Walt Prey, the guy responsible for one of the most famous paintjobs in custom cardom, has passed away.

While Walt painted and striped too many cars to mention, his claim to fame is no doubt Jesse Valadez’ ’63 Impala, “Gypsy Rose.” By 1971, Prey had just started painting cars out of his Walt’s Custom Studio in Van Nuys, CA, after having worked with the one and only Bill Carter and making a name for himself in custom paint. Valadez was a member of the Imperials –– one of the oldest lowrider clubs in existence –– and wanted something different for his Impala. The two got together over the idea for a “Mexican Rose” paint scheme, inspired by the roses adorning a local Mexican restaurant.

Now, at that time in Southern California, Whittier Boulevard was the place to show off a custom car, specifically a lowrider. Lowrider magazine wouldn’t be published for another five years, but “Gypsy Rose” had made the cover of Car Craft in 1972 and its 40-rosed roof was causing quite the stir. Walt had sealed his fate as one of the most influential custom painters on the streets of Ground Zero for custom paint with Jesse’s car and it’s hard to imagine the scope of his body of work since then.

But, that’s about as much as we feel we can responsibly tell you about Walt Prey. Our friends, the Los Boulevardos, Mister Cartoon and Joe Bueno will do a much better job, some of them having worked with Walt over the years.

If you have any pics of Walt’s work or some stories about the man, we’d love to hear from you!


  1. Jae Bueno says:

    Walt was a trend setter and an influence to many. His legacy will live on with the rolling art he has left his mark on. Jae Bueno

  2. Mark "The VW Doc" Walters says:

    Sad, sad day – I am truly saddened by the passing of such a great man.
    The world will miss you!
    Rest in Peace!

  3. There were two versions of this car. The general consensus is that the second version is better; I disagree. Anyway, I assume Walt Prey painted them both, but I’m not sure. I’ve also always wondered why more Custom paint guys don’t hand paint with brushes (outside of striping), In my mind that’s what put Gypsy Rose over the top. Hopefully that was something Walt did regularly and your request will yield some examples.

  4. Stoner says:

    Yeah, from what we’ve heard, the original paint job suffered a few bricks being hurled at it when Jesse cruised Whittier with it the first time. Never got hunnert-percent confirmation on that, but we heard it was a jealousy thing from some rival clubs in the early Seventies East-Los lowriding scene over that game-changer paint job.

    Any truth to that story?

  5. I’ve always read the same thing. There must have been a damn good reason for re-painting it, so I don’t doubt if that’s far from the truth.

  6. The late Jesse Valadez’ first Gypsy Rose was a ’63 Impala, built in 1971. The story of it being ruined on Whitter by brick throwing vandals is true. Gypsy Rose “two” was a ’64.

    Howard Gribble (aka Kid Deuce) has photos of both cars at his Flickr account:
    GR #1 http://www.flickr.com/photos/80643375@N00/416686174/
    GR #2 http://www.flickr.com/photos/80643375@N00/3161574063/

    I believe I read somewhere that Jesse had the fenders from the original Gypsy Rose hanging in his garage. His son now owns the car and I assume he inherited the fenders too…

    The theme to the 70′s sitcom Chico and the Man has the Gypsy Rose rolling through…

    R.I.P. Walt Prey and Jesse Valadez

  7. I’m wrong! The second one is way better. I had them confused.

  8. Irish Rich says:

    I know somewhere around this firetrap I have a Peterson Publication (Hot Rod Magazine Yearbook, I think) with a detailed step-by-step photo story on Walt Prey doing the veiling, roses, and pinstriping on the original Gypsy Rose. That photo you have in this post was in that article.

    I’ve torn this place apart, and I can’t find it! Sucks to be me! I’m still looking……..

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