By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
He paid a few short visits to the United States in the early '70s — always involving driving around some part of America, including the Grand Canyon on a custom motorcycle. "I was hooked on the West," he says. "I'd grown up with the Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, and all this stuff, and now I was really there. It was all so cool. Of course, back in '72, there wasn't a small car around — maybe the odd Volkswagen getting knocked off the road, but everything was huge and American — it was so American. You can't believe how American America was."
For Fletcher, the appeal of American cars and the American road was the freedom to be as flashy as — and drive as far as — you wanted. "I grew up in Bath, one of the classiest cities in Europe, an Edwardian city, with lots of elegant buildings and everything," he says. "And everything was very old and very classy, and everything in America was gaudy, flashy, trashy, throwaway, violent."
In 1973, Fletcher and a friend decided to try driving from New York to Los Angeles, in a 1956 Rolls-Royce limo that was used for funeral processions in England. Fletcher painted it silver and black, and it became their motor home.
1826 W. McDowell Road
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Category: Attractions and Amusement Parks
Region: Central Phoenix
Classic Car Auction at Scottsdale International Auto Museum
January 13, 14, and 15, 9119 E. Indian Bend Rd., www.scottsdaleinternationalautomuseum.com. Place a bid (or drool over) a collection of muscle, exotic, and collector cars.
Street Fair/Car and Bike Show in Casa Grande
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, January 21, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, January 22. www.cgmainstreet.org/street-fair-and-car-show.html. More than 250 classic, custom, vintage, low rider, street rod, and competition cars.
The Mesa Super Show
3 to 10 p.m. Saturday, March 31, at Mesa Convention Center, 201 N. Center St., www.mesasupershow.com. One of the yearâ€™s largest showcases of classic, custom, and special interest cars and bikes.
"It attracted attention, to say the least," Fletcher says. "Two English hippies in a Rolls-Royce limo, driving on the wrong side of the car, wrong side of the road, no tags or anything, on the New Jersey turnpike going into Manhattan. Very exciting."
The limo blew up near Fairmont, Indiana, nine miles short of James Dean's grave. "We bought 10 gallons of water and just kept pouring it into the radiator," Fletcher says. "We were going, hell or high water, to James Dean's grave. We were making it. As the sun set, we passed a liquor store and bought hundreds of gallons of beer."
"We went to the cemetery, and I was able to pee on James Dean's grave," he continues. "Because I needed to go, and the most important thing was, James Dean would have wanted that. Because he was the rebel. I was only doing what he did in front of Elizabeth Taylor to calm his nerves."
Fletcher came to Phoenix in February 1979, where he became a sign maker and continued building cars. He started designing them full-time in 1986, after he went to Los Angeles on vacation and met Jay Ohrberg, owner of Jay Ohrberg Star Cars, the company that built such cars as the Ford Gran Torino for Starsky & Hutch, the KITT car for Knight Rider, the Delorean for the Back to the Future films, and Batmobiles for Tim Burton's Batman Returns.
For 10 years, Fletcher designed and built cars for Jay Ohrberg Star Cars, including a series of Hollywood tribute vehicles. One was a tribute to James Dean, a giant Porsche 550 Spyder with the words "Big Bastard" painted on it (an homage to Dean's own Porsche, which bore the words "Little Bastard"). Fletcher also designed a Flintstones mobile, a Bugs Bunny Carrot Car, and a tribute to Princess Diana with a tiara on top, orchids all around it, and butterfly wings on the back.
Fletcher says he also built cars for well-known actors, including David Carradine, for whom he made an Arnolt-Bristol sports car. He's also rubbed elbows with legends like late cartoonist and custom car builder Ed Roth, who created the iconic Rat Fink hot rod. Fletcher's cars have been shown all over Europe, but he says he's never gained much money or recognition for his work.
"I never wanted to be famous. I can brag a little bit, and say people with a fraction of what I've done have become big stars in the car world," he says. "I've done more cars, custom and unusual movie cars and show cars, than probably anybody else . . . and I'm totally unknown, because I've always wanted it that way."
"Here's the reason why," he continues. "Because if you've got a front page feature, and you have the phone ringing, and you've got to do press, you've got to do shows, you've got to do this – your time of working on the cars is very little, and in the end, you end up having a team do your work for you. I love having the hands-on experience, and creating. That's what it's all about."
Fletcher builds some cars from scratch and modifies others. He does a lot of sculpting with foam and fusing together of various parts. His vehicles take anywhere from one to six months to build. From 1999 to 2006, he built eight cars. Three of those cars — the Pirate Surfmobile, The Ice Princess, and the Gothic Coach — are on display now at the Scottsdale Auto Museum. They've never been seen in America before.
"Those cars had been sitting in the back of my property in Phoenix, covered in tarps, covered in dust, covered in dirt. Whenever they came back from Europe, I just covered them up because I was working on my next car," Fletcher says. "So for the first time ever in my life, my cars are on exhibit in America."