Charlie Smith was born in Sedalia, Missouri and spent his youth in a black leather jacket and his school days reading rod and custom magazines. He learned fast and was quick in assimilating the nuances of the hot rod culture that he gleaned from those rod & custom car “little books” of the fifties and early sixties. Before even having a drivers license, he was pinstriping, painting and lettering hot rods and race cars for actually more than just cigarette money. When he was 16, he was already rolling around town in a cool ‘51 Ford custom he’d built, and soon caught a gig with a local custom shop. While still in his teens, he was able to design, build and paint cars professionaly, as well as trick out his own ride on the side. Prior to being drafted into the Army, he spent a couple of years working for an outdoor advertising company, designing and painting signs and driving a lowdown pearl ‘62 T-Bird with “blackwalls” and “Mickey Thompson mags” to work.
After a tour of duty in Germany where he met his wife Gerda, Charlie stayed overseas after discharge. He now credits the European experience with broadening his artistic horizons. When he returned to the states he decided on formal training for his creative ambitions and afterwards he landed work with a National printing company as a design consultant. Later, during the mid-seventies, he opened up his own design firm and, working through advertising agencies and individual clients, he created commercial graphics and illustration. This led to magazine illustration, science fiction art and contact with numerous “Rock & Roll” clients. I suppose we might mention that at about this time, Charlie wrote music while managing a band to boot.
Returning to his automotive roots in the early eighties, he shifted his emphasis to the imprinted sportswear industry. He formed his own company, Top Flite Concepts, and proceeded to stand everyone on their ears by creating an award winning line of rod & custom shirt designs that are considered timeless collectible classics even today. While his subsequent automotive artwork was getting published in major magazines, he became heavily involved in working with top builders, designing radical custom cars and automotive related products. Since then, his pioneering design work has become an inspiration to all, and with Motorburg as his primary venue for artistic release in the twenty-first century, Charlie appears to have only scratched the surface of artistic endeavor.