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A Light Comes On

Been having one of those weird times again where I question everything… Kind of caught between wanting to just jump ship and move on to new things, but knowing that the timing isn’t quite right yet. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m lucky to do something that I’m marginally decent at, but I’ve been seeking some sense of fulfillment, some understanding that what I do can matter.

And along comes my pal DW, and things got a little clearer.

I’m a big believer in the philosophy that you meet people or experience things for a reason, and making friends with him some years back has proven that way of thinking correct over and over. Man, you know I can’t thank you enough for the times you’ve set my head straight.

When DW had asked me some years back if we could include a few line drawings in shipments from Welder Series as coloring pages for customer’s kids, I thought “why not! It could be cool.” It offered a chance for the kids to get something they might use, and maybe spend time with Dad. The hot rodding thing all starts someplace, after all… Might be a car show for some, building a scale model at the kitchen table for others. Perhaps some kid will look back on coloring with their father one evening. And then I saw his post regarding just how those sketches were being used.

From his post:

color-them

Know here and now that every act can have some effect, whether seen or unseen, and may take place right in front of you or far away. Had I not read DW’s post, or had his customer not shared what his wife had chosen to do, I’d still be happy hoping that some kid was enjoying them. Knowing that a teacher cared enough about the kids in her care to go an extra step and inspire them is far beyond icing on the cake… It’s proof of concept that the plans we have in the works here CAN work. And “work” is certainly the key word in all of this. But it’s that sort of work that I enjoy more than anything.

Thanks to DW and his family at Welder Series, and thanks to his customer for taking that step to show his wife the coloring pages, and then to her for going that extra mile… and man, thanks for shining that light this way. I think I’d have seen it even if things had been a lot brighter all around, but having it come on when it was darker really made me appreciate it even more. And that made a LOT of things very, very clear indeed.

When Did Hot Rodding Become Hip Hop?

bedalle hip hop rodding

A little piece I threw down for Tubbed Magazine. Stop by and enjoy the second coming of Pro-Street.

Think back to your first memorable experience that set your fate as a “car guy.” Don’t let nostalgia sway you, just blurt it out. Just roll with the first one that comes to mind.

I’d be willing to bet that it had nothing at all to do with what anyone else thought of you. Taking that a yep further, I’d sweeten that bet by adding that it had nothing to do with fame or money. While one or two of you may have though about the guy with the bitchin’ ride in your hometown that got all of the girls  or that every other guy wanted to be, that seems pretty normal, and had nothing to do with defining just who you were. It started with the car, right?

Along that patch of blacktop we all travel on our way to becoming full-fledged car guys, we all get a taste of the pride that comes with a thumbs-up at a stoplight, or the strangers wanting to discuss our cars and the one they had “just like it” back in the day. Ego always grows a bit to fill those freshly upholstered bucket seats, and it’s all fine if you know how to keep it in check. And if you had any car guy friends worth anything, they knew how to help you keep that in check. It’s what good friends do.

It’s a family.

Compare your memories to what any kid coming into what remains of the hobby today will know it as:
A bunch of posturing and ego-driven, money-hungry wannabe celebrities driving catalog-sourced vehicles destined to provide big returns at auction. In an entitlement-driven, fame-is-everything era, we’re losing the real car guys and builders to a steady stream of TV stars and project managers. It’s an awful lot like Hip Hop and reality TV: Just a load of “look at me” bullshit with no redeeming value. And having already conquered reality TV, it’s not a far stretch to see the whole thing sink to a level of commerce-driven stereotypes telling you what’s cool this week, and making everything so base and trend-driven that they’ll be left with little choice but to either cannibalize the damned thing, or just leave it to die and move to the next.

Let’s roll with the whole Hip Hop analogy. Let’s create a fictional car guy who maybe came into the scene in the late-1970’s. He’s stoked about these “Pro-Street” cars, and can’t get enough of the look. It becomes in his mind the right look: Big, fat tires out back, a rake, skinny tires up front, and perhaps some form of induction poking though the hood. The essentials are in place. Our budding car guy is exposed to cars like Joe Ruggirello’s Mustang II or Lisk’s Challenger or Kollofsky’s ’55 Chevy (side note: Anyone else find it coincidental that all of these guys have names befitting a cool character or bad-ass cop in a movie?) or any other of a series of killer, pro-style bruisers. And much as any fan of what would come to be called “Hip-Hop” would have heard Grandmaster Flash or the Cold Crush Brothers early on and been drawn to it for the unique approach and the imagery it inspired in anyone outside of the Bronx, what would come to named “Pro-Street” did likewise to anyone who never cruised Woodward.

While Hip Hop evolved by taking outside influences from funk and soul to new wave and even punk, Pro-Street did likewise, borrowing from Street Freaks and Street Rods and other places, always looking to raise the bar just a touch. And, like anything gaining popularity, each had a stand-out that came to be the face of the movement: Hop Hop had acts like Run DMC, and we scored with names like Sullivan, Dobbertin and Hay (they could play the law firm in that film idea mention earlier). And in that popularity of a select few, we can trace the evolution of each, mans see the ongoing influences applied to shape just where each might head.

Like anything that goes popular, there exists the danger of haven it buckle under its own weight. While Pro-Street suffered from a number of ills, we could blame the decline on magazine saturation and constant competition to be the next big thing, with cars adding more extreme power plants and detailing and so-on, that it just became a caricature of itself, and begged for something to step in and rebel against it. We wound up with Pro-Touring, which didn’t seem to heed its own warnings, and is finding itself on a similar path. As for Hip Hop, it changed from a creative ocean of experimentation and arrangement to a soul-less money farm in the 1990’s (oh, the similarities between Hip Hop and Pro-Street are many, kids), and eventually a sad joke with all of the “gangsta” posturing and crunk-style bragging. (Side note 2: Consider that Dr. Seuss coined the phrase “crunk car” back in the 1970’s, and you start to feel all lightheaded, right? Scary how that works.) Where Hip Hop and its offspring found their way into the mainstream via MTV and radio play, hot rodding was doing likewise via major events, magazines and videos. TV wouldn’t be far behind.

It’s not such a far reach then, to  compare Hip Hop and Hot Rodding. Each became a pale version of its former self once television became a part of the marketing. Hell, we could take this little notion on a whole other ride, but let’s settle on the marketing of each as being hand-in-hand harbinger of destruction forthe movement. Don’t get me wrong, I get the money thing… We all need to eat. But when the problems come banging down the doors, they usually look like the fresh-from-College guys from Marketing. And when they come visiting, even the goldfish stop swimming, if you get my drift. The dollar signs flash, and it’s off to the races. On the music side, it becomes about selling the image of what Marketing thinks that it should be, with reference to moving product (as Yogurt the Wise taught us so many moons ago, the real money is in merchandising). You craft an image, and get the kids to buy into that.  On the car side, it’s eerily similar: Craft an image of what someone outside of the whole thing thinks it should be (based upon what the data shows will sell), and run with it, facts be damned if need be. Understanding that, it’s not so difficult to see why we had shows like Orange County Choppers or, keeping with the theme, Pimp My Ride. On one hand, you had screaming and yelling and time crunch drama because, by golly, that has to be how it is in a real shop, right? The natural outgrowth was American Hot Rod, Wrecks to Riches and their ilk. They appealed to the “behind the scenes” exclusivity gene which TV inserted into the genetic code, and never mind how skewed from reality it might be… Just cash that check and find more shit to fight about. Take that a step further in the appeal to “you can sell these cars and make money!” idea, and by golly, the shows practically write themselves. I am convinced that there are but two formulas for any reality-based show:

1. The Shop as setting for drama (family, client/shop, contest, money or otherwise) formula,
2. The find it/buy it/fix it up/sell for profit/repeat formula

…each of which may be seasoned to taste by adding celebrity appearances, surprises, some form of competition, pranks or canned “tech tips” wherever holes appear in the story line. Take a long, hard look at Monster Garage and tell me it isn’t so. Shit, get a hold of a script from Lords of the Car Hoards, Unique Whips, Leepu and Pitbull or Fast N Loud, mix them all up, and I’d bet that a seven year old could put a season’s worth of shows together at random, and you’d never be able to tell the difference. You could do likewise with any current Hip Hop video premise. It’s not about telling a story or building a cool car; it’s about who can brag the loudest. And that opens the door to really scary things, and can usher outcomes like not unlike the Lucifer Effect, as postulated by Philip Zimbardo (aka the Stanford Prison Experiment), wherein the wheels can be put into motion that make a good person do some really twisted evil things. I mean, what would the dollar amount be for you to sell out and bastardize the car hobby you love? Roll with your first instinct. That’s a lot of fucking zeros, isn’t it? And that’s chump change when the Advertising Department bros get involved (and you thought that little fishie was holding still earlier? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet). And when the image consultants and writers come to play, you’ll hardly recognize yourself. It doesn’t take a lot to go from singing about your sneakers over a sampled loop to bragging about the women you slept with in the penthouse last week and how big the rims on your SUV are when the residuals roll in.

And that’s where we stand today: It’s not about some guy with a cool 1970’s action movie cop name building a kick-ass machine that will set your synapses afire, blazing a whole new path for thought across your brain or even mashing two things together that have never been mashed before. It’s about having some money guy or project manager (at best) playing the douche (OK, sometimes it’s not a stretch for the guy. As a wise man once told me, “Only two kinds of people wear sunglasses indoors: Rock stars and assholes. Be on the lookout for a guitar.”) and creating some filler to top with ad sales. It’s loosely connected product placement opportunities designed to make the numbers so that Trent and Blaine in the front office can keep that tee time. You don;t have the imagination or thrill of discovery involved with your entry to the hobby anymore. Instead, you have an image to play up to, and try to out-douche so that you can make your own mark and score that show.

After all, it isn’t about the cars anymore, unless they’re a prop for your bitches to lean against while you pose with jewelry and assorted gold-plated handguns. While I can appreciate how anyone uninitiated into the family that is hot rodding can fall for this, you can bet your ass that I’ll be stepping into frame and doing my best to drop knowledge on Quick Mix Theory and Bill Jenkins’ Pro Stock Vega.

Builder VS Accessory Installer

patina squarebody
I was recently asked an interesting, if not loaded question:
 
“Why do you hate patina builds?”
 
And that had the effect of pissing me off, because it proves that very few of these motherfuckers read anything beyond a word or two. I don’t “hate” patina. That would be a logical impossibility, or at the very last a psychotic reaction to something meaningless on any scale of importance, no matter how pathetic or sheltered your life may be. It simply wouldn’t make its way onto my list of things I truly give a shit about if I had to carry that list deep into the ten thousandth power.
 
“A better way to phrase this,” I responded, “would be to ask why I hold little respect for calling them ‘builds’ in the first place. And I say ‘little’ because with anything, there may always be an exception. I like to leave room for that, just in case.”
 
There is no design. There is no requirement of planning, beyond shopping in a catalog for what parts to replace with new bolt-in’s. It is an act of pure accessorizing, with apologies to that word for lessening its meaning in this respect. Unless you are creating an entirely new chassis, engineering fresh parts and whatnot to make this particular “barn find” (and for fuck’s sake, enough applying that word to every damned vehicle that has oxidized paint – if you literally discover a barn lost to the ages, and there is a mystery vehicle inside of that building, then yes, you have a barn FIND. We have been over this ad nauseam.) into something far outside of anything seen before in functionality, then you’re simply cloning the last 600 features from that magazine, you half-wit. To say that you “designed” a patina “build” is tantamount to saying that you “invented” a new dish for dinner, because you accidentally spilled canned chili on the spaghetti. Your reference to yourself as a “builder” or “designer” are what I’d refer to as “a real head-scratcher”, or maybe something closer to “obscenely over-optimistic”. What you do is truly something that anyone with some hand tools and general knowledge could pull off. It’s the color-by-number of the hot rod world. If it weren’t, there would be some variety. Think about it.
 
I view this “barn find, patina truck” scene as the dope-addled cousin of the “rat rod” movement: It’s a cliched caricature of anything it set out to be. These guys thought that a crusty exterior, set on a stance that looks broken at best was a way to be unique… a rebellion against a “sea of red ’32 Fords.” Now we have a sea of rusty C-10’s on smoothie wheels that look like the suspension just gave up. Sweet turn radius, pal. Almost as cool as that flat-brimmed hat holding your ears in. Can never be too safe.

I work my days away trying to help clients get the most of their vision into a build. I enjoy the guys who have PASSION and drive. That willingness to dive in and create something unique… an expression of an emotion in a mechanical object. These are the clients and the sort of car guys I want to be around, and enjoy the company of. On the other hand, I see the “patina” guys as looking for the quickest buy-in, and can’t jump that hurdle.

 
In fact, when you consider it, calling yourself a “builder” if all you do is slap a few parts, smoothie wheels and some airbags from a catalog under a rusty vehicle, that’s like playing the video game Rock Band, and calling yourself a “musician”. I certainly wouldn’t sign you on. Besides, I’ve heard that song played correctly a million times before. Even your best note-for-note rendition brings on a yawn no matter how ironic that retro script is across the face of your late-model amp.

Scratching the Surface

unrestored super bee emblem

My earliest memories are loaded with inquisitive adventures. I was one of those kids who would take everything apart to examine and explore all of the inner workings of virtually anything I could get my hands on, just to see what made it function. Occasionally, I’d manage to put everything back in some semblance of working order, as well, which had the effect of encouraging my seek-and-dismantle missions. Oh, certainly, there were misadventures, and the Frankenstein-ing of a few, less-than-fortunate items into, well, objects whose end purpose was quizzical at best, and dangerous at worst, but it fed a child’s mind, and paved a few neural pathways with some rudimentary engineering knowledge.

patina VS restored

It’s no surprise, then, that I became fascinated with cars over time. That fascination grew from bicycles (as most of us in this car thing start out) to nearly anything mechanical. The function of some machine is a marvel on nearly every level, from the very idea for the machine, to the design, to the final step of manufacturing, it’s a nearly-miraculous series of events that bring such things into our lives. When you stop to consider all of the intricately connected things that need to occur to create something that works, it’s mind-boggling! Imagine, then, just what has to happen to create an automobile, with the many systems and subsystems which need to function in some sort of harmony; having so many computers and sensors in a new vehicle, the sheer number of things working together is exponential. If you look only at the surface, at the sum of the parts, a mechanical creation like the automobile becomes almost magical. But, if you scratch the surface, a whole other world opens up.

I mention this obsession of mine simply to set the stage for an even deeper fascination I have for what happens to a machine when it is no longer deemed ‘useful’. That tipping point wherein someone makes the decision to park or part with a machine that has either become less reliable, or perhaps even inoperable. Having that ‘need to see what makes anything tick’ personality trait, I’m also burdened with the constant whispering of ‘we can fix that!’ in my brain. That urge to dig in, and see just where the trouble might be. As a self-described automotive archaeologist, I feel this urge, this need to discover the story behind the car, the owner(s), the events which conspired to place a particular car at that specific place and time… The adventures, the trials, the memories made in and around the time that car was in the care of whomever it was while all of these things were occurring. I’m the kind of guy who utilizes a mental list of the cars I’ve owned as a key to the events that occurred in my life at a particular time. It’s a way to mark a timeline, and cements that car as a part of who I am, or was to become, be it based upon a repair I learned to make on that car, or even a simple memory of the exhaust note. Knowing that one or two of my past rides is being preserved and made a part of someone else’s life gets a little warm and fuzzy feeling going, and when I see an old machine brought back from the brink and being used by someone else who appreciates this particular love for mechanized mysteries, well, it’s game on for me. I want to hear the tales, listen as someone recalls the good old days, or imagine what happened during those gaps in a car’s history.

unrestored pace car retored challenger pace car

Walking the grounds at the Carlisle All-Chrysler Nationals some time back, I was surrounded by many examples of beautifully preserved and restored examples from the brand’s past. Spending hours looking over the survivor cars on hand (there was a great display of Mopar Survivors under a special tent, by the way, showcasing a number of very well-preserved cars), both in the show proper, as well as the car corral and swap meet, I found my attention drawn back to a certain few cars that were, well, somewhat worse for wear, cosmetically. Cars with some great age and patina, working together to create some outstanding character. Every dent, crack in the vinyl, faded stripe or rock-chipped emblem quietly whispering its tale. My ears were certainly tuned-in and ready to hear of each incident and passing year.

barn find super bee

Just why I was attracted to these cars was no mystery: That love for all things mechanical, with the added bonus of the story. Those missing puzzle pieces to explain why this car was left outdoors, or forgotten about, or even neglected were bouncing around in my mind. And, as an artist, the textures and patterns of the paint chips and rust and weathering were simple mesmerizing. The blemishes and dents and cracks and checks on the surface that tell part of the tale, leaving the rest just below to be discovered. On a few grand occasions, I’d spot a preserved or restored example of a car I’d just seen in weathered condition, and to compare the two begged the question:

If you were to find a complete original, but weathered example of your dream car, would you leave it alone visually, opting only to repair and update the mechanical parts to make it road-worthy, or dive in and restore it? Granted, you could have your cake and eat it, too, by working out some mechanical and safety issues and enjoying it as a time capsule, and then go for the restoration. Being of the inquisitive sort, as we explored earlier, either path might prove a challenge for me. On one hand, having an untouched piece of history would be incredible, in that I’d be afforded a vehicle to explore some mysteries, and could research and fill in the holes, all while preserving it in as-found condition. On the other hand, I could tear into it, and make some discoveries about its past as I took it back through time to as-new condition, and cater to that side of my brain that just wants to tinker with something, and (hopefully) improve upon it.

What would you do? Taking that a step further, what memories are you making in your currently-owned ride (be it new, old, restored, or even a barn-fresh time capsule) and are you taking any steps to document the car for future automotive archaeologists to enjoy?

A Visit to the Shrine of Stein

max wedge master

While the Max Wedge reached its pinnacle in 1964, when the Stage III version was released, the legacy lives on in the garage of Mr. Jerry Stein. One of the most respected of the Stock Eliminator racers, Jerry managed to not only have a career as a Physical Education teacher, but raise a family as well, all while besting the bigger-budget ‘other’ makes on the track. As a young man, I had looked up to what Jerry was achieving, and simply marveled at what ingenuity and creativity, coupled with a deep understanding of the mechanics involved could produce. In Jerry’s case, it was success after success on the strip, netting him NHRA records, and a very impressive collection of trophies and accolades.

I was honored with the opportunity to visit with Jerry as a stop on the Dart Road Trip, riding along with another of my automotive heroes, Mr. Steve Magnante! Never could I have imagined riding shotgun with a walking encyclopedia of all things Mopar, but to stop with him and visit Jerry Stein, and see, in person, not one, but two of the Teacher’s Pet cars! It made for a number of raised-pulse moments with every turn and glance around Jerry’s garage, and certainly etched that afternoon deep into my brain. Rather than clutter what was indeed a tremendously visual visit to the garage of Mr. Jerry Stein, I thought it best to approach this entry much the same way as I did:

In quiet reverence of the incredible history and collection of rare and just plain cool parts and pieces contained within. Enjoy.

max wedge 426

jerry stein
The man himself, revisiting some great memories.

lightweight max wedge car and parts
Just a peek at a small portion of Jerry’s collection of parts and pieces… not to mention two versions of the famous Teacher’s Pet.

more parts
max wedge crossram manifold
While some may offer their eye teeth for one, Jerry has some Max Wedge intakes stacked like fire wood in his garage.

timing cover 426 max wedge
lightweight max wedge hood
max wedge car
door lettering
lightweight fenders
max wedge lightweight aluminum fender

Aluminum front end pieces? Yeah, Jerry has those, as well. Consider what seeing these did to my inner 14 year-old: I had only read about these as a car-obsessed kid… and there I was on a sunny NJ day, staring down a pair of aluminum fenders, resting atop a Max Wedge car, in Jerry Stein’s garage. With Steve Magnante. Mind blown.

Consider just how cool this is… Aluminum pieces used for weight savings back then would have been considered exotic. My Challenger has an aluminum hood, and the weight-saving materials on the Dart Rallye we drove to Jerry’s place, along with the technology on board, would have seemed far beyond exotic in the days of the Max Wedge cars. Having both the Dart and the classic racing parts and cars in one police was a study in contrasts to be certain, yet, the logical progression from drag strip to fuel-efficient thinking  and design seems quite natural. Following this visit, my mind has been working over-time on some ideas to combine the power-hungry Max Wedge days with the modern day Dart, but more on that in a future blog. At that moment I saw the aluminum fenders in question, it was as though I had peered back through time on a number of levels.

As an aside: Growing up, I was (and remain to this day) a custom car fanatic. Taking the aluminum front end story a step or two beyond the lightweight racing purpose, consider how, just a year after the Max Wedge cars dominated, the mighty Hemi was to return. I mention this simply because of the unique tie it has to my custom car appreciation: In ’65, the first Hemi cars were slated to become Max Wedge cars, much like the pair you see here. These were switched to become Hemi cars, and a few were shipped to the famous customizers, the Alexander Brothers in Detroit, to be converted to altered-wheelbase cars (having the wheels moved forward in the chassis for better weight transfer). My mechanized adventure in Jersey continued to scramble my gray matter. I was standing in the presence of history, and inching closer and closer, in terms of degrees of separation, to realizing so many of the car-crazy dreams of my youth. I was beginning to fear that the goosebumps may never go away, and that was just fine by me.

max wedge aluminum hood scoop

This selection of photos scratches the surface of our visit to Jerry Stein’s incredible collection of racing parts and history, and I truly hope that you feel as though we were there together. It bordered on overwhelming at times, attempting to mentally catalog all that was contained in that garage, as well as listen to Jerry tell some great and entertaining tales, and Steve pointing out unique parts and supplying facts and figures which brought that history to life… This was certainly a day that I’ll never forget, and hopefully you’ve seen a few things here that you’ve always wanted to see, and will never forget as well.

max wedge lightweight aluminum
NOS max wedge parts
headlamp rings max wedge
mopar valve cover stash
440 race block

Family man meets racer:

class champion stickers
more championship decals
two max wedge lightweight cars

Where’s Wally? In Jerry’s dining room. Many times over.

wally trophy
more wally trophies
car craft championship

Peering over the shoulder of a giant:

jerry stein max wedge

Bonus points if you can name this nifty little piece and what makes it so darned nifty:

damper

The past and the present in some wonderful harmony under a clear New Jersey sky:

two darts

This selection of photos scratches the surface of our visit to Jerry Stein’s incredible collection of racing parts and history, and I truly hope that you feel as though we were there together. It bordered on overwhelming at times, attempting to mentally catalog all that was contained in that garage, as well as listen to Jerry tell some great and entertaining tales, and Steve pointing out unique parts and supplying facts and figures which brought that history to life… This was certainly a day that I’ll never forget, and hopefully you’ve seen a few things here that you’ve always wanted to see, and will never forget as well.

Erasing the Sexiness of the Design Process

Design is sexy. Really, it is. It’s the foreplay of a build. There’s still some courtship happening, and everybody is excited to be on board. You go into it thinking that it’s going to be everything you’ve heard it can be (the good parts, anyway), and can’t wait to show your stuff.

The process of design, however, is very UN-sexy to say the least. And the necessary evil of selling design – that creeping reality of design – can prove downright repulsive. Hot rod design is like a strange or taboo sexual fetish. This weird fringe interest that you see sometimes in public when it sells a magazine, or promotes a project just enough to score the builder sponsorship for parts, but never really can wrap your head around just what it does behind closed doors.

That being said, working as a a hot rod designer is like having to force your creative soul out on stage to perform that strange, ritualistic fetish fantasy act for some self-absorbed, ego-maniacal, overgrown man-child seeking to show just how big his dick is to the other deviants he keeps close (and locked in perpetual competition with); and finding out midway through that it’s a snuff film.

Surprise!

– excerpt from my forthcoming book I Left My Name Off of the Cover Just to Keep Things Consistent With The Other Projects I’ve Worked On – Drawing Cars for Disappointment and No Profit: Introduction to a Career

The Cars-as-the-Star Double-Standard

I have it figured out.

They cancelled reruns of The Dukes of Hazzard because of something much deeper than just a flag on a Charger. It appears to me, anyway, that the liberals have been unable to crack the mystical powers of displaying that graphic on a vehicle, and thus are furious over not having access to the abilities possessed within.

To illustrate my theory, note that the Duke’s Charger and the Bandit Trans Am each have a Confederate flag displayed on them; one has it on the roof, the other as a part of the old Georgia state flag on the front plate. Each has the mystical power to clear a body of water.

stunt jumping

Ted Kennedy’s Olds, well, not so much.

I rest my case.

…and while we’re talking about some meaningless sand-in-your-vagina bullshit, may I suggest banning all reruns of The Munsters? After all, Grandpa had the “Dragula”, and that looks like a coffin which offends me because funerals are sad… and old people sort of smell funny. TV shouldn’t make people sad, it should tell you about how awesome the government is and what stuff you need to buy to be like celebrities. And body spray.

Also, in Family Matters, Urkel drives a BMW Isetta, and that’s German, where Nazi’s come from. Oh… was that mildly stereotypical? Nothing at all like claiming that a car can be “racist”, right? Yes, it sounds almost that fucking stupid. That’s like banning the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile simply because it resembles a gay pride parade float (minus all of the leather chaps-wearing, ABBA lip-synching people you’d see loitering around that big sausage wagon at the state fair.

And thinking about it using the logic of the ‘racist car’, let’s aim for truth on television, ditch the ‘Political Correctness’ shit and ban all reruns of The Green Hornet because (and let’s be honest here) we all know that most Asians can’t drive for shit in real life. Discuss.

Transprovenance

patinal vinyl wrap

Oh, I’ve had a few things to say (as have others) regarding this:

rusty wrap

But what if we look at the positive things this sort of thing can bring (aside from my business plan to market portable storage structures that look like vintage barns, allowing you to “find” your “treasure” each day)?

Consider the prank market, which appears to be booming on YouTube. You rent a car, and return it wrapped like this. Or you wrap your house like this to scare the neighbors. T-shirts printed to look all rusty (or sunburnt, or covered in lesions or appearing to have holes and wrinkles in them… Already bought the Patent rights, potential squatters. I’m calling those ventures “Skintina” and “Gutter Find” respectively)… No longer will your Corvette or Saturn or Fiero which identify as a steel-bodied car have to live with being called “plastic”.

Imagine a world where wide whitewalls and smoothie wheels will have a home, no matter what the vintage or history of the ride are? Street cred for all… at the expense of the actual meaning of “street cred”, of course. But hey, it’s all about changing the meaning anyway. “Transprovenance” is an issue that needs to be brought to light in our industry. Far too many cars are simply transportation devices lacking a real history or importance in a world where everyone is a superstar and deserves a trophy.

Yeah, this is just about as fucking stupid. Which is which? You decide.

The Darkness Amid the Sparkle

A lot of talk the past few days regarding the car show world, from politics to rules and more. I had been writing a piece about this very subject prior to Detroit, and then felt it best to hold off on publishing it, as there were things afoot that could have made my post look, well, far more bitter for all of the wrong reasons. Rest assured, this is nothing more than my observations on the whole car show/industry slide toward oblivion, and not some “oh, they didn’t give us a trophy” or other nonsense. For fuck’s sake, we’re adults. And yes, it’s long. Should you happen to be some illiterate shit, or far too busy looking up memes or fail videos to read a few paragraphs, well, there’s the wonder of the internet, Billy Bob: Scroll the fuck past. Nobody asked you to chime in with your “I dun dint read, cuz it were long” reply. It’s a safer world knowing that the likes of you stick to looking at pictures anyway.

Some may be offended by my opinions/observations, and that’s cool. The truth can pack a nasty stinger.

Think back to the first indoor car show you attended. Chances are, you were a young and impressionable gear head who was floored by the kandy and chrome ocean you found yourself dropped into. Take that a step further, and consider the first ISCA-type show car that made an impression on you. Chances are, you went home and drew that car, or built a scale model of it, or simply daydreamed about it in class. I’m betting that to this day you can picture the car, and still get a little blip in the heart rate from it. It’s etched somewhere in your car psyche. It plays a role to this very day in what you like or don’t like on four wheels. It’s IMPRINTED on the very part of you that’s tagged “CARS” on that dotted-line diagram of your brain.

Custom cars, to anyone just discovering them are MAGICAL. They have a power far beyond propelling people across the pavement. They take on a life beyond their perceived purpose. They tend to grow with us. I’d bet that your memory even skews a few facts about them, and maybe even glosses over a flaw or two, lifting them even higher in your memory of their perfection. You do that with nearly everything you grow attached to. I’m betting my wife does that about me. Thinking about this, I should go give her a hug. And clean the living room.

Compare the above to recent shows, assuming that you still attend them. Any cars that simply “do it” for you like that? Do you still feel that emotional attachment or charge? I certainly don’t, and I’m smack dab in the middle of this whole thing, designing custom vehicles for a living. I try to create the kinds of things that some kid will recall 30 or more years down the road, and bring up in bench racing sessions. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some in the recent past that come close to “doing it” for me, and continue to inspire, but the industry as a whole has changed… the whole mood is dark lately.

Let’s not sugar coat this:

Car shows are the NFL of our world. A money-making enterprise. It makes sense, as they are a business, and the purpose of any business is to make money. I’m all for success, and doubly-so if your mission is to pocket some coin, and you happen to be doing that. Good on you. But the focus on the money changes things… It’s warped the very spirit of this car thing, and dragged it so far away from celebrating the automobile as art, and taken us to the automobile as return on investment or a showdown of who can spend more or grab the most ink in some magazine that’s months behind the times, and struggling to tell you that it’s still somehow relevant and that the internet is killing it, when in fact, they’re killing themselves and the industry by celebrating this push downward with third-rate articles and seven page features on uninspiring cars that would have been better served as a savings account. Again, don’t get me wrong. We are in a time of incredible talent with regard to the builders and designers and tools we have available to us in this industry. Yet, we’re losing the youth. Involvement is dropping among the next generation. And it is most certainly NOT because some kid grew up in the back seat of a Honda, or inherited a mini van as his first ride. That is a bullshit cop-out. Not every major builder or designer today grew up riding shotgun in a pro-street Chevelle, or had some Boss Mustang dropped in their lap for a first car. We drove uninspiring shitboxes. If you think that somehow more inspiration to build a ground-breaking, next-level beast of a ride comes from looking at a non-functional fuel gauge in a cracked dashboard in a rusty ’73 Monte Carlo any more than it does from the same situation in a third-hand Subaru, you are brain damaged. The next self-righteous motherfucker to use that excuse gets a foot in their ass. Allow me to shed some light on the REAL problem:

Today, it’s all nothing more than some bullshit cool kids club. Gone are the days of the “car as design statement” or even “rolling testament to craftsmanship” for the most part; we’ve hacked and slashed the soul from it all, and would up in a wasteland of cubic budgets and branding. It’s not about a fun build that pushes the limits of imagination, or thumbs its nose at conventional transportation, or even inspiring some budding builder to go and do likewise. Rather, it’s intimidating at best with endless checkbook builds where the goal is closer to making a name or a shop or builder, or trading damned-near a million (ad sometimes more) dollars for a trophy and a check that covers the transportation and week-long lodging and food for the crew supporting the car than it is to build for the sake of pushing skill. What in the serious fuck?! You expect ANY kid to want a part of that? Unless daddy is a CEO and is bankrolling the project, the odds get slimmer as we venture further down the income ladder. And don’t throw me this bone of plopping some car into the top five that doesn’t belong there as some gesture of “giving the average guy hope”. We all know it’s bullshit, and you can bet that you aren’t doing that guy or some kid attending his first show any good. He can see though the “everyone is a winner” bullshit. He has to each day at school.

Like anything, the moment it becomes more about money than the challenge of creating something, all is lost; it becomes a caricature of the very thing it used to be. We’re creating a hobby and industry filled to the brim with reality show-grade celebrities and hucksters, some with legions of fans who are undereducated enough to praise mundane and often idiotic design choices. And seeing the shows pander to one or two big-name builders, well… If you’re going to tell me that you can’t, without some degree of near pin-point accuracy pick put the cars that will be at the top of any show before the gates even open, then you’re either a lying sack of shit, or you’re holding onto that childhood innocence, and hoping to be inspired again. Perhaps the Pearl Paint Fairy will leave an airbrushed monster shirt under your pillow tonight, too. Innocence is lost. And it ain’t going to be found in the direction we’re headed.

The irony here is that we live in the greatest time, technologically speaking anyway, for production performance cars. 707 HP Challengers and Chargers??! While we were wandering the show indoors, looking at ‘flake paneled and blown bad-assery, outside in the frozen parking lot was a dismal (at best) display of smog-choked, poorly assembled and designed garbage. It was depressing. 170 HP was considered “performance”, and there wasn’t any sunlight poking over the next hill. That glow was from the flashers on the broken-down heap that couldn’t make it up the next grade. And maybe, just maybe THAT is what makes it all so fucking soft today. We DON’T HAVE TO AIM HIGH ANYMORE. We’ve managed to settle into a world of instant gratification., and that creates a laziness, and an unwillingness to try to raise a bar that we’re told is already so sky-high. That in mind, we’ve abandoned the things that brought us all here in the first place, and instead are chasing the lowest common denominator, the “my dick and checkbook are THIS BIG” attitude.

It’s a dark time, kids. Replace the breaker before it’s too late.

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