Dean Jeffries Biography (Part II)
In building The Mantaray, Dean Jeffries started with a Grand Prix Maserati (obtained from his ex-father-in-law) and stripped the car down to its chassis.
Next, Dean formed the desired shape with thin metal rods... then curved each piece by eye from a drawing of the car. Once this step was completed, he took it over to California Metal Shaping. For $800, they made the aluminum body pieces in about a week. Jeffries took them back to his shop and made them completely custom... adjusting, bending and trimming the pieces to a perfect fit. He even made the plastic bubble dome himself.
Dean's efforts paid off when The Mantaray was entered in the top car exhibition of the day, the Oakland Roadster Show. Jeffries took top honors, winning a free trip to Europe, and a spot on the cover of Hot Rod Magazine.
The Mantaray even made it to the big screen! Dean Jeffries actually drove the car in the film, “Bikini Beach” (1964). When the actor who was supposed to drive The Mantaray didn’t know how to handle a stick shift, Dean was called in to do the honors.Doors Begin To Open…
Jeffries' initial exposure in “Bikini Beach” opened doors for other slots in films and television. In 1965, he was offered the chance to build The Batmobile for the upcoming TV series, “Batman” -- complete story here! Although Dean ultimately passed on building The Batmobile, he had a second opportunity to work with “Batman” producers in 1966. This time, to build the two Black Beauty vehicles for “The Green Hornet” TV series.
Dean Jeffries continued to build custom vehicles for the entertainment industry for many years. He created the Monkeemobile for the 1960s TV series, “The Monkees”… the moon buggy stolen by James Bond in 1971's “Diamonds Are Forever”… all of the cars for “Deathrace 2000” (1975) and “Logan’s Run” (1976)… along with the Landmaster vehicle from “Damnation Alley” (1977)… and the trolley from 1988's “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”. Dean also worked as a stunt driver in such films as: “What's Up, Doc?” (1972), “Freebie and the Bean” (1974), “Flash and the Firecat” (1976), “The Blues Brothers” (1980)… to name but a few! Dean excelled at stunt driving due both to his skill and attention to crucial details.Truly “Built Tough”…
While shooting the film, “Honky Tonk Freeway” (1981), things went terribly wrong. Dean had attempted a jump with a five-ton truck, but when he landed, he broke his back. Unable to use his legs to stop the truck -- which was traveling at over 100 mph -- he had to push down on his leg with his hands in order to apply the brakes.
Dean had never been comfortable with the medical profession. Rather than approach doctors for an operation, he instructed his wife to take him home. Jeffries crafted a brace out of sheepskin and aluminum to keep his back straight. He then built a device on which he could hang upside down in order to stretch his vertebrae. Thirty years on, Dean's back has completely healed... with the exception of minor pain when getting up from a chair.
Some time later, Dean took a serious spill off a ladder in his shop. He split his head wide open and couldn't move. When he was taken to the hospital, doctors told Dean that he wouldn’t be able to do much of anything anymore. He was paralyzed for a year, and had to learn to walk again. Through it all, he had the loving support of his wife, Rosalie, whom he recently lost.
Now officially retired, Dean Jeffries continues to work in his shop on occasion. He still uses his GT40 Roadster, one of only four built (Dean’s been offered millions for it, but he refuses to sell.) Over the years, one thing has remained ever-constant in Dean's life: determination. No matter how difficult a challenge, whether personal or professional, Dean has let nothing stop him. His strong character and can-do spirit, coupled with an ever-striving pursuit of excellence, keeps Dean Jeffries held in high esteem by fans and colleagues alike.
He's truly “built tough”!
Our admiration and gratitude go out to Mr. Jeffries for all his wonderful work over the years!
Check out Dean Jeffries personal website at www.deanjeffries.com.