History of Metal Flake

This is an excerpt taken from the website Kustorama and all rights are theirs, thank you for allowing us to it.

please click on this link to view the original piece.

In 1959 Barris Kustoms debuted their futuristic air car, the XPAK 400 at the New York World’s Fair. The XPAK 400 featured 35 coats of nitro cellulose lacquer, that according to a press release by Barris Kustoms, contained a million particles of chromed aluminum called “Metalflake”. The press release could further state, that Metalflake was a revolutionary new development by the Bobeckmun Company, a Division of the Dow Chemical Company. The particles were precision cut, coated aluminum foil that gave a metallic finish, and it was supposedly the first time the product was available for commercial use. A trial was offered to George Barris for the XPAK 400 since it was going to be displayed at the National Car Show in Detroit. George used plain silver flake for the body. The overall reflection quality of the flake was softened by the addition of a small amount of pearl. “George’s early experience with the flake proved that it would be a wild wild finish, subtle and velvet soft in the indirect lighting, yet extremely lively where the strong light is directed”. The fins featured 30 coats of imported Swedish pearl of essence which was made of crushed fish scales and crushed diamond dust. It was also painted in Kandy translucent red, white and blue.


Dick Scritchfield’s 1932 Ford roadster is known as the first car to ever receive a Metalflake paint job. Dick painted the car at a friends body shop in Eagle Rock, California toward the end of 1960. He used two toners to arrive at the exact color he wanted. Rather than using gold Metalflake as base for the Candy Apple Red, Dick used silver Metalflake, with the final color coming closer to magenta or cherry red. After Dick had painted the car, his buddy Tex Smith thought it would be a good idea to drive it down to Dean Jeffries for a photo shoot. The Metalflaked version of Dick’s roadster, that Tex shot, was featured in Hot Rod Magazine February 1961 in a cover story about Metalflake paint. As the photo shoot was done at Jeffries’ shop, many thought it was Jeffries that applied the Metalflake on the car. The article did also discuss that an “older car was painted at Dean Jeffries”, which made it sound like it was Dick’s roadster. In 2013 Dick told Kustomrama that “Dean was a great guy, and he could have painted it, but he didn’t. It was at a time where I was learning and doing most of the work myself, since money was tight in those days.” The older car mentioned in the story was actually Tex Smith’s Buick, not Dick’s roadster. The Buick paint did not make it to “show” or even “street” quality, and Dick can’t remember how Tex got rid of it. Dick always enjoyed Tex’s saying that the roadster looked “quite distinctive on Hollywood Boulevard.” According to himself, “it was really bad (and I don’t mean good) by today’s meaning. Barris’ came out much better. The large flakes were a bit “gaudy” for my tastes, so I opted for the smaller, less intrusive which the Bobeckmun Company provided. They were the original manufacturers and gave me pointers on spraying the flake. All the details were in the magazine article. With the new gravity feed guns, it would be much easier to apply. It really takes lots of clear coats, especially if using the large flake.


A good friend of ours Bob Spina says he remembers working with “Big Daddy” Ed Roth in the mid to late 50’s applying flake with a shoe box with holes in and shaking it out over job.