Chrome sweet chrome

| March 05, 2008

When a high school buddy started an airbrushing business, Templeton went to help out, and his passion for the art was born. He painted thousands of T-Shirts, in addition to “anything someone would pay me to paint,” he says.

Templeton literally lived like the proverbial starving artist for a few years. “I lived in my car; it was hard to make a living. While I was a teenager, painting was fun. I didn’t take it seriously until I was maybe 25. Then I found out how hard it was to make it pay. I did other things. But one day I got tired of framing houses and working for the man and getting ripped off with my artwork, so I started my own company.”

He moved from wall murals to movies with a job in Hollywood, eventually painting most of the bikes, metal and plastic in the cult hit Biker Boyz. Then he was “suddenly discovered” and asked to paint trucks in front of television cameras.

Trucks, he found, were a little different. “Well, metal’s metal and plastic’s plastic, but the size makes things different. A quart can paint a car hood, but it won’t even do the fender on a truck. Suddenly I’m working with gallons. And I had to change my designs, of course.”

The final member of the Chrome Shop Mafia, Stone, a.k.a. Scrappy, is also an artist in his own way, someone who can stand in a yard full of twisted metal, foam insulation, wiring and plastic and see just how he can slice it into manageable scrap or something a customizer can use to redo a rig.

“He’s a good old Missouri hillbilly,” Martin says. “He’s honest as the day is long, and if he thinks something, he’ll just blurt it out. He’s just naturally funny. There was a time when CMT thought of doing a spin-off of Trick My Truck that would just follow Scrappy around for a day, from barber to grocery store and so on.”

Stone descended to Joplin from 75 miles north in Nevada, Mo.

His junk yard has no new, shiny pieces, and he reigns over it with a mask and a torch as his crown and sword. It’s what he does. It’s what defines him, and he likes that. “I cut iron,” he says. “This is my profession. I’m good at it. I don’t want to wear a suit or a tie, I don’t want to work at anything else.”

Stone worked in a scrap yard from the time he could work, and his father, a crane operator, and uncle did the same. He never lost his fascination for cutting iron, even when he saw his father almost die in a scrap yard. “He was trying to release a gear that was caught. After he got it free, he fell. Must have been 30 feet. When he first fell, he landed and almost steadied himself. I saw he was about to be hit by what he had just freed, it was swinging at him. I yelled. He saw it coming and tried to jump and catch a handrail, but he just missed it and fell into a pile of cut steel. He had a horribly broken leg and other injuries.”

When Stone came to 4 State, he was put in charge of its scrap yard. “Man, it was a mess,” he says. “But all of a sudden it was my mess, and I got to work. I straightened it out, and now I run a pretty tight operation.”

The trucks
All the Mafia members are dream interpreters and facilitators for truckers who stop by their shops with drawings, plans, photos, wish lists or maybe just a vague idea of what they want.

“You have to try to understand the person you are building it for,” says Richardson, “to remember something they said about themselves or something that excited them. The clues aren’t always in what they ask for but how they ask for it. You can help them make an idea re

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