These days, Dennis McPhail is anything but "understated". Roll back the calendar some 15-plus years, however, and that would've probably been the best way to describe him ...or at least that's how this West Coast greenhorn photojournalist perceived him after our initial introduction in the early '90s.
Dennis, still as soft-spoken now as the day we first met, has drastically evolved on the exterior over the years-and that's not a reference to the effects of aging, rather, the results of a dedicated commitment to tattoos. In stark contrast to the mullet and closely trimmed goatee Dennis wore back in the day when he held down a real job, working for the man at Halibrand, nowadays his neckline is worn higher, most likely in attempt not to hide any of the above-collar inkwork that a flap of hair might normally cover. And the tattoos don't stop there, either. But instead of penning hot rod T-shirt designs and logos, he's now making a living by putting his art into other's skin.
Aside from the manner in which Dennis has kept food on his family's table, there has remained one constant: his passion for the four-wheeled persuasion. This is not only evident in his art, it's clearly obvious in the types of vehicles he's built and owned over the years (many of which began as subjects of his drawings/paintings in the first place). Over time, Dennis' projects escalated from primered to painted and polished. His most recent, however, a '56 Chevy done "by the books" Bellflower-style, may have actually gone a little too far. As I can attest to, when you're not used to maintaining something of a higher caliber, well, you can easily lose sight of the original reason you started the project to begin with ... to enjoy it.
This time around, Dennis wasn't fooling himself, or anyone else for that matter. Instead of going to the extremes as he'd done with the '56, he decided to take a more realistic approach with his '60 Ford Fairlane ...understated, as it were, but nonetheless, something he could enjoy without having to constantly worry about. And that's just what he's ended up with-a low-key kustom, McPhail style!
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1960 Ford Fairlane
Dennis took the easy road with the Fairlane's chassis: stock, for the most part, with lowering done by Gary Clark at Clark's Hot Rod Repair, in Wichita, Kansas.
Even though Dennis knows the value of an SBC, he kept this one Ford-powered: stock 289 pulled from a '67 Mustang along with a C4 automatic linked to the original 9-inch rearend (also done by Clark's). Brakes and steering are also "as equipped", but plans call for a power upgrade in both departments in the near future. Exhaust is dual (American Muffler, Wichita, Kansas), with trademark scavenger tips by Kool Rides, Arkansas City, Kansas.
Wheels & Tires
What a '60s mild custom ought to roll on: 15-inch chrome reverse wheels (Rally America) with 1-inch skinny whites (Hankook radials; 205 and 235/75R15s) is exactly what Dennis chose for the Fairlane.
Body & Paint
Here's where things get interesting: If you've been wondering about the top, it's been altered a bit by moving the rear window forward followed by the roof getting shortened 8 inches. Furthermore, Alan Gaither (Hooligan Hot Rods, Wichita, Kansas) radiused the rear wheelwells to match the fronts, removed fender tip stainless, and capped and stretched the fender tips. Good friend Jeff Myers (Premier Body and Paint, Arkansas City, Kansas) performed the remainder of the custom work (trim/handle removal, rounded corners, hood portholes, taillight/grille openings, and frenched antennas) as well as the final blocking and subsequent application of the custom-mixed House of Kolor Pearl (with HoK clear) over a Light Purple Metallic Sikkens base. Stainless tube grille is by Clay Melton, Arkansas City, Kansas.
The interior is quite simple: classic white vinyl tuck 'n' roll by Stardust Upholstery (Wichita, Kansas) installed by Dennis himself. Jimmie Allen (Winfield, Kansas) rebuilt the heater and handled the wiring and Steve Nicholson at Classic Body Works (Wellington, Kansas) installed the glass. Oh, and the Beatniks artwork on the glovebox and ashtray are the finishing touch to the Fairlane by none other than its owner, Dennis McPhail.