Starting tomorrow (you can see what New Year's Eve held for me!) 10,000-plus baby boomers a day will turn 65-this statistical reality will hold for the next 19 years. Baby boomers make up a significant segment of our hobby but they didn't invent it-that belongs to the Greatest Generation-nor will boomers see it to the end-that, hopefully, belongs to a generation not yet conceived. But for those who take care of themselves we have several decades remaining on our "timecard."
For starters, I believe in a basic dietary rule (ignoring the occasional stumble): "If your food can go bad, it's good for you. If it can't go bad, it's bad for you." Think about it, the revelation is forthcoming. And why do I say this? Hot rodding isn't intended for those seeking instant gratification; it is for those who are in it for the long haul.
Hot rodding is intended for those of us who are committed to seeing long-term projects to fruition. It isn't about how fast you can build; it's about the experience. The experience of suffering, enduring, and accepting pain (scraped knuckles, hammered fingernails, a little welding slag in the shoe, or worse yet down your pants) is woven into the DNA of hot rodding. There is the tediousness associated with the thousands of hand/arm movements linked to bodywork. But we do it because we can see the reward that is measured in personal satisfaction.
We live in a fast-paced world where instant gratification is expected; "we" want immediate results and without this we "have a spell" or "pitch a fit." I see it constantly. It isn't reserved for any particular age group, this infects universally across all generations, genders, and types of people. In a world of computers, monitors, and keyboards where time is measured in nanoseconds, the thought of having to wait, even for two nanoseconds, is unthinkable. I measure time by how long it takes me to get the roadster fired up and out of the garage. There are emails, texting, Twitter, Facebook, all put into motion with an iPhone, iPad, iTouch, iPod, and iGrab (OK, the last one is a product of my imagination).
Yet, it is the hot rodder who possesses what the rest of the world wants-personal satisfaction. We found it and for many of us it was early in life. What we do, what we want, what we try and accomplish isn't who we are. That comes from something much deeper. But we hot rodders have it.
It comes with the comfort of addressing your workbench, tinkering quietly beneath the glow of a single 100-watt bulb (OK, it's been replaced by a twin-tube florescent light fixture) to rebuild a piece of automotive history. No CPUs, software, or laptops here, just a screwdriver. Resting at the end of the workbench is an old Folgers coffee can filled with miscellaneous hardware. Each time you finger through it, the search unlocks a flood of memories. Next to or tossed over this historical covenant is a worn and lightly greased rag, preferred color is red, soft to the touch, something soothing and friendly to gently wipe off your smudged hands, while you look carefully for that tiny fine thread screw. It's in there, hiding amidst numerous other memories, some years old, others decades. The piece of hardware you need to complete that 97 or Holley or Rochester Quadrajet or maybe the 4G or 2GC-the center one you know.
Hot rodding isn't fast yet the cars are blindingly so. We stand and spend hours looking over each other's workmanship, the attention to detail, but it's at the performance we stand in awe. A hot rod can be a beautiful thing to look at but it's impressive to see in motion.
Nowadays too many people want total comfort, anything less is taboo. Our hobby thrives on and rewards us for being uncomfortable. What's better than driving your hot rod on a chilly, crisp, clear day? We are the fortunate ones. Those who live in the computer-driven world don't understand our little secret. We are reminded that all those long, tedious nights alone in our garage are now well worth it.
Hot rodding isn't comfortable but it is rewarding. We owe it to those who haven't experienced our journey to show them that much of what is good and worthwhile takes time, dedication, and persistence all mixed with perspiration yielding a "meal" worthy consuming over a lifetime.
For me it will always be the slow and sometimes arduous process. The reward comes in the small daily accomplishments that finally manifest themselves in the drive. For as long as I can afford a gallon of gas and escape the never ending "deadline," I will find the resources to experience the road and all the discomfort that comes with the tiresome and long-haul effort that is hot rodding.
A Moment of Reflection
Geraldine Doyle recently died at 86. A Michigan factory worker for a short period of time, she unwittingly became the wartime Rosie the Riveter poster girl-she was 17. The inspirational "We Can Do It!" message became an icon of the feminist movement. Hot rodders young and old know the poster of the red lipstick wearing, red with white polka dot bandanna young woman with her sleeve rolled up and arm bent in a muscle pose. She wasn't the only "Rosie the Riveter" but she was the first and our hobby acknowledges and respects those who were, are, and will be the first at all venues. You see, hot rodding is more than fun with cars.