I have written countless times that hot rodding is for individuals to express their own likes. I see the me too approach all too often when a rodder attempts his own build. And I am as guilty as the next hot rodder. I see something I like and I want to incorporate it in my hot rod. Of course, there is always the approach that you like what you see and that is what you want. OK, that I get. Maybe, just maybe, each of us should be taking something that we like and incorporating it into our hot rod, giving it our own twist. There are those who have mastered this ability.

For starters, let me illustrate the classic thinking outside the box short story that you may know but just in case you haven’t read it, enjoy. I read this story some time ago and when I finished I couldn’t believe how simple and logical the conclusion was:

You are driving down the road in your car on a wild, stormy night when you pass by a bus stop and you see three people waiting for the bus: 1. An old lady who looks as if she is about to die 2. An old friend who once savedyour life 3. The perfect partner you have been dreaming about

Who would you choose to offer a ride to, knowing that there could only be one passenger in your car? Think before you continue reading.

This is a moral/ethical dilemma that was once used as part of a job application. You could pick up the old lady because she is going to die, and thus you should save her first. Or you could take the old friend because he once saved your life, and this would be the perfect chance to pay him back. However, by doing either of these options you run the risk of never being able to find your perfect mate again.

One plausible answer could be: Give the car keys to your old friend and let him take the lady to the hospital. You would stay behind and wait for the bus with the partner of your dreams.

A complex problem with an astoundingly simple, yet logical, answer. This is the way many of us might go about building our own hot rod. We gather all the right elements but often our build falls short, even by our own standards. Oftentimes it is because we feel we must follow some preordained build philosophy that we have seen some well-known builder employ. What worked for them may not work for us.

Let me give you an example of what may very well be the most popular wheel ever used on hot rods: the five-spoke. I’ve had them on several cars I’ve owned and currently have them on my highboy roadster. The car looks great and so do the countless number of other cars that I see with the same wheels. Great idea and works well on many cars but do we want to see them on every hot rod? Well, maybe we do.

How many of you remember the crying baby who appeared on far too many hot rods perched against front fenders. I for one am very glad that this rodding craze ran its course, not quickly enough but done nonetheless.

Today the backlash on billet is astounding. Billet started slowly but rapidly gained traction and became arguably the single most dramatic element in our sportpossibly ever. (Can you name the first billet part? That’s a story for another day.) Nowadays billet has subsided and I see it being used less but used in a way that is much more complementary to both an individual’s car and the hobby. Odds are billet is here to stay and is a great asset to our hobby.

And this brings me to a hot rodder who always built to his own drumso to speak. His builds were emulated many times yet when he built a new car there was always a twist on a proven theme. He had the eye.

Barry Lobeck, or as we called him Larry in early days, was a builder who had the eye, respected the history of hot rodding, but wasn’t afraid to step outside the box. When he was finished with a car it was different but there was a familiar feel to it that made all of us comfortable with whatever he built. I knew Barry for almost 40 years, photographed his early cars back in the ’70s, and to this day would always be amazed at just how cool his cars looked. He was also an incredible pain in my backside, which proves that true friendships can weather it all. All of us should accept our friends, warts and all. Each of us has our own peccadilloes that our friends overlook, for it is the friendship that is the goal.

Barry and I found ourselves disagreeing on many things but there was one thing we always agreed uponhe knew how to build a hot rod. His eye for the right look was as good as anyone who has ever put hammer to tin. He knew what parts to mix yielding an always-new look. He and I had great times and I will miss him. All I can say is: He was a good friend whom I will dearly miss.