For the last quarter century or so, the evolution of hot rodding, at least in my eyes, has simply been historical repetition. While everything was all brand new in the beginning, starting with modifying for the sake of function (dry lakes/street racing), which later evolved into modifying for the sake of form (customs), there finally came a point where the newness wore off. Hot rodders eventually did everything short of mounting a scud missile to their ’32 roadster in trying to milk as much horsepower as possible. Customizers threw everything but the kitchen sink at their cars in an effort to one-up the other guys with their creations.

By the late ’60s/early ’70s, as each passing year brought one new model car after another, hot rodding began to break off into various segments: vans, full-size and mini-trucks, VWs, kit cars, lowriders, muscle cars, etc. And while the customs somewhat died off (not entirely, thankfully), hot rodding—or street rodding as it had become known seeing as “hot rod” applied to a much wider variety of vehicles by now—had almost done a design 360. (Ironically, 30-some years later, so too would the automakers come full circle with the retro re-release of such benchmark muscle cars as the Dodge Challenger and Chevy Camaro.) What was new and fresh decades prior, was now to the point where restoration came into the picture, hence the resto rod.

And from here, the branches of our hobby’s family tree had grown to their full, adult length. But that doesn’t mean there’s no further growth potential, not by a long shot. The tree has room for plenty of new branches to sprout—today’s builders and those of the future will carry the torch on, repeating the cycle the founding fathers started nearly a century ago. Our job here is to keep that tree healthy, nurtured, and well groomed.

Will there be new trends to come? Depends on how you look at it: redesigning the widget is one thing; designing an entirely new widget isn’t quite as easy as it may seem. For us hot rod and custom folk, the evolution aspect is nowhere near as important as preserving what we have already done and ensuring our livelihood for future generations to come. But there will come a time when all the untouched Mercs, Chevys, Fords, etc., are long gone, and Mother Nature won’t be the only one responsible for our custom well drying up. Our actions now will weigh heavily on whatever Father Time has in store for us and our hobby.

I guess ultimately it’s all about preservation—of our cars, our hobby, and our freedom to enjoy them … as we see fit.

P.S. By the way, since we no longer have any type of news column, I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome our newest member to the R&C team, Angela Schoof. While she may be new in her role as Rod & Custom’s associate publisher, she’s by no means a newbie to the company. Angela and I have worked together quite extensively in the past, most recently when I was with Classic Trucks, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t credit her involvement as being vital to creating a successful publication—which I expect will continue to be the case here with R&C.