Von Dutch Bus Sells at Barrrett-Jackson in Scottsdale

Designer's Memorabilia on The Block

Von Dutch Bus
Copyright: Elizabeth R. Mitchell

The Von Dutch Bus

Who hauled an aging, decaying, stripped-down bus out of a field and placed it for auction at the presigious Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction? And, who paid $46,000 for said bus and hauled it off again?

Well, it seems like anything with the Von Dutch name is worth money. You've seen the Von Dutch t-shirts and the Von Dutch purses. Well, some of us never knew who this Von Dutch character was until the big 2007 auction.

The bus was there, the "flying eye-ball" from his studio was there and the buyers were also there!

Who is Von Dutch?

Von Dutch, a nickname for motorcycle mechanic Kenny Howard's design genius, was a unique style of pinstriping on cars and motorcycles. Von Dutch designs were heavily sought after by car and motorcycle enthusiasts.

Kenny Howard was born to a well-respected southern California sign painter. Design was in his genes. As he developed his own reputation, he became a major influence in the customizing of vehicles in the 1950s to today. Among many custom car and motorcycle enthusiasts, he is thought of as one of the fathers of Kustom Kulture. According to Wikipedia, Kustom Kulture describes the artwork, the vehicles, the hairstyles, and the fashions of those who drove and built custom cars and motorcycles in the United States of America from the 1950s through today.

What's the Flying Eyeball Logo All About?

Picture an eyeball and two wings.

This has become the Von Dutch logo. What's the story behind it? According to Bob Burns, a long-time friend of Von Dutch, and writer of the Von Dutch biography, the flying eyeball originated with the Macedonian and Egyptian cultures about 5000 years ago. It was a symbol meaning "the eye in the sky knows all and sees all." According to Burns, "Dutch got a hold of this symbol and modified it into the flyin'eyeball we know of today.

He always believed in reincarnation, and the eyeball, somehow, was tied to that.There have been numerous "incarnations" of this design over the years. It still remains an icon of the '50s and '60s street rod crowd. Now ya know!" Bob Burn's Book on Von Dutch

How Did Von Dutch Become High Fashion?

After Von Dutch’s death in 1992, the Brucker's (Danny Brucker was his caregiver at end of life) sold his name to a fashion designer who started marketing and designing clothing with his trademarked symbol and name. The Von Dutch corporation has also used the Von Dutch logo on accessories and now energy drinks. Interestingly, Kenny, or Von Dutch, didn't care much for money. But his name is synonymous with high fashion and high prices.

And the Von Dutch Bus?

Reportedly the bus we saw at Barrett-Jackson was a city bus given to Von Dutch as payment for a pinstripe job. It became part shop and part living quarters for Kenny. And, as I looked at the bus at the Barrett-Jackson, it looked like it still could be. There was a refrigerator and a huge tool box in the bus. Absent were the cigarette buts and beer cans some say littered the floor, but the bus certainly wasn't "tricked out" for the auction.

The Auction of the Bus

So that brings us to January of 2007.

The bus sold for $46,000 which is nothing compared to the riches that are being earned from the Von Dutch name. But, I was happy to have seen the bus, the flying eye logo from the Von Dutch shop and to have learned a little about artist, Kenny Howard.