Every so often it pays to sit back and observe. Now, because I'm the paid professional observer that I am, this statement holds very true, however...!For starters, it hasn't always been easy to stop, take a step back, smell the blow-by, and observe.
Oftentimes, the thrill-a-minute occupation that's so often a vocation turned avocation keeps me from seeing what's really happening. You are all probably aware of the saying about the individual who hears but doesn't listen; talks but doesn't speak; sees but doesn't observe? Having attended this season's first events, I thought it best to take a step back and listen, speak when spoken to, and observe. It was a revelation.
Let's take a moment to talk about build styles. Well, there doesn't seem to be a clear-cut favorite. Door handles and hinges, steel or wire wheels, and bias-belted or track-style tires are in vogue. All I can hope is that the greyhound with the knit sweater doesn't make a comeback. I wasn't all that fond of the resto-rod of the '70s and nothing has changed.
What I want to see is creativity, kool rides, and fun things to do with my roadster. (This will make Kevin Lee, of our sister publication Super Chevy, get his cowl lamps and luggage rack all wadded up. Kevin is a closet rodder who's forced to work on a non-rodding publication. It's not his fault, just his misfortune. Although, rumor has it he's very good at his craft. The only problem that I can see with Kevin is that he likes big headlights--Kevin's tombstone will have engraved, "Got to have big headlights, the bigger the better"--luggage racks, cowl lamps, and bumper guards. And God help me, greyhounds with knit sweaters.)
Other build styles still going strong are the smoothie, the jellybean, and the billet car. They are here to stay, albeit with some evolutionary changes. The high-tech, billet-built, and exotic rod is a fact of rodding life.
Some would say that pro-street is dead. Well, the reality is...it isn't. I continually receive photos that show brand-new rods built in the pro-street style. The owners of these cars are very proud of their efforts. So, since rodding is about individual expressionism, creativity, and "to hell with you, it's my car and I will build it any way I darn well please," pro-street is alive, and apparently doing very well.
Then, there are the phantom rods. They are built in any style, but their premise is based on a car that didn't exist until well after the dawn of MTV. I like them. The creators of these cars go to great lengths to show off a copious amount of effort, talent, and creativity.
There are two types of phantom rods, one of them being the handbuilt, one-of-a-kind, "it cost more than my house" type of street rod. From these rods come incredible shapes, use of color, wheel designs, and breathtaking, if not flawless, workmanship.
Look at these cars the way our nation looks at the space program. Virtually unlimited dollars are used to fund a vast amount of research to yield a $2,300 writing stick. Of course, it will write in zero gravity, or underwater, and will do so while your retinas are being detached as you travel thousands of miles per hour, but that's what was needed. Again, from this research comes breakfast drinks for the masses...remember Tang?
While new materials, such as the shield that guards against noise and heat (in everyday use by Detroit or sold by the aftermarket for our street rods) may not be for everyone, they do offer countless ideas that you or I may someday use.
And, that brings me to what I believe is the current emerging trend in rodding--brand-new old rods. A bit confused? Let me explain. We have all seen rodding relics brought back to some form of basic existence, but that's not what I am talking about. What I am talking about are brand-new old rods where the workmanship is top-shelf and represents the latest in creativity. What I want to see is a rod that is built to look old, really old, but is actually a new construction. These rods are nostalgic in appearance but feature modern craftsmanship and metalwork that's mind boggling.
Maybe they'll have a flathead for power (when will we ever learn?) or a vintage V-8. At the very least they'll have a venerable Chevy small-block masqueraded with valve covers from a T-bird, Caddy, Buick, or Olds.Bias-belted tires are a must--at least 5.60s in front and 7.50s in back. Oh yes, they must then be wrapped around steelies or some variation of the wire wheel theme.
As for the paint scheme, well, there isn't any. You see, bare metal is in and it's mandatory--there's not even a hint of primer. Around the STREET RODDER office we refer to it as the Chris Shelton factor. At first we thought our fellow staff member was on the trend-setting edge, but then we discovered he can't hold a coherent thought for more than 3 seconds and, as such, can't decide what color paint to put on his nifty metal-rusting Deuce highboy (Don't worry, Chris, all good things come in time).
The interior needs to be outfitted with old timey S-W's or maybe something that looks as if it were military surplus. The upholstery, or lack thereof, needs to be of a Spartan nature or trimmed in military.
Oh yes, the suspension must be rigid at both ends, and for the really kool, it should have a quickie--lots of noise and leaking gear lube just make a new old rod "authentic." No four-bars here, split wishbones or hairpins; and dare I say it, no coilovers, friction or knee-action shocks preferred.
I have saved the best for last. These brand-new old rods can be made from steel or 'glass. You ask, "Fiberglass rods that mingle and co-habitat with their steel brethren? Have you no shame?"Apparently not. Custom Rodder Editor Rob Fortier recently came back from an event and brought back an astounding photo.
He presented a photo of a mud-caked Deuce highboy coupe, replete with the rust showing through the primer (some would say patina), a faded number on the door, bias tires on wires, door handles and hinges, and just enough nostalgia to make me wax nostalgic.
Dare I say it, Rob pointed out that this piece of vintage tin was anything but vintage or tin. It was a brand new 'glass car made to look the part. I immediately felt in lust, or something like that. Yep, the brand-new old rod is coming on strong and it couldn't be soon enough. It's a shot to the street rodding bloodstream. Isn't this hobby just grand?