There were hot rods and customs before Rod & Custom debuted in 1953 but, with more than 55 years of publications, R&C has its share of history. Knowing where we've been can always help us get to where we want to go. Historical articles and features have always been a part of R&C and they were a big part after it was brought back to life under the leadership of Pat Ganahl. As editor, I try to walk the fine line of covering our past while still reporting on the present.
Some of my tight rope walking was recently brought into question by an owner of a historical hot rod that was displayed at one of the major indoor car shows this year and received a prestigious award. After seeing the show coverage in the magazine he couldn't believe that a photo of his car with some mention of the award was not included. He immediately figured I wouldn't know an important hot rod if it ran over me
After he vented for a few minutes I told him I knew his car very well. I proceeded to explain to him that we have a limited amount of space in the magazine to cover the show and that it's not always easy to edit down the images. I also tried to explain that I tried to give exposure to a wide variety of the cars there.
He then told me that most of the other cars in the coverage were basically "just cars," implying that his was somehow more important. This was where I made it clear to him that they might be "just cars" to him but to the owners and builders they were every bit as important as his.
Over the years Rod & Custom has had a part in making several of today's historical rods and customs historic; in fact it was R&C that made his car famous. With this in mind I tried to explain to him that R&C is trying to give some of these other cars a shot at making history for themselves. His hot rod has been on the cover of R&C at least twice (once back when it was originally built and again after it was restored) so I figured 90-plus-percent of you reading this magazine know the car, have seen the car, and therefore wouldn't learn much more from seeing it again. I guess I could have left out Bill Towers' shortened Model A sedan or Cory Taulbert's '34 Ford pickup (after all they're "just cars") but I was thinking almost all of you hadn't seen either one and might be able to pick up some building tips.
In the end, his issues weren't resolved (he was still making calls complaining to other people a few days after we spoke). I couldn't figure out if he was more upset that I knew his car and its significance and didn't include it, therefore committing a sin of omission, or that it wasn't the sin of ignorance he thought it may have been (somehow easier to forgive if I was just too stupid to know the difference).
Contrary to what this guy might think, Rod & Custom will still continue to explore the rich history of this hobby. Two prime examples are in this very issue. Both the Mountain Pearl and the Trojan T are excellent examples of the type of rods and customs we're always on the lookout for. Each one hadn't been seen in years and has been lovingly restored to its previous show-going condition. The latest photos sprinkled with some vintage snapshots makes for great content. But now that we've featured them the chances of them showing up in some event coverage again is going to be rare. There are too many other cars that are every bit as special to their owners (who will appreciate even a small photo as part of show coverage) to keep running the same stuff over and over. If you have an opinion on seeing historic cars in R&C, send me an email.
As part of celebrating our own history, R&C is working with John Buck to put together a special exhibit at the 2010 Grand National Roadster Show. The plans so far are for us to share the gallery building with Street Rodder magazine and fill it with 24 cars (12 for each mag) that have, ideally, been on the cover of the magazine. The cars will be displayed with a blow up of their cover behind it in a setting that is more like an art gallery than a car show. Ironically the historic roadster above would qualify but I'm not holding my breath over the owner bringing it out (although if he'd like to, we'd love to have it).
We're still working out the details and John is brainstorming to come up with incentives for the car owners to make it even more special. We're trying to bring in a good mix of past cover cars, hopefully going back to some from the Fifties. If you have a past cover car and think you might like to participate, send me an email with a photo and hopefully we can work something out.