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Tom Van Nortwick video.

Tom Van Nortwick of Franklin County is western Virginia’s master of pinstriping, the precise painting of lines and designs on auto body panels. Born in 1955, Van Nortwick grew up around cars and played around his neighbor’s race car. Van Nortwick’s father, a mechanic and an art painter, lived in California, and he took his son to his first auto races. Even as a boy, Van Nortwick drew sketches of automobiles.

In 1980 Roanoke car builder John Rinehart urged Van Nortwick to try pinstriping, and Tom’s practice “canvas” was the door of Rinehart’s garage. Two weeks later Van Nortwick earned his first money as a pinstriper. Cars featuring his work have since appeared over two dozen times in national magazines. Today, Van Nortwick is one of only a handful of pinstripers in all of Virginia. He also has a national reputation for his acrylic paintings of car scenes that he sells through galleries and dealers.

Van Nortwick identifies two basic styles of pinstriping. The older style features one color (or at most three colors) in an abstract pattern with empty space between the lines. The newer pinstriping has more colors, straight lines, and filled spaces. Van Nortwick can do any style, but most customers do not suggest styles or designs. Describing his technique as “putting a line down and thinking what would look good beside it,” Van Nortwick particularly enjoys pinstriping center designs on trunk lids. Van Nortwick prefers hot rods that look traditional, and though he has built cars for himself, he prefers driving them to working on them.

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Auto Rigging

Acknowledgements | Ferrum College and the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum | Contact