It was only a matter of time before I opened the proverbial "can of worms," or in my case, "can of whoop ass!" So, here goes... Recently, the June '04 issue of STREET RODDER ran a cover and inside story featuring Jack White's '36 Chrysler Airflow, referred to as a 2010 Airflow. For those who have read the story, I won't deluge you with repetitious facts, but it's safe to say this car's a rare one. The excitement began as many readers held personal beliefs that a car of such pristine condition should have been left alone or possibly restored to its original glory. Point taken. However...
For starters, all of us have an opinion, some a bit more pointed than others, but most of us fall into the category of, "Yes, I have an opinion, but it's his car to do with as he sees fit." Before I expound on the subject, let me share with you some of the opinions e-mailed in by other STREET RODDER readers.
It didn't take me long to realize there would be no "fence sitters" after I received this letter from SRM reader (or possibly former reader) Jack W. Vettera from Westwood, Kansas. He wrote: "That Airflow rod was way over the line. That was vandalism, pure and simple. Please cancel my subscription and refund my several years worth of subscription credit." Man, talk about shooting the messenger. (You know who is going to end up paying for this one?) For the most part, the letters were thought out and well written, unlike the aforementioned "guns a blazing, holier than thou" approach. Although at some point each writer acknowledged the car was exquisitely done and a true masterpiece, that didn't dampen the passion rodders expressed for what was done, or shouldn't have been done.
Since this was the first inkling of the turbulent airflow to come, it took me awhile to absorb what the problem was and why the above reader wanted his money back. After getting several more letters and hearing that Jack White's own Web site on the Airflow (www.airflow2010.com) was also receiving salvo's, I began to understand. (On Jack's site you can see other opinions and get Jack's take. You can also go to the STREET RODDER chat room to begin your own dialog with other rodders.)
Another SRM reader (I hope still a reader), Chad Johnson of Royal Oak, Michigan, wrote, "As soon as I saw the SRM cover shot, I knew it meant trouble, no matter how glitzy the execution proved to be." He goes on to say, "To cut and redesign a driveable original of this magnitude is just plain wrong. Now there are three remaining." Wow. That's pretty heady stuff. However, his most biting comment was, "I feel like someone didn't use his conscience and robbed future generations of an opportunity to see the real thing." Okay, point taken and understood.
A third reader, Mark Auriana via e-mail said, "...less than thrilled." He goes on to say, "...the finished car is truly beautiful and worthy of the awards and accolades it is receiving." (It has won at least one major award at every show it has appeared at and rumor says it will be out this summer competing for some of the topflight outdoor awards.) He also wrote, "...the owner has absolutely ruined the provenance of the very rare car, and as a car enthusiast, I find that really sad." I feel like I should be on my knees begging forgiveness.
It seems from the gist of the letters that it's hard to deny the car's flawless execution; it's just that some readers feel the builder should be executed. And therein lies the very tenant rodding is founded on, "Build it your way." There is one other rodding axiom: "Any rodder is capable of tuning his (or her) street rod until it runs slower." This last one comes courtesy of our fearless Tech Editor Ron Ceridono, who is the proud owner of an early edition, numbers matching '63 Corvette Sting Ray coupe. Did I mention that Ron once did a story for SRM sister publication Vette on how to narrow the IRS to fit larger American five-spokes and how to get rid of that ol' 327 and put in a rompin', stompin' 406-inch small-block with vulgar amounts of horsepower? (To this day he is refused entrance to restorer Corvette functions, but the racers love him.)
I fear this will be one of those arguments where we will all have to agree to disagree. Again, I am sure there are those that believe Jack had (has) a personal right to build and/or modify the car in any fashion. On the other hand, there are those who believe this may be an act more sinful than taking a bite out of that "first apple." Whatever the case, spirited debate is good for the hobby as it brings out passion and causes each and every one of us to reevaluate our stance on a particular subject. There is no "right" or "wrong" in this exchange of ideas, just bantering and posturing to get one's opinion out and heard. In the end, this may be the most significant contribution the '36 Chrysler Airflow turned 2010 Street Rod Airflow will have to offer the hobby. I say, "Jack, a job well done."