No, I am not practicing to become a televangelist. I am still the same nuts, bolts and rusted sheet metal guy that has been putting his thoughts on this web site for some time now. So if I am not trying to be the next Joel Osteen, what on earth am I chatting about?
Everything Old is New Again
What I am talking about is long dead old cars that you can buy brand new. Huh? You say. How can that be? Well thanks to those clever Chinese and some dedicated American businessmen, you can now buy all the parts you need to have to build a brand new 1940 Ford, a 32 Ford, a model A Ford, a 34 Ford 55,56,57 Chevy, 65 Mustang and probably other cars that I don’t know about. They have arisen from the dead for life immortal!
(Speaking of car parts, if you don’t think a part can be exciting, then you haven’t yet read The Titanium Camshaft!)
How did this come about? Well in the beginning there was the original car produced in volume and sold to avid customers. The vehicles lived their life of mechanical exuberance and then passed on to the graveyard of worn out machines to meet the jaws of the crusher and be reduced to their fundamental elements. The molten steel then became the beginning of the next generation.
But not all the old cars met this drastic fate. For some there was a reprieve. They managed to survive old age in the hands of a loving owner or thrifty farmer and to by and large endure graceful decay. Some very few would survive totally intact to trudge through life as a curiosity on the highway or in the safe cocoon of a museum.
Then something happened. Some few models of these old cars were recognized as being something worth saving, something that could be enjoyed perhaps by a successor generation that could see beauty and mechanical excellence in the original design that was not present in later vehicles. Call it nostalgia. They had “IT”. Now Marilyn Monroe, while beautiful, was really not any sexier that a crowd of other gals her age. I remember Irene, a high school cheerleader. Wow what a sex kitten. I bet you have one you remember. But Marilyn had “IT”. It was the “IT” that made her immortal while Irene got fat and forty.
A New Market for “New” Products
So next arises the restoration market. You find that old 40 Ford coupe that is basically intact but has delaminated glass, stuck engine, a rusty trunk, a bent fender and other maladies that happened as old age crippled it. Along comes business men like Bob Drake and Dennis Carpenter and they see a market emerging so they start remanufacturing the parts that the dedicated restorer needs. So let’s stick with the 40 Ford and follow the market development.
The market actually spilt several ways. You have the restorers forming the Early Ford V8 Club whose members want a return to EXACT original condition. Use a Phillips head screw on a 40 Ford and you immediately are branded as a novice. There are the nostalgic hot rodders who turn back the hands of time to the pre WW 2 era and the 50s when flathead Fords with high compression aluminum cylinder heads and dual carbs dominated the highway and salt flats. Their mantra: “If it goes, race it. If not, chrome it.”
Then along comes George Barris and a host of other talented metal men and the Custom market emerges. Chop and channel, pearl paint and lace enter the scene. I hate to say it but I think these guys would shorten Marilyn’s legs two inches in their quest to make her more distinctive and beautiful. Currently we have emergence of the “restomod” bunch. Keep the body original in appearance but put it on a modern design chassis with a modern engine and drive train adding modern accessories such as air conditioning.
Fads – They Come, They Go, They Come Back
You can take these basic classifications and slice and dice them to your heart’s content. The only thing certain is that they all change in some fashion with time. These markets are the definition of “Fad”. Things get hot then fade away as new enthusiasts follow new interests. Right now the original restorer’s are in decline. Not for lack of interest but due to a graying senior population, lack of restorable vehicles and high cost of restoration.
But the restomod market! Now that is where there is a lot of action. The guys with gold chains, pot bellies and big farm subsidies go to Barret Jackson and buy the dream car of their youth. Irene is the wife beside them, not much action there unfortunately. So up rolls a 57 Chevy hard top that looks very stock and original but with a perfectly straight body and stunning two stage base-coat, clear-coat paint. Then you open the hood and see a brand new LS7 crate motor, Vintage Air system and stainless custom headers. There is gloss paint on smooth firewalls and out back a multilink rear suspension and fat tires on custom rims, all in chrome plus disk brakes all around. You know this car will run like a rocket and Irene will yell at you “slow this damn thing down right now!” $150K later and it goes onto the transporter and home to the garage with the tile floor without a spot of grease to be driven maybe a thousand miles a year.
Am I jealous? Bet your ass I am. I want that new Dennis Carpenter 40 Ford coupe body on a Fat Man chassis with power rack and pinion steering. A late model Ford DOHC Coyote engine between the frame rails and the new Art Morrison IRS out back. Inside you’ll find fully stuffed Wise Guy seats with Bandelier seat belts along with Vintage Air to keep us cool in summer and toasty in winter. Don’t forget the Wilwood power disk brakes all around and the Bear Claw latches for the doors.
I’ll fess up I just got delivery of the new Street Rodder magazine book: “The Guide to Building A ’40 Ford” this is what ignited this old man’s foray into the world of the 1-800 hotrodding. For the uncool among you a 1-800 hot rod is a car that a builder can assemble by picking up the phone and ordering new parts rather than trying to find and fix original tin. The blistered hands, slightly deaf guys, with worn out backs and painful knees look down on these no talent loafers. (“Can’t we all get along?”)
My Hotrod Adventures
So here is my situation: I drive the properly restored classic 1940 Lincoln Continental to car shows and area tours. I drive the 40 Coupe Bahnburner with the wife aboard when the situation calls for climate control or when I get lucky alone out on the back road when one is around. It is very sociable around town but becomes a beast when no is around to observe. With the Carpenter Ford I would give serious contemplation to a road trip stopping to create some excitement along the way.
My appetite is varied but now is restrained by age. At 84 I had better not bite off more long range planning that I can chew. No dust collecting restorations for me anymore. But if you guys will just get on the ball and buy ten thousand books and demand a movie be made then I can get out the order pad. Here’s how to get ordering, and get this show on the road!