Pete Arnell


My Interest in hotrods and muscle cars began before I was old enough to drive. It was 1970. My best friend and I were typical fledgling gearheads, collecting Hot Wheels, model kits, and pinning folded cigarette packages to the frames of our chopped bicycles to imitate the sound of an engine as they rubbed the spokes.

Occasionally we would ride the bus from the suburbs to downtown Calgary to visit the Hillhurst bookstore, where we would purchase a couple of used Car Craft magazines, and pilfer several more. Once home, we would sit in my buddy's basement and drool over the pages of funny cars and gassers, dreaming of the day when we would have cars of our own. Then in 1973 at the age of thirteen, my friend's older brother took us to see the film "American Graffiti" and we were hooked for life.

A few years later we were behind the wheel, unaware that we were witnessing the end of an era. Straightaxles, metalflake paint, drive-in movies, and cruising. Those days never escape an aging Hotrodder's memory, and for me, the images of things like fat fenders, Cragar wheels, flames, and Ed Roth Monster shirts are permanently etched into mine. During high school, many hours in the classroom were spent cartooning blown '55 Chevys and '32 Coupes. Then I played around with an airbrush and striping dagger, but didn't take either seriously.

After years of pumping gas and driving tow trucks, I found myself in the sign business in 1984. At first, all of my work was done by brush, and I gained an appreciation for custom lettering and became fairly handy at it. Lettering cars for local drag racers was a small but enjoyable part of the business in the 90's, though eventually the task of making everday signage took over completely. Business increased to the point where I was forced into producing signs with a computer, and the brushes were put aside. Before long, I took up a sporadic hobby of painting pictures of cars to help pass the endless Canadian winters. It was a way to be creative again.

Now almost 20 years later, at the urging of friends, the resurgence of grass-roots hotrodding, and a realization that I'm not getting any younger, I have decided to step up this hobby and try to make the most of it. To try a bit harder and get my work out there for people to see. More paintings, more effort. I have picked up where I left it. I have gathered a new batch of lettering quills and I'm teaching myself to pinstripe. My desire is to create auto art for those who share my fondness for nostalgia.
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