It's raining outside and I am beginning to daydream about the "silly season." You know, that time when extremely well paid athletes bear down and begin to perform (literally and figuratively) as if they are really trying to earn their over-the-top salaries. I am talking mostly of those playing baseball, football, and basketball. It's time for the playoffs.
For starters, rodding's "silly season" runs from January to March and revolves around the indoor car shows. While car shows continue on after March and, in fact, over the Thanksgiving weekend, it's the early season shows, with their ever-growing number of participants and unveilings of the latest breathtaking creations, that the overflow crowds come to see. It's akin to the playoffs in sports. It's when builders of all abilities (and hourly rates) try and start the new year off with their best effort. (NASCAR does it with their early running of the Daytona 500--which is often likened to football's Super Bowl or baseball's World Series.)
What does the "silly season" mean? It doesn't seem to matter what a team's season record is, just make it to the playoffs and then step it up. The object is to win the "big one" and not to worry too much about the day-to-day chores of the regular season. The same is true in rodding. All year long we do whatever it is we do with our street rods, making sure to enjoy them as much as we can. But, look out when the indoor car show season begins--the kid gloves come off and the real rod builders (the self-proclaimed kings of customizers and the true metal crafters) shape artist concepts into rolling, gleaming, and snarling works of art. Throw into the mix a liberal dose of imaginative displays amidst cement isles bathed in fluorescent ceiling lights and with yards of carpet, hundreds of stanchions, and miles of theater rope, and you have the makings of an extraordinary indoor car show. True, many of these fanciful hot rods can't be driven, some will not even "fire," but what the heck, they are incredibly bright flashes of imagination brought to animated automotive life. Show cars are eye candy, a visceral experience for sure. It can never be said that show cars are bound by some written law of physics, mathematics, engineering, or held captive by function. They are show cars and have no rules, save one--anything goes.
This time of year doesn't mean that the rest of us won't work on, or drive, our cars, or fail to attend club meetings or other rodding social functions, it just means that we too become preoccupied with what could be as opposed to what is. What this season does mean is that those in the rodding community that find it imperative to be recognized on a grand scale give it their best shot. Oftentimes these talents couldn't be showcased without the help of the ever-deepening wallets of today's well healed show car owners.
It's really not significant whether shops have few or many talented craftsmen. Even the singular craftsman attempt commands attention. It's all about how Herculean effort, often matched to a mansion-sized budget, brings an idea to automotive life. I am extremely fortunate to sit and share ideas (although I do a majority of the sitting and listening) with many an artist. I have seen the efforts of Harry Bentley Bradley, Thom Taylor, Chip Foose, Steve Stanford, and, literally, STREET RODDER neighbor Chris Brown come to fruition through their use of pen or pencil, ink or chalk, color or monochromatic medium. But, what's truly amazing is to then witness the metamorphosis of a skillfully depicted idea into an actual car sitting in front of me on a shop floor. These other artists, with their chosen medium of steel and 'glass, deliver on the promise once captured on paper.
The majority of rodders, which includes yours truly, don't participate in the "silly season." If I may, we regress from participant to spectator. There are any number of prestigious indoor car shows and depending on where you reside, whether it's the Right or Left Coast, the Great Lakes or Sun Belt, your favorite has been good to you and your buddies for decades. The fact is, I am hopelessly and forever a roadster lover and will always migrate to the place of my roots in rodding--The Grand National Roadster Show. While I anxiously wait to see who will attempt to measure up to the prestige that the 9-foot America's Most Beautiful Roadster trophy demands, it's not the only reason I make the pilgrimage to the greatest of indoor car shows. There are a number of other roadsters (some would say lesser efforts, but not I) that vie for the Brizio family award, which I consider the most prestigious award. A roadster that's driven and has undergone the indignity of multiple paint chips, a swarm of bugs in the grille, and just enough gas stains on the intake and grease on the king pins to show that this chariot of the gods is a driver, is a real hot rod. But that's me and no one has to agree one squat's worth.
I live in Southern California and still find it somewhat amazing that I have to travel 450 miles to see a great car show. A show where on display are the ideas and efforts of individuals who have crafted an inspiration into reality--or at least automotive show car reality. I fantasize that I will someday drive my own open-air work of art on the interstates, beltways, back roads, and main streets to an indoor car show. To this end I hope that my journey will lead me to a gathering of equally addicted hot rodders with their dreams and this thrills me to no end.
Okay, it's the "silly season" and what's silly is that I want to be a part of it. When my dreams bump into reality, my budget isn't sufficient, and my caveman talents (or lack thereof) to craft are compared to that of a DaVinci, I understand the difference and I accept my lot. Yet, I dream the dream and, someday, who knows. It could be worse, I could not even be aware of the world of show cars. Well, it looks like the rain is about to abide so it must be time to limber the ol' roadster and go for a drive.