After receiving some tragic news a few days ago I was taken back to a brief but incredibly memorable friendship that started online between a painter from down under Australia and a Hot Rod enthusiast from the Big Island of Hawaii both crazy about flames!

The year was 2008 I was busy custom painting cars and bikes in my home town of the Gold Coast Australia. My wife was building businesses online and helped me publish a digital ebook Titled “Airbrushing Flames Made Easy”. It turned out to be really popular and I would often receive emails from all over the world from purchasers of my ebook along with photos of their own attempts at painting flames… thanking me for sharing my tricks. But this one particular morning we received an email from a man named Eric from Hawaii who had a rat rod and dreamed of having a set of killer flames painted on it. Eric explained that he wanted a professional job and was asking if my ebook would be able to help him achieve the result he was after. He jokingly said “maybe I should just get Stuart to fly over to Hawaii and paint them for me!” Only my wife Larissa didn’t take it as a joke and the next thing I knew we were both on a plane heading to Hawaii to paint Eric’s Rat Rod!

The deal was Eric would pay my airfares to Hawaii from Australia in exchange for a set of kick ass flames… and that’s how our Hawaiian adventure began! In fact it was my first real experience flying out of Australia to another country so I was really excited for the adventure.

Larissa and I decided to make a holiday out of it and fly into Canada first where we visited Vancouver and Whistler which were both amazing experiences. After a week or so sightseeing we boarded our flight to Honolulu Hawaii where we would stay one night and then fly to The Big Island where we would meet Eric and his wife Sue at the airport.

To our delight Eric and Sue greeted us with frangipani Lei’s and then drove us to their beautiful home which was set on the side of an inactive volcano with incredible ocean views!

Eric and Sue were so warm and welcoming and allowed us to stay in their self contained guest accommodation in the bottom level of their home. It was a tropical paradise and we felt so blessed to be here. I can clearly remember the first conversations we had together exchanging Yanky and Aussie slang….such a crack up!

This is Eric and Sue trying Vegemite for the first time lol.

Eric insisted that there would be no work on his car until he took us sight seeing around the island for the first couple of days, which we were not about to complain about!

We snorkelled in this crystal clear water and swam with tropical fish and turtles… it was like swimming in an aquarium.

This was Eric and Sue’s little business… “The Snack Wagon” they explained how they both lived the corporate life on the mainland of America for many years and wanted out… so this was their escape to paradise!

“The Rat” with a new set of flames!

One proud owner and me…forever grateful for the memories made.

Sadly Eric lost his life on the 12th of June 2021, while working on another custom build project. He was only 1 week from finishing it and just about to retire from work when it came off the jacks while working underneath it. He will be deeply missed by his wife Sue, his family and all those who had the pleasure of knowing him.