Enough time has passed without me upsetting the apple cart; therefore, time must be ripe for me to create a little unrest. Without question, a high point of this job comes with the ability to give one and all my opinion on any given subject. Then it's just a matter of sitting back and waiting for the mail (nowadays e-mail). So, here goes. Have you ever wondered what is meant when one says, "That's a quality street rod?" Apparently it means different things to different people. Here are some definitions that I have run across.
For starters, there's "magazine quality." If a car appears on the pages of any automotive magazine does that make it magazine quality? Probably so, since someone thought enough of the car to go to the effort of placing it on the magazine's pages. However, given I have seen my share of magazine quality cars, it should in no way mean that the car is a driver, or handles well, or has anything to do with stepping on the pedals. It's possible for a car to make it to the printed page of a magazine based on appearance and craftsmanship, its ability to offer innovative ideas, or because it's just plain different. In that case, the car is magazine quality but it doesn't mean any one of us would drive the car cross-country, much less crosstown. We could go on and on but you get the picture. (Before your hand flies off the end-wrench, we believe at SRM that we offer a balanced combination of streetable versus purely innovative machines. Although it should be noted that a car should be streetable, innovative, and pleasing to the eye--please remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.)
What about "car show quality." If a car appears in a car show does that make it car show quality? Or, does the said car have to win an award, any award, no matter the car show hierarchy? So, is a car that wins the AMBR or the Ridler any different from the one that wins an Editor's Choice at Tom's Fun Run (which I might add is fast approaching on Sunday, April 13)? I am sure all of us would agree that any street rod capable of winning one of the hobby's most prestigious awards is of exquisite craftsmanship and detail. But, at the same time I would be willing to bet that the car that wins at the local rod run will oftentimes be more fun to drive--in fact, in too many instances it would be the only one of the two that could be driven crosstown or cross-country. Again, you get the picture.
What about "top ten quality." All of us are aware of top ten, top twenty five, celebrity choice, and professional pick awards, as they exist at virtually every rod run come summertime. What does it take to win one of these awards? The criteria may be posted but oftentimes the winner is the fellow who has his car in the right place at the right time. Actually, that's all right by me. I figure that life has enough ups and downs and I am not about to begrudge anyone who wins an award on any given weekend no matter what I think of his or her car versus mine. It has been said many a time that, "Life isn't fair, get over it, and move on." Again, you get the picture and on any given Sunday your car could just as easily win one of these awards.
I can't tell you how many times I have been asked what it takes to win a SRM Top Ten award. (Hey, let's face it, we all can use a kool car jacket.) My standard answer is, "I walk to the farthest point on the fairgrounds and work my way back to the lunch counter. The first ten cars that I find that pique my curiosity get an award." (I should point out that's my standard and generally not accepted by the remainder of the staff--to each his own, and that's the way it should be.)
What's really interesting about any award is how serious car owners take the wining or, worse yet, the non-recognition and, hence, the not winning of any said award. I have noticed that there's a direct correlation between atmospheric blood pressure readings versus the loftiness of the award not won. I have also noticed that newbies (newcomers to the world of street rodding) take not winning a lot worse than those with a few miles under their belt--literally. It seems hot rodders really don't care about awards while street rodders do. (Yes, there's a difference, not that there's anything wrong between a hot rodder and a street rodder, but that's fuel for another fire.)
What do I think makes a quality street rod? Well, that's easy: Any street rod that you are willing to make the commitment to enjoy. You may never finish it. You may do precious little of the work. But you enjoyed the process. You may not win an award, but didn't you embark on this project to have fun with cars?
If that still doesn't do it for you then go ahead and tell your friends that a magazine editor told you that your show quality street rod belongs in a magazine and worthy of a top ten award. When you take the time to read it, it sounds pretty dumb. Next time you begin to pout because a guy who trailered his professionally built car won while your driver lost and was, therefore, wrongfully snubbed, remember: All it really means is--he trailered his professionally built car and you drove. Oh yes, let the e-mails begin.