turned out award winners. When resources had been stockpiled, he opened Vintage Color Studio on the outskirts of Concord in 2011. Then the tidal wave hit.
In 2014, he got an opportunity to rock the custom car scene yet again with two elaborate, flaked, laced candy-colored cars in the form of Norm Ricardo’s ’59 Ford Ranch Wagon as well as Galpin Auto Sport’s “Iron Orchid” ’34 coupe. The paint on these cars was nothing short of breathtaking showing the depth and scope of Hollenbeck’s talent. We asked Darryl if Norm’s wagon was his Mona Lisa, “Yeah – you could say that,” he told us. As for Beau Boeckmann’s Iron Orchid, it went on to be featured in Hot Rod Magazine showcasing Darryl’s paintwork to a worldwide audience. It only helped to fuel his legend as a guy who did more than solid paint jobs and some pearl. These panel painted, flaked and laced machines ran the full spectrum of custom color and textures.
The day we visited VCS, Darryl and his teammate Dennis Sayers were literally buried in hot rods. They had six early Ford’s on hand to paint as well as a Porsche and some other work piled up as well. The shop floor is well lit and roomy underneath a wall of banners showcasing their work.
Other items that are near and dear to Darryl’s heart include his late father Dale’s baby blue chopped ’50 Merc which gets driven weekly. In fact, we took it out to lunch when we visited the shop.
There are also numerous other heirlooms including his father’s antique Mercury battery charger. As you might expect there are custom signs everywhere. Our favorite? “Don’t be a Jerk!” That ethos has played a pivotal role in Darryl’s life since he cleaned up. He also believes in doing things right the first time around, doing high quality work and being straight with everyone – all hallmarks of not being a jerk.
Vintage Color Studio is a reflection of Darryl Hollenbeck’s vision and work ethic. He’s here nearly seven days a week sanding, prepping, priming and painting. Terri is OK with that. So is his daughter Haley who just gave birth to a baby girl named Brinley Rae. Haley brings the newborn by Vintage Color Studio for morning visits. Being a grandpa “Melts my heart” Hollenbeck said.
Darryl Hollenbeck is more content now than ever and it shows in his brilliant work, his passion and his expanding family. A rock solid marriage to his motor-minded spouse of 15-years Terri, a shop full of soon-to-be-painted hot rods and customs, a sterling reputation and a great bond with his lone employee Dennis (who is as hilarious as they come), have him situated for the long haul one panel at a time.