I got home from work yesterday and was greeted by a crisp new issue of R&C. I read it from cover to cover and was, as always, delighted. There was, however, one little comment in the coverage of the GNRS that flew right up my nose. The term "shock value" rat rod came out in the article and in not so many words it was stated that they didn't belong at the show...or anywhere. It could be that we're not thinking of the same kind of cars here but it seems to me that if that's what someone wants to build they should go for it and they should be welcome down at the cruise night. Hot rodding is about building what you can with what you have, making it look how you want and having a blast driving it down the road. It's not about following trends or building what someone else thinks is cool.
For example, I live in the heart of western Canada. We didn't have much of a hot rod culture in the Forties and Fifties and so there's not much left over from that era in the way of speed parts. However, lots of guys, in the spirit of hot rodding, are pulling Model As out of the bush and having a ball. I don't think they should be looked down on for running a boring '80s 4-barrel 350 instead of a Flathead with a handful of carbs. Similarly, if someone wants to build the lowest, dirtiest, loudest, ugliest rat rod in America, he should do just that and we should embrace him as a fellow fanatic.
Hot rods are like art in many ways and I would never tell someone how they can express themselves through their art. A mural on a wall can be done by a well-respected artist commissioned by someone or a 15-year-old with a couple of spray cans tagging a wall at midnight trying not to get caught. The end result is still paint on a wall but the person viewing them will take them in differently.
I'll let Kev take over the response from here: `As most readers will have gathered, I'm English, and we probably have less hot rod raw material than you Canadians, so I'm all for rodding what you can get hold of. I've owned and built many oddballs, from a chopped Saab 95 wagon to a Datsun-powered Anglia! What I don't like or condone though is bad workmanship, dangerous cars with no scrubline and an inch of ground clearance, incorrect suspension or steering geometry, misaligned drivetrains or improper use of parts for suspension. A segment of the "rat rod" (for want of a better term) culture almost glorifies such builds, and this is what I was referring to using the term "shock value". My personal preference leans heavily toward traditional rods and customs, but safely built.'
R&C is all about guys taking the bare essentials and using good craftsmanship to build a fun and safe hot rod. A good example was Chris Casny's '27 Nash/Ford roadster on our last cover.
This is in response to Bob MacVicars observation in the May 2009 issue that too many pages were spent on Ed Roth's Orbitron, Ed could be critical of a few of his own projects openly to the public. So, it may not have been his best. Bob may not feel it's worthy, but in response to that I can only repeat what one of Ed's famous T-shirts shouted out to us years ago, "If I Gotta Explain You Wouldn't Understand." The shirt featured Rat Fink on a chopper.
Ed was a huge influence on a whole generation of people who tried to recreate his way of thinking, whether it was building rods, model kits, artwork, motorcycles, surfing, or skateboarding. No other custom builder can list those credentials. The article is about more than Ed Roth and the Orbitron. The car's creation fell in a special time in this country's history of car culture that is truly missed today.
I just received the April issue of R&C and loved the coverage of the Model As. The illustrations by Jimmy Smith were outstanding! I've sent a few pictures of what started out as a '30 Model A Tudor. Great minds think alike.