Often when I have visitors in the shop that aren’t familar with hot rodding, I get asked how I learned to do what I do…and part of my answer doesn’t seem to be what most people expect.
Of course, the first thing I say when I’m asked that question is that I grew up around hot rodding, which is absolutely true. My dad was a firefighter, and on his days off we either worked on his car projects or went and ran around town visiting people and places that had to do with hot rods, or street rods as they were being referred to then. Central Texas hot rodders like Stan Devers, Joe Smith, Charles Pehl, Buck and Steve Pickens, and several others helped shape my interest in hot rods from an early age. I did learn a lot of the basics of hot rodding through my dad, and I’m grateful for that.
Without getting too in-depth here…as I got older and started to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I kept gravitating to hot rods and motorcycles. After I got my first hot rod (’49 Ford Coupe) on the road, I met a lot of new people that were also big influences in my life. People like Bob Wilson and Jimmy White were essential in my growth as a fabricator and hot rodder. Bob showed me the basics of TIG welding, and I took those basics and practiced my welding…heeding advice given to me over the phone by my friend Jimmy…who is also an expert welder. Having access to Bob’s knowledge as a machinist took my work to another level, and allowed me to attempt to make things that I never even knew I could make.
Now all of that may sound pretty expected, and not too far out of the ordinary. The part most people don’t really understand is the amount of reading and studying that is necessary to become an expert on Early Ford-based hot rods, or traditional customs.
There is a pretty long list of unspoken rules in building a hot rod that can only be learned from studying old hot rod magazines. I have been buying and collecting old magazines since I was a teenager, and have gained a large part of my knowledge on the subject from reading them. After bombarding your brain with images of how hot rods really looked in any particular era, you start to get a feel for what looks right…and it’s something I’m not sure can be taught. You either get it, or you don’t.
I always say, “if you want to be a doctor, you study medical journals…if you want to build hot rods, you study old hot rod magazines.” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Outsiders to the world of hot rodding never seem to take me seriously when I tell them that, but I am absolutely sincere.
With all that said, I took a small sample of books from the Bass Kustom library and scanned the covers. If you should run across any of these, they should be required reading for anyone that really wants to learn about hot rods…along with more modern publications, such as the Don Montgomery Books and the Bishop/Tardel A-V8 manual. Of course the list doesn’t stop here…any vintage hot rod magazine you can get your hands on will help.
*Click on the thumbnails below for a larger view.*
Editor’s Note: These make excellent wallpapers for your I-phone!