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David’s dad was a lifelong illustrator and an active member of the Society of Scribes in London. The younger Mann was born in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1957 he first drew pencil sketches of hot rods while feigning attention in high school. His crude sketches opened the door for David’s first job, pinstriping cars for Doug Thompson and Ray Hetrick’s custom car shop in Kansas City.
The wild lure of the West Coast drew him and buddy Al Burnett into the tuck and-roll interior of a candy-apple red and pearl-white, customized 1947 Chevy coupe, and they peeled rubber to Santa Monica, California. While cruising the seaside community he stumbled across Bay Area Muffler, an area custom car house, and there he discovered completely insane chopped Harleys. The bikes drove him wild. They projected freedom, power and mobility with every chromed curve. Dave was immediately hooked. much like the rest of us.
He returned to Kansas City and bought his first new bike, a 1948 Panhead, for $350. At the same time he created his first artistic creation, “Hollywood Run.” It represented the wild, unleashed, Hollywood outlaw lifestyle. Riding his customized Harley with his first painting tucked under his arm, he entered the 1963 Kansas City Custom Car Show. That car show launched Dave’s artistic/biker career. He had the only custom-bike entry in the show, so for his creative efforts the judges initiated a new class and trophy specifically for Dave. In addition, a Sioux City, Iowa, club member named Tiny noticed Dave and took him under his wing. Before long, David became a club member. In addition, Tiny took a Polaroid of his first painting and sent it to the eccentric Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, the California custom car creator and publisher of the first chopper magazine. Dave painted several posters for Big Daddy Roth. In 1965, David went to work in the mailroom at Scheffer Studios in Kansas city, where he met an architectural renderer, Dave Poole, who taught him
the precise craft that Dave has incorporated into his fanciful art for the last 30 years. By 1967, David developed into a full-fledged architectural renderer, learning careful detail, exacting dimension, and mechanical perspective. He also studied at the Kansas City Art Institute. Then in 1971, Dave discovered a new magazine with a twist—Easyriders! It was the first full-fledged, lifestyle-related bike rag. Since the third issue, Dave has followed—and in some aspects led—the industry by capturing the essence of a changing lifestyle on the center- spreads of Easyriders. Regarding the future of custom bikes, David said, “I see many builders going the way of the full-fendered bikes, and I love ‘em. But, like you, I will always be a chopper rider at heart.” Dave recently returned to his old stomping grounds in Missouri where he’ll no doubt rediscover the roots responsible for the illustrator’s living legacy. We’ll be here to see what Dave has up his sleeve next.