By now every hot rodder has in one way or another dealt with our current economic troubles. I have seen individuals, shops, and manufacturers struggle while, on the other hand, I have also seen others continue onward. Maybe not business as usual but progress nonetheless.
For starters what does that mean for us as hot rodders? Well, SEMA is an organization charged with monitoring and fostering the growth of the automotive aftermarket. As part of their methods they are involved in gathering copious amounts of information (data) by asking, interviewing, and evaluating numbers provided by their membership, which represents nearly every company each and every one of us have used at some time during the build of our hot rod.
SEMA has come up with some interesting info, which was gathered in January 2009. SEMA polled a group of enthusiasts who owned a street rod-what they found was interesting to say the least. I'm not sure I agree with some of the findings but the answers were at least interesting.
Among hot rodders, the '32 Ford roadster was, is, and will be in the future arguably the most iconic hot rod of all time. This will undoubtedly further infuriate readers of STREET RODDER who already believe we feature too many Deuces. (Yes, that's a '32 on the cover. That's an argument for another time.) After the Deuce comes the '33-34 Ford and almost 80 percent of those asked are Ford fans. I guess hot rodders who enjoy something other than a Blue Oval will just have to deal with it for now.
When these hot rodders were asked what they believed the hottest segment of the aftermarket would be in '09, the majority stuck to their base and voted for street rod and customs, followed by muscle cars and restored vehicles. Likewise, they believe the hottest trends will be do-it-yourself modifications, budget builds and high-performance street applications. This last bit of data shouldn't surprise anyone, as D-I-Y and budget builds are at the very heart of our hobby. It's where we came from and will always be regardless of economic times-good or bad.
When asked to further comment on what type of modifications they would find themselves doing this year, the following data surfaced: paintwork represented 10 percent, an upgrade to braking performance was 6 percent. Of the top 20 products, all but a few are performance related. Nearly half (47 percent) of those surveyed said they plan to purchase the greatest amount of products from mail-order catalogs or custom shops and installers, which again bodes well for working at home.
In speaking with a number of builders and manufacturers, the high ticket items have slowed down but, ironically, there is still activity on complete chassis. However, low-dollar items are still moving well. Even in times of stress, hot rodders will still want to get out in the garage and enjoy themselves. Working on a project, while at times can be frustrating, is oftentimes cathartic. Hot rodders aren't about to abandon their project just because times are tough. All of us have been here before and have come through, and we all expect to do that again.
More and more we are hearing that rodders are spending as much time on their projects but opting to be careful with money. They are working on less cash-sensitive projects but still working. There seems to be a resurgence in fabricating, bodywork, wiring, and "light" mechanical work. These projects always needed to get done but there was always something more glamorous to do. Now with a careful eye on the budget, rodders are still spending the time, enjoying their cars, but putting effort into more low-profile efforts. It is still work that needs to be accomplished and now through unusual circumstances these projects will be accomplished.
Ironically, with the noticeable drop in gas prices many rodders are still taking the cars out for the weekend runs. Driving will always be the welcomed relief for any rodder to enjoy the fruits of his labor, and it will always be the "end game" for me. Driving a hot rod is the reason I get up in the morning-that and my boss tells me, "If you ever want to afford another tankful of gas get your backside to work!"