The other day the staff was sitting around enjoying a nutritious lunch at the local carbo palace when the subject came up, as it always does: "I like that car better than that car!" There's no way this discussion is going anywhere but down, and eventually ends with an insulting comment or two about the other guy's taste in cars. Let there be no mistaking that each staff member has his own opinion of what's cool and what's not.
For starters, we have Tech Editor Ron Ceridono, who is a dyed-in-the-wool old-time rodder who believes in the traditional-style car and the fact that you should be doing your own work. He isn't a great fan of the trailer unless it is to "drag home" the next project. While I tend to be a bit more forgiving, I can see his point. Our hobby has gone from the days when a hot rodder would due diligence and eventually build his own car, to modern times where more and more rodders are prone to buying, rather than building, their own cars. That's not to say rodders still don't build their own cars and do a great deal of the work themselves, but times have changed.
Let me explain. Back in the '50s (and before), but during the postwar era of rodding, all of us made the best with what we had or could fabricate. In the early days, having a garage full of friends with many and varied talents was truly a blessing. As we moved through the '60s (and lived along side the birth of the musclecar era) fiberglass bodies began to make building a hot rod just a bit easier. (Both Poli-Form and Wescott's Auto Restyling have been around since the '60s.) It wasn't until the mid- to late-'70s that manufactured street rod components truly accounted for the proliferation of hot rodding and hot rodders into the industry we now refer to as "street rodding." Companies like Pete & Jake's Hot Rod Parts, Super Bell, The Deuce Factory, Total Performance, Total Cost Involved, et al, allowed all of us to have choices that otherwise didn't exist. (Someday I will tell you the story of why STREET RODDER is named STREET RODDER and not Street Rod, and why the Street Rod Nationals aren't titled the Hot Rod Nationals, and why we are referred to by many as "street rodders" and not "hot rodders.")
It was the '80s when we began to see rodders arrive on the scene who were "cut from a different cloth" than earlier rodders. Many of today's rodders have enjoyed the benefits of an industry that was already in place, allowing them to build (or have built) their street rod. Generally speaking, these cars have turned out to be far more sophisticated than hot rods from earlier decades and possess the ability to be much more reliable--if driven.
But something fundamental has changed. Remember when I mentioned trailers earlier? While they have their place, they have become a much-talked-about, and highly visible demarcation line between what makes up a hot rodder versus a street rodder. Again, I have noticed over the years that trailers have gone from a tool of necessity to a luxury item. Have I ever used a trailer to make my life easier? You bet. Have I ever used a trailer to get my car to an event? You bet. OK, now that I have the self-incriminating evidence out of the way, let me give you my opinion on trailering to a car show.
I should clarify that trailers are the norm rather than the exception when it comes to the indoor car show season. Given the nature of the competition of an indoor car show, it makes sense you would try and keep the car as pristine as possible while en route from home to an indoor show. Oh yes, the indoor season is primarily during the winter months, further complicating the situation.
But let's talk about the outdoor or rod run season, which generally runs from April through the end of September, with a few events finding their way into early November. Come on, do you really need a trailer? Hell, it is going to rain at least one day at virtually any event held east of Barstow, California, during the outdoor season! Drive the damn thing. Today's street rods are truly well built (as a whole) with components that have proven themselves over time and miles. (Just look at the PPG / STREET RODDER Road Tour in its 10th year--we have proven the parts work and will last.)
I must admit I find myself a bit disappointed that guys trailer their cars to events in ever-increasing numbers. While the vast majority of cars at any rod run have and will always be driven, I realize there are times when trailering makes it possible to attend, whereas driving would make it impossible.
I have just finished attending both the Goodguys Indy and Columbus events and the disturbing (according to me) trend I see is that the level of car quality is skyrocketing (good), but so are the numbers of trailers (not good). I looked at motorcoaches and trailer combinations that cost more than my house. I am all for being comfortable, but I find it disheartening that more and more rodders are depriving themselves of the true value of owning a street rod--the experience is in the drive.
I guess the fundamental question is: Are you driving your car to enjoy it or are you trailering your car because you want to win trophies? That's a tough question to honestly answer. There can be little doubt each of us has the right to do so as we see fit. I just find it disappointing that more of us are becoming focused on winning a $10 trophy. Guys are spending hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions, of dollars just to be the "last guy standing." I have no right to tell a guy how to spend his money or what kind of car to have; I just know that the guys who "get it" are more fun. OK, I have thrown the gauntlet down; let the arrows begin to fly.