Is it possible to get philosophical about a hot rod? Tommy Otis could call himself the last of the great Greek philosophers. We've never actually heard him call himself that-but knowing the way his mind works, we're just saying he could. And we already know the first philosophical question we'd ask. In the future, when people look back at the nostalgia-inspired hot rods of today, will they think of them as '50s- and '60s-style cars, or will they think of them as 21st century cars?
The philosopher Otis might have already given us the answer in the form of his latest project-the L.A. Tub.
If you're familiar with any of the traditional hot rods Tommy has done in the past, you might be a little surprised by this one. The L.A. Tub is a clear tribute to the old custom show rods of 50 years ago, specifically the Ala Kart, built in 1957. But, instead of copying the original with a replica clone, Tommy decided to create a new original, applying the old style-and a few of the design elements-to a completely different body style. Part '50s and part '00s.
"I wanted to break away from the traditional hot rods I've built in the past and do a custom rod with a little more edge," he says. Illustrator Steve Stanford understood completely and put the idea onto paper. Once a suitable car was found, the concept moved from paper into reality. It's a combination of something old and familiar with something new and never seen before.
Last month, we showed you some shots of the car under construction and in pieces, hoping you'd be interested enough to come back and see it all together. Here is the finished project, as it looked when it rolled onto the floor of the Grand National Roadster Show.
What we can show you in two issues of R&C took more like four years in real time, and represents the combined effort of many different builders from East Coast to West Coast. Tommy's friend Arty Regan came up with the donor car-an all-original '29 phaeton from Rhode Island-and started work at his shop, Car Land Auto Body in Danbury, Connecticut. Work continued after the tub was transported to California, where much of the rest of the buildup was completed at Tri-C Engineering in Valencia and Joe Arnold's Auto Body Shop in Northridge. Even Tommy's teenage sons, Casey and Andy, got involved.
Every part of the tub was reworked in some way, but the most remarkable mods are the easiest to spot. In true show custom rod style, the body was completely customized, from the handbuilt nose wrapped around a modified '32 grille, to the quad headlights from a VW Golf (behind amber lenses), to the scooped hood, and the cowl with a working fresh-air vent. It's just as cool from the rear, where bobbed steel fenders, angled '58 Chevy taillights, and half of the car's eight exhaust pipes add to the overall personality of the tub. That's not even mentioning the tonneau cover with headrest pontoons, Tommy's Ala Kart-inspired graphics, Arty Regan's crazy aluminum touring top, or any of the other amazing mods made to the car.
When the L.A. Tub showed up at the 2006 Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, promoter John Buck directed it to a prominent spot in the center of the main hall, not far from the trophy for America's Most Beautiful Roadster. We were glad to see this contemporary but traditional tribute show rod-built to honor the contribution of previous custom builders-get recognized with some honor of its own.