Words By Rob Fortier
Pics By Tim Sutton
Bill “Leadslinger” Hines: March 23, 1922 – May 20, 2016
On March 23, 2016, legendary kustom car builder/trendsetter/icon
Bill Hines turned “94 years young” as his grandson Mitch
professed on social media. Just two months later, the legend has
passed, joining fellow legends Dick Dean, George Barris, Larry
Watson, et al in the golden leadsled in the sky.
Bill was known for many things, but primarily as his nickname
suggests, his superior proficiency with slinging lead. He also, as
many may or may not know, is credited as one of the pioneers of
hydraulic suspension (he was inspired by Ron Aguirre’s X-Sonic
to equip Tats Gotanda’s “Buddah Buggy” ’59 Impala with hydros,
soon thereafter branching out his shop, Bill Hines Kustom Auto in
Lynwood, to performing hydraulic suspension installs).
Bill was born in Pennsylvania, but he cut his kustom teeth in
Michigan, ultimately working with Dick Dean’s father at a Nash
dealership, where he taught the younger Dean the art of
bodywork, before opening his own shop…where his namesake
“Li’l Bat” was born. From the Motor City he made his way west,
where he landed a job at Barris Kustom, working alongside future
greats Junior Conway, Dean Jeffries, and Larry Watson, to name
a few. Less than a year later, Bill was back in Detroit for a short
stint, where he hooked up with the Alexander Bros. for assistance
with bodywork. But a year later he was right back in SoCal, where
he eventually hung his sign next door to legendary custom
upholsterer Eddie Martinez after parting ways with Barris. He
remained there for nearly a quarter-century, despite his former
boss-turned-adversary’s predictions saying he’d never make it.
The following chapter in his kustom life found him in Bellflower,
where he would finish out his long career slinging lead and putting
his autograph on many a noteworthy kustom, including his followup
to Li’l Bat, “Big Bat”.
Suffice it to say, Bill Hines not only worked with the best
throughout his lifetime, he was one of the best. He may be gone,
but his mark he left in the kustom world will never be painted over
or forgotten. Rest Peacefully, Leadslinger.