As I sit here on national election night I am reminded that regardless of how the election turns out for public office it’s still what happens in my own backyard that will have the most immediate and greatest impact on my future as a hot rodder. Local elections often have the immediacy that national elections lack.
For starters, there’s little difference as to who or what party is in office, the fact remains all of us have been to enough “rodeos” to know there will be some positive results and some negative results. One might call it a fact of life. In the meantime, the secret is how well do you adapt and learn to deal with what has (or is) dealt to you.
I live and work in what’s arguably the most dysfunctional state in the union. We cannot come up with a budget, we can’t fund our schools, and our roads rank 49th out of 50 states. (And for those of you who are tired of me mentioning California, suck it up, we have 900 miles of beach and it’s 80 and sunny—and it’s winter!) Only Alaska comes in behind us in roadworthiness and I’m pretty sure they get a pass given their year-round weather. Our state also spends an inordinate amount of time (which translates into money) on making sure a couple hundred thousand hot rods of all makes, models, and years are driven on average less than 4,000 miles a year yet each must be emission compliant. Statistically the emission numbers hot rods generate are insignificant and this comes from those trying to govern us. But because we are high-profile vehicles we get the attention. I should also point out that I see more and more states following California when it comes to more strictly enforced registration guidelines and the subsequent emission standards.
No question these are the hardest of times that will hopefully lead to better times, but in the meantime many of us have to be careful about just how much effort (read that money) we inject into our projects. There’s no denying I have become more careful for any one of several reasons but here are some observations I’ve noted over the past few years.
While there are rodders who drive east to west and west to east for events, especially the L.A. Roadsters Father’s Day Swap Meet and Car Show for eastern rodders coming west, there are also a number each year who drive from the West Coast to events such as Goodguys Indy. The big difference comes under the banner of price increase; gas and other road expenses (hotels, food). I am seeing fewer rodders drive from the corners of the country to the National events, such as the NSRA Nationals Plus in Louisville or the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association event in Columbus. It’s been about seven years since I have driven my roadster across country and it’s all about the cost. And I miss the days in the “saddle”, as nothing beats driving a hot rod. I particularly like the nighttime drives; head back looking at the stars, with the occasional dragonfly in the forehead, but what the heck it’s incredible. I miss driving across country in a hot rod meeting different rodders each day, hanging out in their garages, going to their favorite haunts, and searching out car parts from the four corners. Whether I like it or not it’s not 1967 anymore and times have changed, are changing, and will continue to change regardless of my input.
As I see it, going forward hot rodding will become more localized; one-day travel. I believe the heyday of lots of rodders driving and crisscrossing the country is coming to an end. I’m sure all of you are familiar with the AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Road Tour and the eight individual legs and the Power Tour and its daily stops on the weeklong trek. Both of these events are enjoying success and continue to grow but if you look closely it’s really a series of regional events.
Now there’s a way around some, if not all, of the downside. Of course, winning the Lotto is a great way to cure a number of ills. Figuring that isn’t going to happen I have for some time been entertaining the idea of converting my hot rod to an alternative fuel. (Around the office several of the guys have gotten electric cars but that just leaves me wanting.) I like the idea of compressed natural gas (CNG) and currently seeing what I can do to convert my roadster or actually begin with my closed-cab pickup on CNG. There are advantages such as lower fuel costs, I get to drive in the Diamond Lane, oil changes, and changing spark plugs are a thing of the past. I have lots to do to pull this off but should you have an idea on how to do this or another method to make driving more affordable let me know. I really do want to drive across country again; this is really what I find enjoyable about our hobby.