“Why did you want to build THAT?”

Posted: March 6, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Anyone who’s built a custom car or hot rod has been asked that (or should have, if they’re doing things right, to my way of thinking) at least once. Not just by the uninformed at a show by a non car guy, but by ones buddies, and most importanly, by oneself.

I’ve only lately come to learn that I need to ask myself that when starting, again and again all the way through a build, when selecting componants, colors, interior trims and so on.

As I think back, the projects I’ve been the most satisfied with, that turned out the best, and suited me most, were the ones I really thought through and planned.   The projects that started with something I wasn’t  really in love with, used componants just because they were there, or were cheap, are the ones I wasn’t happy with, wasn’t  proud of, and didn’t like.

A buddy of mine shook his head at another local builder who asked him what the “theme” was he was using for a car. My friend couldn’t understand a car build having a theme, and honestly, at the time I really didn’t either.  It seemed “cheesy”, to me to have a “theme”, but I’ve realized it doesn’t have to be cheesy, it’s a design plan.

It’s easy to spot cars built without a cohesive design “theme” at shows. They’ve got wide whites with grey tweed interiors, or 22″ rims and rolled and pleated interiors. Every cliched and trendy accessory, pastel colors with tweed interiors, billet parts, all thrown at unlikely body styles, sort of an “If a little’s good, too much isn’t enough” philosophy.

I’ve built cars I shouldn’t have, used engines that didn’t fit well, didn’t suit the intended purpose of the car, and not had a clear vision of the style I was after when I started. These cars I haven’t been happy with, didn’t like, and not surprisingly, had a hard time finding new owners for when the time came. Nobody else “got” what I was trying to say either.

With the ’36, I was inspired by a “Sketchpad” piece in Rod&Custom magazine, by the artist Thom Taylor. I was really attracted to the idea of using a derelict body nobody else wanted (fit my finances), and building a cool car that belied the humble beginnings.

The finished car is more inspired by, than a copy of that, but I had a clear vision when I started, and I think I did a pretty good job sticking to it.

Engine choice, wheels, tires, stance, everything was pretty carefully thought out, and although I did use things scrounged and “found objects”, there was a plan and inspiration for all of them. They all work together cohesively to reflect my interpretation of the original artwork.

I’ve been thinking about this as I work on the Diamond T as well. This is a project that came from a decades old idea that a Diamond T pickup was about the coolest looking thing I’d ever seen. Kind of like the Spartan trailer, I can’t exactly say when or where I saw one, but I did at some point, and have wanted one ever since.   I knew nothing about them, and up untill last fall at a friends place, had NEVER even seen another one besides mine in person.

Happily, Kim is on board with this, and she’s been quick to point out (correctly every time) when I’ve dropped the ball in the planning and execution department. The recent change of engines, from the worn out old 350 to the “new” 6.0 LS1 is all Kim, pointing out I’d settled on the 350 from the van I bought because it was cheap.

I’ve been lucky to find some parts, like the beautiful stainless steel grill, through places like the “HAMB” message board and ebay, which have really helped out. I like to think the changes in the original plan haven’t been changes, but rather “refinements” of the original plan for a truck I’d been imagining for a long, long time.  The changes didn’t sidetrack or slow down the project, each change has actually clarified the vision, sped the project along and will make it so much better than the first choice.  It’s a fluid plan, but it’s a plan.

When it’s done, and hitched up to the Spartan, I think we’ll have a very unique combo which will meet our needs, be unlike anything anybody has seen, and when somebody asks, “Why did you want to build THAT?”, I’ll have a pretty good answer.

  1. Kim says:

    What sometimes seems like criticism turns out to be a good idea! Looking forward to our first custom truck.

  2. Becky says:

    Is it a bad thing that half the time I had NO IDEA what you were talking about and yet, I read every word as if I had a project waiting in the garage. Good job! Now get back to work!

  3. craigmccool says:

    Maybe your next blog should be: Why did I BUY that? – Ask forgiveness, not permission.

  4. flynbrian48 says:

    Why indeed. Your Mom may not agree with that!

  5. Kim says:

    Indeed, I dislike that saying. Maybe because it’s been used too many times on me.

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