There seems to be a pattern forming here. Our first Young Gun of the Month was a tattoo artist, and winner number two was a sign painter. Here we are announcing winner number three, and sure enough, he works in a very creative (and cool) field. Aaron Von Minden has what many would consider the ultimate dream career, as he builds models for a living. Actually, the young Southern California resident works for a BMW design center, sculpting models and concept cars for the Bavarian automaker and lending a SoCal flavor to the look of future rides destined to be built thousands of miles away.
Even though his days are spent working on high-tech Teutonic sport sedans, when it's time to go home for the day, the 26-year-old switches tracks completely and hops in the cab of one of his two '30 Fords. Aaron claims to have always been fascinated with anything mechanical and that, after watching the classic cruising film American Graffiti over and over as a young kid, he became enthralled with hot rods and pre-war iron. Visions of Milner's coupe blazing down Paradise Road must have left quite an impression on young Aaron, because he soon developed an obsession with Model A Fords. After picking up a straight, stock '30 pickup about four years ago, he began the slow and arduous process of determining how the truck should look. "I borrowed many books and magazines to find the style I wanted," Aaron says. "I didn't have a digital camera, so I would do some work on the frame, or change the stance, then take some pictures and realize 'oh, I don't like this or that' and begin changing things." The final version is powered by a '49 Merc flathead fitted with a two-pot Edmunds intake. The drivetrain includes a three-speed side-loader trans coupled to a '32 commercial closed rear axle. A 4-inch chopped top, dropped front axle, and vintage Ford steel wheels with whitewalls round out the package.
While the pickup temporarily satiated Aaron's appetite for vintage tin, he eventually began to burn with a desire for the ultimate S-window coupe. A TCI chassis was kicked up 12 inches in the rear and fitted with coilover springs in all four comers. A Mordrop front axle resides in front while an Olds rearend provides traction out back. A built small-block Chevy topped with three deuces provides power, and a Muncie trans rows the gears. Since Aaron liked the look of the chop on his pickup, he decided to go a similar route with his coupe; the top was squashed 4 inches, and the body was channeled another 5 inches. To achieve different looks depending on his mood, Aaron procured several sets of wheels for the car. A set of steelies with bias-ply tires usually reside on the coupe, but four American Racing vintage Torq-Thrust mags with skinnies and slicks lend a more evil look to the car when the go-fast bug bites. For long days on the dry lakes kidney bean Halibrands are also available. Inside, the young designer couldn't afford to have much done by "professionals," so he took to fabricating everything himself. The steering wheel is made from two old connecting rods mated together, the door panels are rolled aluminum emblazoned with a killer crossed-wrench-and-piston image, and the seats were salvaged from another project.
Overall, both cars bleed traditional style and timeless good looks, an amazing feat considering that Aaron is a completely self-taught rodder. He was chosen as Young Gun of the Month for his unwavering desire to build his dream car, despite a lack of both funds and experience. Of course, the fact that he took some absolutely awesome pictures of his rides in action doesn't hurt either. Aaron will receive a gift certificate worth $400 redeemable with this month's sponsor, Zoops Products, which makes an entire assortment of street rod goodies ranging from air cleaners to headlights. Congratulations, Aaron!
Builders and Drivers
"Everybody loves roadsters. People riding in roadsters get bugs in their teeth 'cause they're smiling!"-Gray Baskerville
A few weeks ago, Feature Editor Damon Lee and I were talking about the different types of people we have come across at shops, shows, and events, and he stated that for the most part the folks in this hobby can be broken down into two basic groups: those who like to work on cars and those who like to drive them. A few days later I was thinking about that statement and realized that I had come to a similar conclusion myself. Of course the world isn't nearly as black and white as those categories may seem, and there are lots of rodders who happily live in that intermingled gray zone where riding and wrenching are both equally pleasurable; however I do believe that most people prefer one or the other.
When hanging out with my friends, we usually refer to these groups as "Builders" and "Drivers." While I was graced with enough natural mechanical ability to get by, I was never one to take pleasure in the pure construction of a car. For me, this step is a means to an end. If something needs to get built, I build it; if it breaks, I try my best to fix it, but with the exception of assembling motors (which I really enjoy), the construction process is not my favorite step. The builders are guys like Jimmy Shine, John D'Agostino, and the late Ed Roth. Builders are outstanding fabricators and craftsmen who view each new project like it's a blank canvas, a clean slate begging to be worked by their mechanical muscles. My dad and his buddies are like this, and finding them out in the garage debating for hours over the best way to fabricate some small little bracket or accessory is not uncommon. They love to create, to explore, to push the limits of their mechanical abilities, and I think that's cool. These folks are Builders because they could all make more money and work shorter hours if they put their mechanical prowess to work for some corporation figuring out widgets; however, they choose to work on hot rods because it's what they love. These are the type of people who are constantly coming up with new ways to build a car, and they keep things interesting in a hobby where just about everything that can be done already has. For the Builders, pushing the envelope is what it's all about.
When I think about Drivers, one name comes to mind: Gray Baskerville. As you can tell by the quote at the beginning of this column, Ol' Dad lived to drive his roadster, and as a kid growing up in Southern California, I had several opportunities to spot the sandal-wearing Hot Rod Magazine staffer cruising around in his bright-red Deuce. The guy loved to drive, for the pure, unfiltered pleasure of the wind in his hair and the burbling sound of a V-8 amped through dual exhaust ringing in his ears. I definitely count myself as a member of this category. I've been hooked ever since I drove my family's "beater car" '63 Impala four-door when I was eight or nine years old. Whether that means cruising down the highway in my commuter, broiling the tires in a massive side-swinging burnout, or running around a racetrack at full speed in a shifter kart, being behind the wheel is where I'm the happiest. I suppose that's why I love being a member of the ROD & CUSTOM team so much, because this magazine is all about flogging the everlasting whee out of your rod, as opposed to power parking at shows and exercising your car duster. We leave that to the other guys. Events like Americruise and Asphalt Ego-Rama give us magazine types a chance to get out on the open road with readers like you, where we can all share in the joy that is driving a hot rod or custom down the open road, where they belong. Interestingly, I believe more young people fall into this category than any other. Maybe it's because we have shortened attention spans from all the video games and sugar cereal, but most of the Young Guns I know have a serious problem sitting still long enough to tolerate a car show for more than a few hours. We want to drive, make noise, burn rubber, and wreak havoc (while obeying all posted traffic laws, of course). Flip on the nightly news and you can see that spiky-haired punks in rice rockets are creating all sorts of problems street racing, crashing, and killing people, so the authorities now look down upon high-performance driving on the highways and byways of this nation, which is why driving events are so great. They let you commune with other rodders and get a few full-tilt boogies out of your system while avoiding problems with John Law. Drivers keep this thing of ours moving, and like the old slogan says, street really is neat!
So by now you're wondering what exactly my point is with all of this category stuff. What I'm trying to get at is that, while we all find different ways to enjoy this weird little hobby of worshipping transportation designed decades ago, we are also all connected with a common bond. No matter where your interests fall, we all enjoy early iron, even if it is for different reasons. We can also change. I am just getting started on my first roadster project, a Real Hot Rods '28 Lakes Modified that I'm building in my dad's shop at night and on weekends. While I'm sure driving the finished product will induce more pleasure than a few trips to the all-you-can-eat ice cream bar, I have found that relaxing in the shop with my dad, my friends, and a few cold ones can be a truly pleasurable way to spend an evening. So who knows... maybe I am a builder after all.