If you’re wondering what that is behind me, it’s a ’29 Ward LaFrance fire engine originally from service in Holly, NY. My neighbor is a fire chief and he brings it home each year to give the kids a ride during our neighborhood’s July 4th parade. Ward LaFrance and American LaFrance were two separate companies. Take the time to read how the Ward LaFrance came about, good read.
I’ve heard the following time and time again by athletes, businessmen, and people from all stations in life—even street rodders!—“I want to leave the world (and our hobby) better than it was when I arrived.” Rodding has history, albeit a small amount, and it has a future, a bit unpredictable. Over the past decade or so a number of rodding founders have cycled through, if I may write it in that fashion. And what I have learned from each of them who I have had the good fortune to call “friend” is in their closing moments they would say, “I hope that I made a positive difference.” There’s no question our hobby has come of age.
For starters, an individual rodder whose life is consumed with being a good person, an honorable spouse, and doing your best to raise your tot-rodders (the next generation) to positively influence the lives of others, you’ve come to the realization that it’s a full-time occupation; by anyone’s definition. It’s no wonder we don’t have enough time to work on our current project, much less get to the next one—and the one after that. But we persist and that’s the rodding spirit.
Nowadays I find myself more consumed with evaluating my actions on our hobby as opposed to what it can do for me. I am reminded of former President John. F. Kennedy when I heard him (yes, I am that old!) speak the words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, rather ask what you can do for your country.”
I would never be so presumptuous as to think either I or our hobby is on par with a president or our country but there’s much to be taken from this timeless piece of writing so eloquently spoken on a cold, windy day in January 1961. If you think about it, at that time hot rodding was shifting into high gear and the next phase, street rodding, was about to emerge. (A subject for another editorial is, “What’s the difference between a hot rod and a street rod, and hot rodder versus a street rodder, or hot rodding versus street rodding?” That should get hackles standing straight up!)
As each of us goes about moving through our garage we are working toward a goal. There are numerous goals but much revolves around finishing our current ride and driving it. Maybe it’s making it to the first indoor car show of the season, maybe it’s about the first rod run of the year, and maybe the dry lakes or Bonneville is in our future. My favorite is the long haul across country to an event. The event is never as important nor is it ever as much fun as the drive. It’s always been my experience that I enjoy an endeavor much more when I am part of it rather than a spectator to it. “Power parking” and “trailering to a show” aren’t in my lexicon of rodding words or terms; although I get the use of a trailer as I have used one on many an occasion.
But what have any of us done to make the hobby better for others? What happens when you drive off into the “sunset”? Is your garage going to become a rusty, dusty, greasy place your family isn’t sure how to handle? I sure hope not. Have you participated as a club member helping wherever you can? Have you been a good rodding buddy and helped other rodding buddies with their projects? Have you looked at future rodders in your own family and helped kindle the fire that’s their passion with cars? If not in your own family what about neighborhood future rodders who look to you because of your experience but maybe they’re fearful of approaching you (’cause you’re old!)? What have you done to help them? Remember, skills come in both the mechanical as well as emotional types.
I know I tried passing the rodding gene onto my daughter—that didn’t work. So the grandsons are just now showing a liking for cars but currently their palette isn’t sophisticated enough to like old stuff with new stuff, stuffed into it. But there’s hope. I do get lots of emails from up-and-coming rodders asking a myriad of technical questions, many of which I pass onto Senior Tech Editor Ron Ceridono. Once a high school shop instructor and knower of all things rodding, he gives out some great advice, especially on how to take a conventional ignition condenser charge it and leave it lying about so that some poor unsuspecting soul (like me!) picks it up and gets the living daylights shocked out of himself. Without rodding buddies like Ron this hobby wouldn’t nearly be as much fun. Do your part; leave it better than you found it.