The late Bill Hines customized cars for more than half a century. Here he’s seen with one of his most well known jobs, Tats Gotanda’s “Buddha Buggy,” shortly after it was removed from storage in 2005. The lifted ’59 later received a full restoration to its early-’60s guise.

The late Bill Hines customized cars for more than half a century. Here he’s seen with one of his most well known jobs, Tats Gotanda’s “Buddha Buggy,” shortly after it was removed from storage in 2005. The lifted ’59 later received a full restoration to its early-’60s guise.

We’re sorry to report that legendary leadslinger Bill Hines passed away early this morning. He was 94.

Bill was an artist in lead and a master craftsman whose career spanned more than seven decades. Originally from Pennsylvania, he learned the basics of bodywork while living in Detroit. By the time he was in his early 20s, he started customizing with a chopped ’41 Buick. After short stints at the Alexander Brothers and Barris shops, he settled in Southern California to work for Barris full-time. In the post-Barris years, he continued working out of his own shop in Long Beach.

All customizers have their signature cars, and for Bill, it was his “Lil Bat.” The Bat was based on a ’50 Ford that he had chopped and fitted with sweeping tailfins while still living in Detroit. It went through several iterations before landing a spot on the cover of Rod & Custom in March 1959.

Jim Semon, a teenager from Sandusky, Ohio, snapped these photos of Hines’ Lil Bat outside the Barris shop while he was on his cross-country road trip in 1958. This earlier version sports Cadillac sombreros, a solid black paint job and ’58 Michigan tags. We told the story of the trip in TRJ #50.

Jim Semon, a teenager from Sandusky, Ohio, snapped these photos of Hines’ Lil Bat outside the Barris shop while he was on his cross-country road trip in 1958. This earlier version sports Cadillac sombreros, a solid black paint job and ’58 Michigan tags. We told the story of the trip in TRJ #50.

Bill Hines has leaded his name into the history books. He dedicated his life to his craft, and he continued to build and customize into his 90s. Throughout the day, the web and social media have been abuzz with heartwarming tributes to “The Leadslinger.” Our hobby won’t be the same without you, Bill. We send our condolences to the Hines family and custom fans across the globe.

The Barris team poses with “Chili” Catallo’s now-famous “Silver Sapphire” ’32 outside his shop in this early-’60s photo. From left to right, the group includes Catallo, George Barris, Junior Conway, Curly Hulbert and Bill.

The Barris team poses with “Chili” Catallo’s now-famous “Silver Sapphire” ’32 outside his shop in this early-’60s photo. From left to right, the group includes Catallo, George Barris, Junior Conway, Curly Hulbert and Bill.