The ghost of flames

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Updated Oct 2, 2016

Way up North of the Wisconsin Dells
Where the Minnesota winds scream winter gales
Lives a ghost with a paint gun made of gold
Shoots flames of fire to kill the cold

Some have seen him
And lived to tell
The ghost flame master’s
Legendary tale

Greg Stahl (right) and longtime buddy Steve AtchisonGreg Stahl (right) and longtime buddy Steve Atchison

We’ve done some pretty cool things and met some pretty cool people during our time on the road, but I think the experience we had with Greg Stahl painting our truck is the coolest, on both accounts.

I actually did an interview with Greg a little over a year ago, with all intentions of doing an Overdrive piece about his work then. We had just discovered he did the original ghost flames on our truck. They were on it when we bought it, and we had never really been sure about who did the custom paint. I talked to Greg a couple of times, and did a little internet research. I couldn’t find one single picture of the artist himself, but I found scads of images of beautiful show trucks he’s done, not to mention vans, pickups and hot rods.

For whatever reason, probably a squirrel or some other random distraction, I left the story unfinished. I was a little discouraged that I couldn’t find much personal information on the guy, so I set it aside as a maybe piece, for when I had more time to research and possibly meet him face to face.

As you can see in the picture above, we finally did get the opportunity to meet him face to face a week ago, and if I’d had any idea how awesome the whole thing was, I’d have broken my neck to make it happen a year ago.

Greg Stahl has been in the paint business for more than 30 years. If it can be painted, he’s probably painted it. He works the medium like a master, he knows his stuff, and his stuff wins at truck shows. Eilens Pride and Polish winner, The Hustler, was painted by Stahl. His work is incredible, and his flames are unmistakable.

Jonathan Eilen’s Pride and Polish winner, The Hustler. More trucking photography can be found on George Parker’s Trucker’s Lens Facebook page.Jonathan Eilen’s Pride and Polish winner, The Hustler. More trucking photography can be found on George Parker’s Trucker’s Lens Facebook page.

Greg owns Top Gun Kustoms in Cambridge, Minn., as well as working a full-time week at the body/paint shop owned by Nuss Truck and Equipment in East Bethel, Minn. He’s a busy guy.

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We have to pause to give a huge thanks to Mr. Nuss for allowing us the use of his facility to have the paint laid down in. Our condo sleeper is too tall for the shop at Top Gun Kustoms. He was kind enough to offer his bays and paint booth for the job and we are so grateful for that. All of this was done on extremely short notice, and I have to give a shout out to Steve Atchison (pictured above), manager of the shop and longtime friend and coworker of Stahl’s. He was absolutely nothing but helpful, and he and his team are top-notch professionals. There wasn’t a torn-down truck in that shop that wasn’t clean and organized — they take perfection and excellence seriously.

A week before this picture was taken, everything was painted red was yellow. The crew at Nuss did a fantastic job on the Bethel fire truck.A week before this picture was taken, everything was painted red was yellow. The crew at Nuss did a fantastic job on the Bethel fire truck.

So how in the world can someone who has so much work in media and print be such a ghost? Turns out, the artist is a lot like his flames — both are subtle and quiet until you get right up on them. When you take a closer look, you realize the layers and intricacy involved in the look of the flames and the personality of their creator.

In two days’ time, Greg and the crew at Nuss masked off for the fender and sidewall work, Greg shot the fenders, taped out the flames, airbrushed the design, clear-coated and finished the entire process. He might have taken a little more time if we hadn’t had to scream into Joplin 24 hours later for the show, but the work was flawless, nonetheless.

Masked for fendersMasked for fenders Masked for flamesMasked for flames BeforeBefore … and after.… and after.

I was far too emotional to watch the process. I’m sure everyone is shocked by this. I also felt like I made the guys in the shop a little uncomfortable with my sudden outbursts of sobbing, so I stayed away from the paint booth, while George made Greg uncomfortable taking photos and videos.

There’s a reason you never seen a picture of Greg Stahl — it just so happens Mr. Stahl is not a fan of having his picture taken. This is unfortunate, because after he loosened up and got into the paint job enough to forget about the camera, he was mesmerizing on film. He goes from side to side, gun to gun, spraying and masking with the handmade manila envelope cutouts he calls his “box of flames.” I cry a little every time I watch it, it’s just so neat to see the design evolve.

We had the pleasure of meeting Greg’s wife, Shelley, and having dinner with them after a 12 hour marathon day for Greg in the paint booth and shop bay, finishing our baby. Shelley is the complete personality opposite of Greg, he can sneak into the room and you’d never know it, but Shelley is a presence. She’s as kind and funny as he is quiet and thoughtful, and they are a combination of beautiful souls that is perfect.

Greg is too humble to admit his legendary status, and is probably going to be embarrassed about all the nice things I said about him, but it’s all true, and things people should know about someone who makes such beautiful art for us to enjoy in everyday life.


Thank you again, Greg, the truck is absolutely stunning, and you ain’t half bad yourself.

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