Kelly and Son Crazy Painters

The name on the door should be the dead giveaway—this is not your average paint shop. They’re not just out of the ordinary, they are part of history itself. In the center of the custom universe that is southern California, Kelly & Son in Bellflower goes back to the seminal days of the fifties and even to the turn of the century.

Tom Kelly’s grandfather started pin striping almost before there were cars. Tom Kelly worked with Von Dutch as well as Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and remains a gifted and prolific striper and muralist to this day. Tom has served as artist to generations of car owners. Recent generations have been introduced to Mitch, the Son in Kelly & Son. He’s been at it for 34 years now. While Tom was painting the conversion vans having their heyday in the seventies, Mitch started out, at 14, painting the wheels to match. Now a celebrated artisan in his own right, Mitch proudly carries the Crazy Painter mantle, creating and completing fantastic paintwork on show-worthy vehicles of nearly every type and color.

Mitch Kelly is a true artist with a great eye for color. Congenial and with a dry sense of humor, he is easy to talk with and jokes often. He is understandably proud of his work, having completed innumerable high-profile projects over the years. At SEMA 2007, he was responsible for no less than 14 vehicles, including the famed Hot Wheels™ Twin Mill. Completely revitalized for the 40th anniversary of Hot Wheels™, the reintroduction of the Twin Mill was fantastically well received. Throngs of people gathered around the car all weekend and praise flew. Also attracting attention was the 1968 Hemi ‘Cuda belonging to Lance Smith with its extensively detailed graphics and explosive colors, as well as the Tiburon finished for Hyundai using Tiger Eye from the Vibrance Collection™. Kelly & Son is also responsible for the flawless finish on a number of specialty, magazine and manufacturer builds including a historic dragster, custom trucks and a truck and motorcycle combo shown by Toyota at SEMA.

Using a monstrous 63’x19’x19’ paint booth, Mitch is able to handle one of his other specialties; painting extravagant tractor-trailer rigs for a variety of clients, primarily professional motocross and supercross teams and manufacturers. Intricately detailed and often including a full range of graphics rendered in paint, the transport monsters make a vibrant statement touring the country on the professional racing circuit.

The shop itself is humble, contrary to expectation. Tom is still very much involved. Mitch does the vast majority of the paintwork. Recently, Mitch has been letting a younger protégé have a hand in some of the painting. He’s called Shaggy, and learning from a master will surely stand him in good stead in the future. Through it all, Mitch works with John Weening who has been there nearly 25 years. John prepares all the vehicles for paint. There are a couple of helpers around as well and that’s it.

Kelly & Son has a long-standing relationship with PPG. Mitch’s friendship with Regional Manager Jim Downey helped instigate the relationship. Further cementing the off-kilter implication of the shop name, Downey describes the shop as an artist’s studio. “When you go there, you get a vibe of the creativity flowing in that space, the artistic environment,” he notes.

PPG Territory Manager Robert Alvarado is glad to take Mitch’s calls asking him to stop by the shop to discuss a color or blend. Robert says that Mitch puts his heart into every job he takes on, that he wants it to be the best car at the show. To help him reach that goal, Mitch has a preference for PPG Vibrance Collection in conjunction with the Deltron® system. Mitch loves the versatility of the Vibrance line and takes advantage of the range for his fantastic blends. One of his recent racing trailers received over 12 gallons of candy Vibrance color. A huge fan of brilliant hues, Mitch definitely has some favorites “I really like Oh-So-Orange, the blue pearl and silver metallic… but I love the Crystal Black.” Kelly & Son sources their PPG product from jobber West Whittier Paint in Whittier.

Kelly’s precisely rendered finish on the Twin Mill illustrates his expertise. As a painter he is meticulous, and one of his greatest skills is his ability to get the absolute best out of color, maximizing its potential. PPG provides that platform to Mitch Kelly, Crazy Painter.