‘Sign of the Times’ – Daniel Klyn Interview
Daniel Klyn is a man that needs little introduction to those that have been about racing for a few years. He is known as the man behind the brushes producing top quality signwriting jobs, but there is a lot more to know than just that. Bryson caught up with Dan about his career, some personal highlights, and his induction into the Caged Hall of Fame.
Dan, like most, was introduced into racing at a very early age, with dad, Robin (63), being a regular driver on the East Anglian scene, cementing his legacy among the greats with his Trackstar World Championship win in 1992. Dan recalls some of his early memories, “my dad raced from around 1975 at Pott Row and Swaffham, and I was born in 1979 so I pretty much went as a baby. My early memories of racing are being at Swaffham when it still had a mud bank, that was around 1985. Then it became regular travelling, so Swaffham, Boston, Skegness, Mildenhall – all were post and rope back then and Mildenhall was a lot bigger than now.” Obviously it’s clear to see that as a kid growing up, Dan witnessed the heyday of the East Anglia scene, and it was a those tracks where Dan remembers some of the funner times. “One of the main fun things that stick out for me was being able to stand by the pit gate at Mildenhall. You would be really close to the wires, and get absolutely covered in shale!” Dan also reminisced about some of his cheekier times growing up, and I’m sure most people that grew up around the same time can relate. “I remember when we used to go to Boston, and I would stand in the line to collect my Dad’s prize money from Hazel, and I’d always check what was in the brown envelope.”
It’s clear to see that growing up around the ovals, in particular the bangers, made a big impact on Dan’s life with the way he recalls those memories so fondly, so it may come as a shock to some that Dan’s racing career never really took off. “I was 18 when I done my first meeting. I only did a few meetings myself. I had a good outing in a banger where I managed to follow in a few people in the same race which was enjoyable, and I raced a 1300 Stock Car at Arena Essex too.”
Dan’s passion is clear now, he puts in hours upon hours signwriting, but it wasn’t always the aim. Dan recalls very humble beginnings. “I always enjoyed some form of drawing at school. With my dad racing, it just started with just doing some bits on his cars. It was hard starting out, as there wasn’t the likes of the internet to find materials, so I had to just use whatever paint was laying around. I used to borrow a few paint brushes from school out of art lessons!” Dan chuckles as he embraces old memories, but he informs that the signwriting was never something he set out to do, it was just something he enjoyed. However, it didn’t take long before the hobby turned into a full time job. “I went into college from school to do leisure management; basically swimming pool and leisure facilities, so I continued doing people’s cars in my spare time. It was November 2001 it became a full time job – I needed to get 13 cars done for Firecracker and Wimbledon for the World Final, and I had no annual leave left, so I thought I’ll quit my job as I need to do these cars.”
When Dan first started on the brushes, there wasn’t a great deal of others mastering their craft, but he identifies those that had their influence on him. “In East Anglia there were two signwriters called Paul Dennis and Paul Booty, they did a lot of the cars around Trackstar, so they were the names then but I always used to look around our area (Kings Lynn), and see a lot of vans and trucks signed by an old bloke that gave the view of signwriting that you need to be neat, proportional and spaced correctly and that’s what I’ve found makes your stuff look good.”
Going through the interview with Dan, he began reeling off names of those that he signed cars for ‘pre job’ days, with 41 Willie Skoyles, 88 Speedy Read, 147 Andrew/158 Shane Davies and 22 Dave Vincent all being among those that gave him the opportunity to add his touch to their cars. It’s takes time to master a craft, and it’s fair to say that Dan is the master of his craft, still turning out stunning looking jobs now, but you can see the difference between cars when he first started, compared to now. That isn’t down to a change in quality, but it’s evident that styles have adapted over the years to suit desirability. Dan recalls how he adapts to learning new things. “Learning script writing was difficult, as it’s generally just one brush stroke or line, and you only get that one chance at it. That took some time to master, but with luck and skill, as well as pushing myself to do it, I sussed it.”
We’ve identified it so many times at Caged, but over the years, trends in bangers differed dramatically. One of the key changes around the signwriting was that it became a more prominent sight, shifting from drivers having their cars done just for the big meetings, to normal domestic meetings having top paint too. Dan comments on these changes, “with the demand for normal banger meetings, I began doing a lot of jobs for Arena Essex and Mildenhall meetings around 2002/2003. There was so many good meetings back then though, at least two a month, so I found people liked them done for them. I think it was also a bit of me being new to it, and doing it as a job, people had the opportunity to get them done.”
However, it is still the World Final where Dan’s main focal point is; after all, it is one of the showcase of events on the banger calendar. “The spectator/fans don’t get to see all of the effort that goes on behind the scenes. In the 2-3 weeks leading up to World Final I’m often working 7 day weeks, late night shifts, up until 2am on some occasions in my garage – it isn’t fun, but after doing cars for everyone all year, you make time to fit everyone in!” Whilst on the topic of the World Final, and cars that Dan has had the pleasure of signwriting, he recalls some of his stand out cars and memories. “There’s cars that have taken around 13-14 hours to complete across two days due to the sheer detail. The main ones like 516 Gouldy’s red Mk1 Granada, and 331 Boxer Jack’s gold Mk2 Granada Estate, but there has probably been around 20 cars I’ve done like that. The 2000 World Final I started with 2 cars, 41 Willie Skoyles and 88 Speedy Read. The following year I done 8 or 9 cars, but by the time the 2004 World Final came round, I’d signed 27 cars that year of which 21 were in the main race. Since then I’ve done at least 20 cars a year for the World Final, so I’d say at least 220+ cars, with around 150 being in the main race over the 21 years. All that means is that I’m old now,” laughed Dan. “I dread it each year trying to fit everyone in, but we get there, it just means working weekends before – it just gets harder each year!” Dan is the first to admit that keeping up with demand is harder is year, but it shows his determined character and the fact that he doesn’t want to let people down.
With all of the cars that Dan has signed over the years, surely there has to be some where he thought they looked to good to race. “There has been loads over the years,” Dan admits, “there has been plenty of rod and stock car stuff but banger wise, ones that stand out are a trio of 670 Tricky’s (Richard Flockton) cars – his yellow Toyota Crown Custom, white Mk1 Ford Granada and white Westy. The Mk2 Ford Granada that 147 Andrew Davies won the 2001 PRI World Final in. In recent times, Boxer’s burnt orange Jaguar XJ from the 2019 World Final and 209 Tom Waller’s orange Mk1 Ford Granada, but there’s just too many too list!”
As expected, the life of a signwriter sees Dan out on the road for most of his career, and he has plenty of stories to share from his time on the road of drivers’ that made more than the usual impression. “Pretty much everyone’s good to me; keeping me with a cup of tea and food. 206 Kingy (Dave King) was always a top bloke! I typically only went to his once a year, but we’d end up in a cafe, then have lunch, and then Chinese at his all in the same day! Tricky always welcomed me, and I often stayed at his around World Final time when doing cars that way. Shane, Andrew and Steve Davies were great in the early days, we’d often end up going out for beers, and I even went on holiday to Corfu with them and a few others.” Dan reflects on those days with a smile, but admits he is more focused on getting his work done and heading home these days. “Recently I just want to get the work done, but I still wind up having a laugh and joke with most. Glyn Platts (450) is someone who I can never tell if he is taking the piss, or being deadly serious and it gets me every time. Most people I’ll have banter with, that’s just my personality, but it makes the day go better.”
When Dan discussed many of his racing memories, and drivers in which he has had the pleasure of signwriting cars for, you cannot help but notice the amount of star power that he name drops, but he appreciates each and everyone that has every hired him to do their car. “Every driver is important, but when it comes to champions and top drivers it’s always nice.” Given the star-studded list of names, there are a few drivers that Dan wishes he had the opportunity to do cars for. “I’ve been fortunate to do cars for a lot of top drivers past and present, so the fact I’ve been asked by them is something I take pride in. Drivers that stand out that I haven’t done are 303 Dougie George – the first World Final I went to was 1990, the year he won, and to me his driving ability was second to none. He was so consistent and the sound of the Triumph was good. 7 Colin Farley, was a good driver and won the World Final twice. 249 Polo was one of the best drivers in a banger, but he proved he could do by winning in 2l Hot Rods. 6 Mark Holdsworth; an Incarace legend and a World Final winner.”.
Whilst on topic, it felt the perfect opportunity to include Dan’s Top 10 drivers from bangers, several of whom Dan has touched upon throughout the interview.
6 Mark Holdsworth
7 Colin Farley
41 Willie Skoyles
120 Shane Brown
147 Andrew Davies
158 Shane Davies
249 Mark Boulden
303 Dougie George
331 Jason Jackson
617 Jack Overy
Dan sums his top 10 with a simple “no parked car merchants allowed!”
Having touched upon his signwriting career over the main part of the interview, it’s only right we take a look into other fond memories of racing that Dan has. “After going to Wimbledon to watch the World Finals as a kid, to then going to watch and seeing them put the 6 smartest cars on the centre and 5 of them were mine. That was special, as four years previous I’d never done a car for the meeting. Seeing your cars there at the meeting, and for them to be regarded as the best, that was mad, and something I’ll never forget. I was also stood behind two gents at Wimbledon in around 2003/2004, they didn’t know me, and they were talking about me and my work, luckily it was all positive.” It is clear that Dan takes great pride in his work, and it’s evident that it is reflected in his work, and why we are here inducting him into the hall of fame. Dan shares more memories, “the main thing I reflect on now is how many people I have signwritten cars for that I watched as a kid, that’s another thing that is crazy! Another memory is sitting in the commentary box at Arena Essex, sitting beside Rob Porter whilst he was commentating and a friend was recording for Race Video. It was a bizarre moment, having watched there for years.”
Dan has some tips for anybody looking to get into the signwriting industry. “Times are different now. All the stuff you will find on the internet, and there’s also YouTube bits that might be helpful to people. Don’t get me wrong, I still signwrite so many cars, but my work has also involved me with the likes of VISA, AA , ISS , ACAS , University of Law & the government, so times have changed and banger wise there aren’t so many meetings and drivers around but that shouldn’t halt anyone, so do what I did and just give it a go and try to be confident and persevere. That is the main thing. I overheard a piss take comment from a drivers brother in the bar at Swaffham when I was 17 years old saying I wouldn’t be any good or be able to do it. The best thing was I got that phone call from that driver to do a car so just shows, keep at it and put the effort in and you’ll proof people wrong.”
Dan leaves the interview with some final comments, and thanks the Caged Nation for taking the time to read. “ I hope people enjoy an insight of what’s involved, although it can be a bloody headache at times, I’d never change a thing about it. I’ll always do cars and hopefully leave a mark on racing with what I do and for people to enjoy the cars that are produced, and to make them special meetings good when they look at them in the pits or the internet nowadays. I’ve worked for and met some of the drivers my dad had run-ins with on track at racing, like 555 Sam Gelsthorp, 323 Billy Storr and 617 Jack Overy to name a few and the conversations have been fun. I’ve seen loads of my cars win world finals and championships, and that creates a great feeling and is nice to see the pictures years on from it. I’ve been to Devon, Kent, Surrey, London, Birmingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Darlington, Yorkshire, Holland, Belgium and Germany; pretty much all over. Thanks to everyone who helped me one way or another, as long as racing is around here’s to another 20 years of Dan Klyn Signs!”