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Cat Videos and Murder

This month marks twenty-five years of the web.

Enjoy the FIRST-EVER cat video, from nearly one hundred years before the web. A film recorded in Edison’s office of boxing cats, which neatly ties together the history of a place that has become a bastion for thieves, Copyright infringement and other debauchery, via a motion picture, which Edison stole the patent for by murdering Louis Le Prince.

Hooray progress. Thanks, Al Gore.

A Forgotten Pioneer

I am appalled at Google’s lack of a doodle celebrating the birth of one of history’s finest inventors on this, the fourteenth of July. Not even a simple tip of the Silly Boobs Trucker Hat could be posted to honor Richard “Kewpie Dick” Delahanty, inventor of the aforementioned head wear, the “Junk Drawer Thing-a-Matron 1000” (shown here), and the ubiquitous Banana Seat.

Little is known about his early years, excepting for a rumor that he was the orphaned, unplanned child produced as the result of a tryst between Bella Lugosi and Frida Kahlo. Raised in the basement of a radio repair shop by Romanian immigrants, he learned to speak English by listening to Abbott and Costello, and taught himself to read by using discarded telephone directories, which granted him an encyclopedic knowledge of the city’s inhabitants.

A love for technology and puns drove him to create such wonders as the Alligator, Suede, Leather and Snake Turtleneck Shirt (better known as the “Four-Skin Longsleeve”), a super-absorbent raft/submarine combo called the “Tampoon River Rider,” and a harness for people who enjoy having their legs humped by small dogs, the “Shin-Too,” in addition to the marvels mentioned in the opening. An eccentric in his later years, he collected and arranged Bazooka Joe bubblegum comics into epic tales of adventure, but sadly his life’s work was burned to the ground following an unfortunate incident involving a sparkler and flatulence display, attributed to his heavy drinking and strict diet of bean-based foods. He died of a priapism when he mistook a bag of small pills found behind a pharmaceutical test lab for ice cream sundae sprinkles.

History All Aglow

Little-known fact about Christmas Eve, via Brian’s “Lost History and Other Shit They Can’t Be Bothered to Teach You in School and Stuff Secret Bunker of Knowledge”.

Today’s installment: “All Things Are Delicately Interconnected Via Rubbers.”

Pining for his never-to-be love interest on this day back in 1933, Albert Einstein pens a letter to the woman he’s become smitten with, one Marie Curie from his New Jersey study as his wife prepares their usual evening treat, a fifth of wood alcohol and an eight ball chaser. Unbeknownst to Mrs. E, her husband is about to make history once again; this time in the field of photography.

After snapping the world’s first selfie (on the world’s first instant film camera, no less; the man was a fucking pioneer), he inscribes the photo with the words “Me equals meat squared,” and sends the image off to his crush.

Her second husband at the time, Stanley Czeirnitkovielskiweicz intercepts the pornographic portrait, and proceeds to poison his wife – whom he incorrectly perceives as being unfaithful – by utilizing a glow-in-the-dark condom that night, which he fashions from lambskin coated with radium-laced, self-luminous paint.

While the prudish history books of old may tell of her death being the result of she and her first husband Pierre staring for hours at a glowing batch of radium extracted from pitchblende, the cold reality was that it was a warm, glowing rod that sealed her fate years later via a photograph of a very disturbed (and naked) German, thus sparking the Polish-German war of 1934. As we all know, the war cam to an end with the Treaty of Lubin, wherein private manufacture of condoms was outlawed, and as a blanket punishment for the Polish people in general (based unfairly by virtue of his last name alone – Stanley was actually a Korean immigrant living under an assumed name), the Polack joke, once considered taboo, was to become the go-to icebreaker of choice in all pubs across Europe.

The Dangers of Poor Spelling, Episode 71: Nudity Roulette

It is “wax nostalgic,” not “whack nostalgic.”

While I may know what you had MEANT, it did not stop my brain from taking a sharp turn into “OH FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST PLEASE NO NO NONONONONONO!!!” Land. So yeah… thanks for that.
Today I had a moment to whack nostalgic, and considering the wonderful memories of bachelorhood during the internet boom, there was but one logical solution to come of it all: All things considered, I’m switching back to dial-up internet. My logic being that all of this high-speed goodness has removed the fun of searching for random things, or as I used to call it, “Nudity Roulette.”
The game was simple enough: You start by searching for something relatively tame (and a bit far from dirty, mind you), and then you’d find that one image that made you think twice before clicking away, but you’d go ahead anyway. In the early days, the algorithms (hang on a second… Internet. That dial-up beepy sound thing. Al Gore. Al-Gore-rhythms. Hmmm.) weren’t really dialed-in (oh, they wrote themselves, kids) yet, so you were taking shots in the dark as it were most days. And then it would begin loading, and with each row of pixels you’d be all like “Oh-kay… certainly NOT what I was expecting here, and what’s with the ocelot?” And then BAM!
The rest loads and “she” has a penis.
Oh, internet… let’s try that again and double-check the spelling of “Italian Pope” a bit closer.

International Iceberg Lettuce Appreciation Day

Strangely coincidental, two-fer fact of the day:
 
While the Egyptians may have cultivated lettuce in its earliest form (and changing it from an oil-producing weed to a leafy food), and the preparation and serving techniques perfected by the Greeks and Romans, it was Columbus who brought it to America.
 
Strangely enough, what we now refer to as “Iceberg” lettuce was known as “Glasgow Butterleaf” until the horrifying events of April 15, 1912. Stranded for nearly three weeks in the icy, rough seas, and floating in rafts constructed using vintage car parts and draperies salvaged from the wreckage, the victims of the sinking RMS Titanic survived by eating the buoyant foods from the salad bar and burning the contents of a stowaway’s sketch books.
 
Had the trek been reversed, with the mighty ocean liner heading instead from New York to Southampton, the lettuce on board would have been the Americanized “Thick Head” variety, and would have fallen to the ocean floor like a brick. This would have meant makeshift boats loaded with cabbage-farting survivors floating in a sea of asparagus piss, possibly doubling the body count.
 
That said, raise high your Caesar dressing today, on International Iceberg Lettuce Appreciation Day, and sing a few bars of “My Heart Will Go On.”

Old Stuff… and a Wiser Me.

Pyramid amp? Check.
Gold-anodized valve covers? Check and check.
Acid-washed jeans? Double that check.
Mullet neatly combed? Check.
King Kobra blasting through those Jensen 6×9’s? Need you ask?
Let’s head back to 1990.

There we were, digging through boxes of memorabilia and assorted keepsakes and whatnot (read as “cleaning up the back room in the Studio again”), and the kid stumbles across a number of goodies that sparked some serious synapse activity. There’s some serious goodies in the boxes (amongst the crap I’ve tossed out, and useful stuff he’s donated), and many will hit the auction block soon… And a few will be made available to collectors, or those seeking to start a museum, finish a collection of their own, or even annoy your own wife by bringing home more stuff… whatever.

street machine nationals

That said, check out this nifty bunch o’ stuff from the old Street Machine Nationals East days:

street machine nationals memorabilia

What’s really cool here is the all-over print Beretta tee. It’s damned-near mint (the logo on the chest is showing some age, but still, it’s unreal), and is just a killer tee in its own right. There are wrist bands, a vehicle pass from the ’89 edition, a gate ticket, and a complimentary pass, too. I kept a lot of stuff.

wrist bands

complimentary pass

gate ticket

The tie-dye looking shirts have more wear (in sales lingo, that would be “genuine vintage” look, not some crappy filter), and are Large in size. I had, honestly, thought these were long gone.

street machine national t-shirts

There’s also a dash plaque from ’93 (with a matching lapel pin)…

dash plaque

This stuff had somehow escaped my eye for a long time, and by fate or whatever other mystical intervention, the box with these items has made it through numerous cleanings and the subsequent purging rituals of “Hell, I never even open that box… throw it out!” days. Is is destined to remain in my Studio, passed down from generation to generation, where, eventually, on an interstellar trek to a distant galaxy in some 400 years, my great, great, great, great, great, great, great (oh, you get the idea) grandchild will spill grape jelly on it, and ruin almost half of a millenia of preservation… with preserves, ironically.

Suffice to say, it sparked some heavy cruising down memory lane… These were the days when cars were built for fun, and the whole mood around the fairgrounds was one big party. Very few egos, not much in the way of “power parking”, or showing off how big of a check you could write, or whole you could dig with credit and multiple mortgages. Pro-Street was well into the wave of excess, and, oddly enough, the cleanest, simplest cars were getting more and more looks, thanks to guys like Scott Sullivan.

Kinda makes you almost eager to accept big hair, acid-washed jeans and loose cassette spools again, just for the atmosphere. Bare-bones street machining. Crank windows, avoiding potholes because drag shocks lacked certain, um, handling characteristics, the scent of racing fuel the clatter of solid lifters (just over that tick from your leaky header gaskets)… scrounging wrecking yards for an HEI distributor or that alternator bracket… The REAL good times indeed. The times that inspire slack-jawed response from today’s fairgrounds folks.

Let’s ignite that mood, shall we?

 

 

 

It’s some interesting history indeed, and heck, we may even package it with some era-specific listening materials (read as “cassettes”), and frame ’em for wall decor! Instant conversation pieces!

Here’s some video to get you in the mood:

 

…if we find some era-specific shorty-shorts and neon-colored ball caps, would it sweeten the offer?

Speaking of shorty-shorts and mullets… here’s some video my friend Kurt shot while we cruised the mighty Chevelle (see below — I mean for the car… not so much Kurt. If that were the case, we’d have a whole other series of blog posts, and this would get really confusing) around the grounds:

 

 

I’ll spare your eyes (and my self esteem) by not showing you what I looked like in those days gone by… But here’s a peek at what I was driving back then:

chevelle street machine

…and thinking I was all cool, posing the car with a trophy queen. Between this brilliant idea, my mullet, the acid washed jeans and high-top sneakers, and my neon-framed Wayfarers, well, I was a dork. I’m older now… and probably slightly wiser, as well, but the old days still bring a bit of a warm feeling (unlike what you’d get wearing shorty-shorts). Things were good then. The cars were fast, the music was loud, and all was right somehow.

Even if I was a dork.

The Age of Inspiration

Ingenuity.

…is defined by Webster’s as skill or cleverness in devising or combining: inventiveness, or: cleverness or aptness of design or contrivance.

It’s been a word that has spent an unholy amount of time bouncing around in my brain over the years. I find it to be a powerful word when applied to our hobby/industry of hot-rodding in general, as it’s really the backbone of what we do. Consider an engine builder, working to tweak every last ounce of power, Sam Barris chopping the first Merc roof, or the first guy to conceive the idea of using lace to create killer patterns in custom paint. Hell, each day I’m confronted with the challenge of bringing unique ideas to a project, and in some cases, finding ways to stretch a budget, and draw in some wicked little details to set a car over the top. It’s a matter of using what’s there in front of you (and occasionally what doesn’t exist!) in a new or different way, and then getting it all to flow.

A recurring theme here in the old blog has been that of cool details and inventive use of materials on a project, and this entry brings in some really neat stuff. The human mind is capable of solving problems with amazing agility at times (there’s even some grace in banging a sheet metal panel to shape over a 2×4 when it’s in the right hands!), and when it comes to creating tools to aid in work, provide convenience, whatever, it’s always cool to witness.

Speaking of ingenuity, a recent side trek on the web, seeking more info on Sam Barris’ Mercury led me to a video highlighting a car that’s always kept me fascinated (and, amazingly, another Barris-constructed car — I say “constructed”, as the majority of the innovations on the car were those of the owner), the Golden Sahara II, from the ingenuity (see a theme here?) of owner/designer Jim Skonzakis (aka Jim Street). Every inch of this car is loaded with ingenuity, and inventive, if not a step beyond state-of-the-art for its time (this was pre-1962!)… Man, consider that this was the FIRST car to have a TV in it, much less every other technical marvel thrown in. You may know this ‘53 Lincoln Capri from the Jerry Lewis movie Cinderfella:

golden sahara

Hey nice laaaadeeeee….

…or even the old Rob’t. Williams Leadsleds poster (it’s there in the original incarnation, anyway… prior to the double fins being added later on), too! In any event, over on YouTube is the following video… take a peek, and we’ll pick this back up in a few:

How absolutely freaking cool is THAT??!

…and those light-up tires? Dig this:

illuminated tires

Bringing new meaning to “light ’em up!”

In the ’60’s, Goodyear toyed with translucent polymers to create pastel-colored, illuminated tires! More likely than not, they were to be marketed toward women (color matching everything was in fashion, after all), yet the material proved to wear too quickly, and they never made it to market…

tire lights

Tires to match your eyes, hair, underwear…

Ponder the thought that went into this car, the forward thinking, the sheer inventiveness… the INGENUITY. Granted, there’s a lot of gimmickry going on here, but isn’t this car just the perfect illustration of the times? That whole “world of tomorrow” kinda vibe going on, and all wrapped up neatly in a pretty slick custom.

I had shown this to my kids, and they flipped that the car had a TV, a remote… and then they said “they had TV back THEN”? Illuminated tires, whoopie…. TV? Amazing to kids. Go figure…

Perhaps more interestingly, as designers, we often tinker, adapting the latest styles and technology to our projects… Viewing the Golden Sahara as a the techno-wunderkind it truly was, it’s obvious to see the impact it had on today’s techno-rides. What new technologies do you see making their way into your next designs? Even better, what retro-inspired technology would you like to see make it into your next “traditional” design…  and why?

The Way to San Jose…

57 ford the maze

…apparently involved a maze.

Well, THE Maze, actually.

maze rear

Recently, a conversation with a client (debating the merits of a few avenues we could travel with his ‘57 Ford) turned to one of my all-time favorite late-50’s customs, Jerry Devito’s “The Maze”.

The car is a great example of restyling at the time, employing seven scoops of Grande Brothers bodywork (not to mention shaved trim and handles, extended peaks over the tunneled head and tail lights) all covered in a green/gold, and finally, a topping of scallops in seven colors by Bob Hendricks. Outrageous? Certainly… Are we going to duplicate the car? Unlikely… but there are aspects of this car that are so “right”, it’s scary, and will make the final cut. (however, if anyone is up to creating a similar, maybe even a tribute car…. I’m ready for you!)

Dig on the stance for a bit… It’s awesome.

the maze 1957 ford

The right amount of sidewall on the tires, the chrome reverse wheels are incredible, and the lack of a rear hubcap hints at performance potential. Devito’s ride utilized the original engine, with the addition of an Offy three deuce intake, Isky cam, and the ever-popular Magspark ignition — we may go likewise! Interesting to note is that the car had some chrome engine dress-up parts… This was the era when such underhood detail began to gain ground… As the cars became lower and more “custom” in appearance from the factory, the emphasis on body modifications (current example exempted!) began to wane, and it was in vogue to simply drop the ride height, and go wild on paint. Consider that this same car, if built a couple of years later, may have worn thin whitewalls (Royal Masters, perhaps?), no lakes pipes, and the body restyling would have been decidedly different… ‘59 was the tail end of wide whitewalls, and the beginning of a steady decline of the “golden age” of customs.

In any event, I thought it would be cool to share this car, as it had a profound effect on me so many years ago when I first saw it, thumbing through some “little pages” at a family friend’s shop (imagine a kid in the ’80’s discovering this car in his VERY early teens… “impressionable” begins to describe it!). Later in life, I’d stumble across a piece of art by VonFranco featuring this car. Wild! While I’m certain many folks knew of the car, it was awesome to see it immortalized by a modern master in that way.

Odd fact: The car appeared in print wearing the stock front bumper on at least one occasion (as seen here):

peaked headlamps

and then later in print, with an odd split bumper and molded pan…

maze ford jerry

It seems that the car was wrecked sometime before early 1960, received a more radical body transformation, and, ironically, much more subtle paint. The front fenders saw the removal of ten inches from the front, effectively setting the upper headlamps deep in the body. A new grille shell and front pan houses more lights, and a pair of grille bars created from ribbed exhaust pipe (I built models like this as a kid!):

maze redux

This round of custom work was done by Gene’s Body Shop in San Jose… anyone have info on them, or maybe any other notable customs? (how about Burns Upholstery while we’re asking? I swear, this thing is becoming an obsession! Any help is greatly appreciated.)

wild kustom

The car, in this version, has a style similar to the Trendero, built around ‘61 by Trend Automotive (in Lyons, IL!! See? Great mid-west customs from the early days!):

trendero yellow

Anyway, the Maze, by this time, had gold paint, and no longer wore a rear bumper, utilizing a rolled pan and nerfs that shared their shape with the sloping “beaks” off of the roof scoops and tail lights.

the maze gold

Sadly, it’s another of those great customs that have disappeared. While we may no longer have many of these greats from the age of excess (although, the Trendero lives!!), we have the archives to study them from. Of course, seeking out info on this one car has led me through some amazing territory, and truly whetted my appetite to pen some late fifties/early sixties show customs… anyone up for something truly unique?

UPDATE:
I had reported what I found through research on the car, and was left with a few lingering questions about the car… so I did what was natural, and asked for help finding those answers.

I was fortunate to not only find those answers, but got them FROM THE MAN HIMSELF! Mr. DeVito took time from his day to chat for a while, and I walked away from that great conversation with not only some fantastic insight, but a great new friend. I’ll report more on this soon, but wanted to share my excitement over meeting the man who created a car that left an impression on me as a car-struck kid, and one that always creeps into my imagination as I draw and design.

Suffice to say, there are a few facts that need ironing out from the first posts on this car (as I said, the research materials were limited), and we’ll do just that in subsequent posts… But to answer that nagging question about the split bumper treatment, they were ‘57 Pontiac units, and the change was made in the first year (after the peaks and scoops). Jerry’s inspiration was to always keep the car fresh, making changes after each show, always remaining at the of of his game…

We’ll trace the car’s history in the near future, from delivery at San Jose Ford in ‘57, through to its sale, and subsequent loss. Thanks for the interest, and especially to Mr. DeVito…

Angelo Gets Down

working dog

Almost 30 years after the service body was installed on this very truck, I took a job working for Auto Safety House in Phoenix, a work truck and bus outfitter with a long history in the East Valley of Phoenix, Arizona. It was during my employment there where I met Sam, the owner of the truck featured here. We hit it off immediately, sharing the old car hobby and many other interests, and have remained friends since, through changing jobs, raising children, relocation and more. This friendship, and the place we met would tie in more times over the years than either of us can count, but one of the coolest stories to come from it involves this 1968 C-20, named “Angelo”.

lowered work truck

While attending the Goodguys Southwest Nationals a year-and-a-half ago, Sam stumbled across this green and ivory truck in the swap meet, and sent me a picture, asking my thoughts.

I was interested immediately.

After all, here was a solid truck with some obvious local history, and it presented a great foundation for another project. A deal was struck, and Sam was the proud owner of a truck that had done some hard-working days, helping to build the East Valley. We were going to go to work on a work truck.

work truck

The unique truck was originally purchased as a two-tone cab and chassis (now here was a work truck with some style!) from Chapman Chevrolet, and outfitted with the McCabe Powers “Service Master” utility body by Auto Safety House. It would work daily in the desert sun for the next twenty years as the main work vehicle for Angelo as he crafted sheetmetal for ductwork and other construction projects, playing a role in expanding the East Valley area of Phoenix. Truly, this truck has some tales to tell, and represents the entrepreneurial and hard-working American spirit. We were slowly crafting a plan to give this hard-working ride a fun second life as a cool cruiser. “Angelo” had paid its dues, and it was time to give back.

sketch

We threw some ideas around during free moments, and plotted a course for the truck as Sam finished updating his ’58 Apache. Originally, the plan was to swap the work body for a short bed, and create a clean cruiser with a historical theme… Yet, the more we talked, the more we couldn’t get past the truck’s history, and the unique, well-preserved nature of the truck as a whole. As Sam specializes in insuring contractors, the pieces kept falling into the “wouldn’t it be neat if we left it alone” category. Besides, we had a number of connections with the truck, and where else would we find something with such perfect patina? There was no faking it, this truck had some soul, and all signs were pointing to a resto-mod work truck. That’s pretty unique indeed.

1968 C-20

The logical choice for performing the hard work was Del Uschenko, as he had built the ’65 short bed that Sam owned for a while, and the man’s skill and attention to detail were the ideal fit. Besides, it doesn’t get any better than having a builder who “gets it” and strives for perfection, and is a guy you just genuinely enjoy working with! The plan was set, and the truck left its hard-working days, and headed for the glamor of Burbank. If you’re keeping score, add a few “coolness” points to the column, as Angelo wasn’t heading to just any shop… This was the fabled Old Crow Speed Shop, a place that has a ton of history between the walls. Hard-working history and hot rod history were about to meet in grand fashion. Consider, too, that the Old Crow Speed Shop is loaded with historical items from the post-war, early days of hot rodding. Military and racing relics are displayed everywhere, and it represents a time when men returning home from war were eager to start their new lives. A part of the American Dream lives on there. And here we had Angelo, a truck purchased to help build another mans dream of owning a business, from an era when we were deep into another conflict. The history and coincidence surrounding this truck were beginning to unfold like legend.

front suspension

Coolest. Project. Ever.

buffing paint

At this point, there were still ideas floating around, from wheels to interior, to even possibly replacing the door lettering… Yet, the truck kept speaking to us. Focus shifted to making it sit and drive properly, so Del crafted a plan to utilize CPP components up front, including tubular A-arms, 5-on-5 bolt pattern spindles, upgraded braking in the way of 13-inch rotors, and a healthy drop to give the truck the attitude of “I’m off the clock”. Adding to the plan, Del opted to C-notch the rear to provide ample room for travel, again, utilizing CPP components, and crafting a sound foundation and smooth, modern ride. 

Setting the truck on a set o0f 20×9-inch Centerline Smoothies was a given to get that “Delmo look”, and we wrestled with wheel finishes to complement the truck. We considered full polish to juxtapose the raw, work truck look, but thought that almost too easy… White centers? Cool, but just not quite “there”. I had suggested a gray center to bring in the interior color, as well as add some industrial flair, and Del knocked it out of the park with some light texture and those beautifully simple ‘49/’50 passenger car hubcaps. The look is modern, and the comment most often heard has been “is that a one-off wheel?” Brilliant. 

The stock engine and transmission had seen better days, and were replaced with a fresh 350/TH-350, backed with a C-10 rear. The name of this game was reliable cruising, and, as the work days are over, Angelo needed just enough power to be fun, but the old truck isn’t rushing anywhere, so the specs are fairly stock. It’s in the engine bay where more of Del’s supreme attention to detail can be seen, with surfaces cleaned and smoothed, and everything subtly painted and detailed for a near-factory, but still-custom feel.

The paint is still the original green and ivory, and the temptation to touch anything up (even on the work body) has been avoided. A light buff and polish brought the paint back from chalky, and provided that just-right gloss. Interior-wise, it’s all stock, save for the original owner-shortened shift lever. It’s a mystery as to why he shortened it, and is one of those cool features that make Angelo such a unique find.

smoothie wheel

350 chevy

slammed service truck

And there you have it… A hard-working truck with some great history in building the Phoenix area, brought together by some friends who met, oddly enough at the very place where the truck was outfitted before either was born (after each grew up a few towns over back in NY state, no less), and given new life in a shop loaded with some history of its’ own. If that doesn’t have “American Dream” written all over it, then I’m not sure what does.

The Specs:

1968 Chevy C-20
127-inch wheelbase
Front Suspension: CPP Tubular Control Arms, Lower 63-72 Control Arms w/new Ball Joints, CPP Adjustable Trac 24 Bar
CPP C10, 5-Lug Spindles
Steering: CPP 18” Steering shaft, nickel-plated
Front Brakes: CPP Modular ‘Big Brake’ Disc 13-inch rotors
Rear Suspension: CPP 4” Drop Heavy C-Notch Kit, CPP Shock Relocation Kit
Leaf spring w/lowering blocks
Positraction rear end
Rear Brakes: CPP Modular ‘Big Brake’ Disc 13-inch rotors
Wheels: 20 x 9 Centerline Smoothies
Tires: 225/35/ZR20 and 225/40/ZR20

Engine/Trans: 350ci Chevy, TH-350

Body: Stock, McCabe Powers ‘Service Master’ Utility Body  Installed by Auto Safety House in 1968
Door lettering by unknown sign painter in 1968

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