Scallops and the Silver Sapphire: Remembering Paul Hatton
There’s no denying that we live in an interesting era for hot rodding. Our hobby has sprouted from humble beginnings to a global phenomenon in less than a century. We’re more connected than ever in this modern age of traditional rodding and customizing. But as time marches on, we inevitably have to say goodbye to those who helped lay the sport’s foundation.
Earlier this week, we lost famed Detroit-area painter Paul Hatton. He and I crossed paths a few years ago while I was working on the first edition of the Hot Rod Detroit book. We met at his favorite lunch spot in Wayne, Michigan, and he was more than happy to fill me in on the details of his colorful career. I wrote about our conversation here on The Jalopy Journal in 2015.
A little less than a year ago I walked into the Red Apple looking for Paul Hatton. After glancing at the waitress behind the counter, I scanned each wooden booth with hopes of finding my source. The soft rock soundtrack in the background added unnecessary intensity to my search. “Paul” I asked, smiling at the older man in the last booth on the left. He peered up from beneath his dark ball cap, took a sip of his coffee and gestured for me to take a seat.
Although Paul Hatton may have been tough to track down in a motel diner on a weekday afternoon, the same can’t be said about his custom paintwork. From the scallops on Chili Catallo’s “Silver Sapphire” to the flanks of Connie Kalitta’s “Bounty Hunters,” Hatton’s handiwork has graced hundreds of cars for street, strip and show. He highlighted his bigger moments during our conversation, sharing stories of lettering Ridler winners and out performing factory pinstriping machines.
Put simply, Paul was a paint and bodywork master. He kicked things off by repainting his own ’36 Packard while he was still a teenager, and then began pinstriping in 1949. Soon after, he opened “Hatton’s House of Krazy Paint” on Five Mile Road and Telegraph in Detroit. His business cards carried a challenge: “You name it – we do it” and listed everything from collision and custom work to panel painting and pinstriping. They also advertised Paul’s specialties—flames and scallops.
Throughout the ’60s, he worked closely with the Alexander Brothers. “When those guys did a car, the first thing they thought about was what I was going to do to it when it got done,” he told me during that conversation. “I’m glad they thought of me all the time.” Paul painted countless cars in the past six decades, but in my mind there’s one that stands out—the Silver Sapphire.
Back when I was putting together my pieces for the aforementioned book, Mike Alexander encouraged me to scan his extensive photo collection. The following images came from his “Catallo Coupe” envelope and, as far as I know, they have never been published. Take a look and take a moment to remember Mr. Paul Hatton—a Detroit customizing pioneer. He will be missed.
Photos from the Alexander Brothers’ collection