KUSTOMS UNDER THE SUN

I’ve been to more car shows in the last year than at any other time in my life. Between debuting my own car and coming on board with Speedhunters, I’ve been fortunate to hit major shows nearly every month – a petrolhead’s dream come true. An unexpected benefit of this recent and rapid exposure has been the opportunity to compare some very different events. Let’s be honest, nothing sucks more than attending shows that all feel the same – especially when the same cars show up over and over… and over.

I was excited to attend the Cruisin’ Nationals in Santa Maria because it’s known for having a strong contingency of my favorite genre: the traditional kustom.

Walking in the gate, Larry and I immediately had our socks knocked off by all the shimmering pearl electrified by direct sunlight. We both just walked off and started shooting the sun-charged masterpieces in their natural habitat, regrouping every so often before making our way to another set of cars.

Many of the major rod shows are indoors, a tradition that dates back over 60 years. It gives builders the chance to put their best foot forward, with a perfectly-polished and detailed car sitting in a display to complement it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the prestige of a national indoor show as much as the next guy, but the Cruisin’ Nationals reminded me of what you miss while your brain is being numbed by artificial lighting.

With the natural light enhancing every voluptuous vintage curve, we could truly appreciate the finest kustoms and rods on the west coast.

’49-’51 Mercurys are by far the most legendary of all kustoms – it’s just the go-to bodystyle for customizing – so this earlier ’48 model with canted Buick lights was particularly refreshing.

Being a kustom-centric show I thought we would see tons of chopped and dropped Mercs, so I was surprised by the overwhelming number of slammed Chevys.

This one had plenty of intricate paintwork on the roof – a theme we would see a lot more of throughout the show.

Here’s another with the mild custom treatment – slammed, shaved and flaked – but not chopped.

Plus a nicely detailed original straight six. I hope this one gets finished.

Traditional doesn’t always have to mean dumped though. I’m sure some would argue that this stock height Ford roadster is more traditional than any of the bagged and candied kustoms being built today.

I took Gene Winfield’s metalworking class with a few guys who are now making their mark on the scene, like the owner/builder of this car, Bear Metal Kustoms’ Jason Pall.

Jason showed us the trick four banger he built with an NOS Cyclone racing head.

It seemed like the nicest cars were always clustered together. This row started with a bagged, subtly flamed Chevy…

… next to a traditionally-styled Merc…

… next to yet another Merc from Celebrity Customs

… bookended by John D’Agostino’s latest creation: Sophia.

We first saw Sophia at the Grand National Roadster Show, but it just wasn’t the same as seeing her out in the daylight. We’ve just confirmed a full feature shoot on this car for next month, so stay tuned!

I watched the matte painted ’57 Ranchero in the background as it was built on the HAMB. Between this car and Keith Weesner’s renderings, a ’57 Ranchero is now on my short list of must-have cars. It’s always cool to see a car like this in the flesh for the first time.

The Loco Banditos CC were lined up front-and-center by the stage.

We’ve been trying to tee up features for these cars since we met the guys at March Meet. In the meantime, look for a Spotlight on the ’60 wagon very soon.

There were surprisingly few under-construction vehicles at the show, but this bare metal Chevy deserved to showcase its fine metalwork.

Who would have thought white could look so bold?

This ’40 Merc looked like it fell off a page of Rodder’s Journal.

Wide white bias plies are as traditional as it gets. Some guys cheat (myself included) and run radials on a full fendered car, but obviously this owner wanted to go all-in with his traditional build.

It’s funny how such an extreme build can start to look tame in a sea of candy colored customs.

Here’s a nice slammed Pontiac, with matte paint glowing under the bright sun.

The switchbox for the air ride is the only tell-tale that this picture was taken in 2013 and not 50 years earlier.

White, chrome and color-matched carpet makes for a fresh interior.

Two doors are generally favored, but these sedans loaded with factory accessories looked absolutely perfect with nothing more than a slammed stance.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

This ’54 Chevy came down from Canada and had a slightly different vibe…

…with a tame but nicely appointed six banger…

… plus full trim and wires, creating an upscale, sophisticated feel.

Here’s another Chevy that I would put in the sophisticated camp. The owner really restrained things, resulting in a very clean build.

This little pickup was quite the opposite.

Loud and in your face.

Another little hot rod in a sea of kustoms, this time a Modified on narrow bias plies with open headers.

I hope he wears those goggles when he drives.

This pair of Chevrolets was a good demonstration of two different styles. The matte blue Tri-5 had a mean ’60s street race vibe, while the earlier shoebox Chevy was more of a SoCal lowrider custom.

I spotted a period metalflake Mooneyes steering wheel inside the Tri-5 too. You’ll see why I had my eye out for these soon enough.

Guys used to showed off their hydro pumps behind acrylic, now it’s air compressors.

As Larry and I finished lunch I realized there was a whole field behind us that we hadn’t even seen yet.

I instantly spotted the Kaiser from across the grass. I looked for the owner but he wasn’t around, so I threw my card on his seat. You just don’t see chopped Kaisers very often.

Nor do you ever see a chopped Nash Metropolitan!

While I was checking out these custom oddities, Larry had slipped away again. I found him shooting this amazing scene – a patina’d two-door Chevy sitting alone in front of a barn.

It was an interesting layout at back of the show.

It seemed like people just parked anywhere, resulting in some unexpected backdrops.

Larry was having his own private shooting session with the cars and barns.

I know he wouldn’t let an opportunity pass without pointing his lens and making some poster-worthy images.

Before long the rumble of engines got our attention.

I dragged Larry away from his impromptu photoshoot so we could see what was left in the back field. We spotted this LaSalle grille’d ’40 Caddy.

I was glad we walked the field before everyone left because we caught two really nice bullet birds.

The ’61-’63 Thunderbird is another car at the top of my must-have list.

The factory customs don’t need much to be show stoppers.

I’m pretty sure this Willy’s was the only gasser at the show.

Check out the diversity of styles in this shot. The ’50s, ’60s and ’70s are all here and each representing a unique traditional genre.

As the cars rolled out we got one last reminder of why we were here.

After months of attending high-zoot indoor shows…

…we finally got to see some show-stopping kustoms where they belonged, under the California sun.

SPOTLIGHT-O-RAMA: AN ALL AMERICAN SELECTION

In yesterday’s post I gave you guys a broad view of the Goodguys All-American Get Together in Northern California, and today I’d like to narrow in and focus on some of the specific cars that caught my interest at the show. As I mentioned in the first post, there was huge variety of cars that came out – and I think this selection of six vehicles conveys that pretty well.

Let’s begin with one of those most unique,and also one of the coolest cars I found all day – a 1961 Chevy Corvair Lakewood wagon lowrider. Now just seeing any Corvair wagon is quite rare in itself, but to see one dumped to the ground on wire wheels is something completely unexpected.

With the rear wheels cambered well into the fenders, it gives the car a slightly European or Japanese vibe. It’s fitting, considering how much different the Corvair was from any other American car of the era.

Elsewhere, the car was very subtle. The body (with the exception of some mild shaving) and interior were largely original – and in pristine condition.

It’s always great to see people think outside the box, and that is exactly what the builder of this unique cruiser did. Well done!

From a slammed compact wagon to a high riding bruiser. Another car that caught my eye was this badass Plymouth GTX Gasser. While ’66 and ’67 Plymouths have always been popular among racers and restorers, I can’t recall ever seeing one built quite like this.

All the correct Gasser elements were checked off the list. Straight axle conversion up front with fenderwell headers, and a fitting combination of skinny Cragars up front and big steelies in the rear.

Let’s not forget the equally important set of velocity stacks popping proudly through the center of the hood…

A peek inside the car reveals a cockpit that is much more street car than it is racing machine. That’s just one of the many things that I love about 1960s era drag cars.

If there was one negative, it was the fact that the car looked slightly out of place sitting on the grass at a car show. You can just sense this thing is waiting to be unleashed at the drag strip.

Representing the custom world, we have a stunning ’62 Chrysler 300 created by well known builder Richard Zocchi of nearby Walnut Creek. Known as “Cool 300″, this the latest in a long line of Zocchi’s custom creations.

While the body of the Chrysler has been heavily massaged, the angled headlights are a factory feature that was left intact. An example of some of the bold styling features seen on American cars of the early ’60s.

It’s hard to think of a more fitting wheel and tire combo for this car than wires with knockoffs and wide whites. It just fits with the high end custom style so well.

Glancing through the heavily chopped roofline, you can see an interior that’s been done in the same “sherbert” color scheme.

To show just how well this car has been received, it was selected as the winner of the George Barris Kustom D’Elegance Award at this year’s Grand National Roadster Show.

The Chevy Nova/Chevy II is an extremely common car at shows like this, and it can be very hard to build one that stands out. This ’66 from the city of Rocklin has managed to do just that.

You might be asking why, because the exterior looks pretty standard. Indeed it does. With modestly sized rallye wheels at each corner, it looks like your typical cruise night special.

The same goes for the basic looking, bench-seat equipped interior. It’s all very nice and tidy, but nothing out of the ordinary.

But then you look in the engine bay and see this – a 6.0 liter LSX motor with a massive turbocharger affixed to it.

It’s not rare to see old cars with big power LSX swaps and forced induction, but they are usually accompanied by giant wheels and tires, racing seats, and other overt modifications. This one on the other hand is a wrapped in a very unassuming package. One of the coolest sleepers I’ve seen in a while.

History is one thing that can make a car very cool, and this ’51 Chevy has plenty of that. It was originally a mild custom in Southern California and in the early ’60s it was converted into a drag car.

With a straight axle conversion, it ran in gas class competition at places like Irwindale and Lions Drag strip before it was put into storage in 1967. In 2006 it underwent a complete frame-off restoration where modern running gear was added to match its period looks.

While the interior looks straight out of the ’60s, that shifter is actually mated to a T56 six-speed transmisison. The motor is a 383 stroker with nitrous, making over 600 horsepower on pump gas.

Gotta love the big cheater slicks sitting under fenders that were originally radiused back in the early ’60s.

It’s fast, cool, and has a ton of history. What more do you need?

Lastly, we have a rather interesting 1970 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. Wait a minute. What’s the deal? What’s so American about a VW?

Well, this is no normal Karmann Ghia, but a fairly mental build out of Lewiston, Idaho. It’s got a custom-fabricated chassis and wasn’t built just for show but for open track events.

It’s powered not by an aircooled Volkswagen motor buy by a fully built 331 cubic inch Ford small block that’s somehow been wedged into the front cargo compartment.

While the Ghia is clean enough to be a show car, a peek inside the interior further reveals its athletic intentions. There are full bucket seats, a custom transmission tunnel and of course a roll bar.

And just to make things that much better, the big Wilwood brakes are covered by a set of Work Emotion XD9 wheels. A German car with an American engine and Japanese wheels. Why not?

So there you have it. Just a little slice of the automotive extremes from the Goodguys All American Get-Together.

-Mike

 

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source: speedhunters.com

CRUISING NEW ZEALAND IN A ’67 IMPALA

My name is Peter Kelly and I’m the editor of New Zealand Performance Car magazine. With Speedhunters’ America theme happening, I was asked by the team to write a guest post, no doubt due to my perceived conflict of occupation – running a staunchly import-only magazine, and choice of vehicle – a 1967 Fastback Chevrolet Impala.

My life has always revolved around Japanese performance vehicles, right from when I bought my first turbocharged vehicle at sixteen. In the many years since, I’ve owned and modified a range of interesting Japanese cars, including a JZX90 Toyota Mark II featured on Speedhunters many moons ago, and have been working as a journalist within the import industry for the last decade. For a good percentage of the years since getting my first car, I had an active dislike for all things American automotive – I’ve always dismissed the American vehicle for, arguably, everything it stands for. Compared to the light, high-tech and exceptionally clever JDM vehicles that I loved, lived and breathed every day, these behemoths seemed to me like lumbering, inefficient land yachts – the epitome of stereotypical American excess. While that view hasn’t really changed, it’s those same attributes I used to hate, that I now love, thanks to a chance sighting of a stock standard 1967 Impala Coupe near my home in Auckland about five years ago. I was struck by it’s overt, gaudy but at the same time strikingly beautiful appearance and although I didn’t go straight out and buy one, I did from that day on, have a new appreciation and love for classic American cars. I also promised myself that when the time was right, I’d own a 67 Impala Fastback Coupe – in my eyes, the prettiest American car ever made (though I’m sure readers will have their own opinions on this).

After first dipping my toes into GM ownership with a 1967 Cadillac Coupe De Ville a few years back, I quickly figured out that there was little point in pouring money into a car that was never really the dream, so I sold up for a tidy profit (another benefit I was far from accustomed to coming from JDM cars), and eventually found a beat-up numbers-matching Impala fresh out of Arizona.

The next year was spent restoring the car with help from friends, a few of whom didn’t really get it, but were there nonetheless. New chrome, a full panel and paint, carpets and plenty of rust removal began to cut into the wallet pretty deep.

Despite some internet chatter, the odd email and awkward hostile conversation from people who thought that it was wrong someone in my position should be building a car like this, I persevered and the end result is exactly how I’d imagined it would be.

The paint, applied by Grant at Auckland’s GT Refinishers, is a modified Jaguar gold from PPG. Coming from Japanese cars, I never actually thought about how much more paint you’ll need to purchase to cover a car like this, but at 5.4 metres long and a little over 2-metres wide, the budget blew out pretty quickly, especially when factoring in the extra labour involved in getting those massive panels perfect.

The car sits very low on 14-inch reverse offset (around -10) wires by way of static suspension, which I think goes a great way towards enhancing its soft, flowing lines. People always ask my why I’ve never installed hydraulics or bags in the Impala – simply put, though I appreciate juice and air, it’s just not me and I didn’t want to ruin the originality of the car.

To me, of all the Impala generations, the 67/68 is the most beautiful. It’s massive hips, more pronounced than the similar 65/66, flow effortlessly towards the rear of the car, meeting up with the 67/68’s unique fastback roofline at the simple, clean taillights.

This is the easiest way to tell the two fastback years apart – the 67 uses three-pane rectangular lights above the bumper as pictured, whereas GM changed to six big round lights recessed into the bumper itself the year after.

Interior-wise, the factory gold-vinyl interior remains because, well, it’s just so incredibly ugly that it does a full circle and once again becomes strangely appealing.

Until this car came to New Zealand, it was owned by one family since new, with ownership going from father, to mother and then to son as the years rolled on. This would explain the very tidy condition of the gaudy gold covering the entire living space of the car. The glove box still contains the original dealership papers, service history and a 1995 Blockbuster receipt for Sister Act II on VHS.

The Impala runs the factory-fitted 327ci small block V8, which I’ve kept as original as possible. It’s not going to propel the car to a 10-second quarter mile, but that was never the point – this car never had to be fast.

With six seats (eight in a pinch), a good sound system and a strong, reliable driveline, the Impala has improved my life considerably over the three years since it’s been on the road. No doubt, it’ll probably be the summers spent cruising New Zealand’s beach towns and car festivals that I’ll remember fondly in my old age. I’m not sure I could say that about any other car I’ve owned…

Though I will always love Japanese cars and will continue to own and modify them for the rest of my life, in terms of pure aesthetics and impact, to me, there are few JDM machines that can match the beauty and pure presence of this “coke bottle” era in American motoring. I’ll admit that I used to be very one-eyed when it came to cars, but owning, driving and maintaining this Chev has helped me to become what I now think of as a true car enthusiast – someone with a completely open mind to all types of vehicles.

While I’m sure not everyone will share or even understand my unbridled love for my Impala, for all its flaws, to me it’s quite possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s a car that makes me fight a smile every time the garage door rolls up, and the day I stop feeling like a giddy child when I pump the accelerator a few times and turn the key on first start up, is the day I know it’s time to move on. Realistically, I’m not sure I can ever see that happening… #joyofmachine

-Peter Kelly

 

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source: speedhunters.com

GREAT AMERICAN V8S

Corvette LS7 Engine

As we continue with our selection of Americana-themed reader polls this month, it’s only appropriate that we square off the most iconic American V8s against each other. We’ve gathered up ten different V8s engines which span several different brands and over 80 years of automotive history.

Which will rise to the top? That’s for you to decide.

Ford Flathead

Ford Flathead

A proper place to start is with the Ford Flathead V8. Originally introduced in 1932, the Flathead was a groundbreaking piece of engineering. It’s considered the world’s first affordable eight cylinder engine andwas in production for more than 20 years. It also became the engine of choice for early hot rodders and it’s cult following continues to this day.

Oldsmobile Rocket

The 303 cubic inch Oldsmobile Rocket V8 was introduced in 1949 and is considered the first mass-produced overhead valve V8 engine. It was a powerful piece by 1949 standards, and was idolized in the early rock ‘n roll song “Rocket 88″. The introduction of the Rocket also helped to fuel the horsepower war that would unfold in the years and decades to follow.

Small Block Chevy

What needs to said about the small block Chevy? It was (and is) one of the most popular engines of all time. The first iteration of the long-running SBC was the 265, which was introduced in 1955. The venerable small block would be continually updated and was available in GM cars and trucks through the early 2000s. Not only that, but enthusiasts have dropped SBCs into just about every sort of vehicle imaginable.

Chrysler Hemi

The Hemi. While it’s not nearly as common as the small block Chevy, it’s reputation is just as strong. These hemispherical induction chamber motors first appeared in the early 1950s, but it was in the ’60s with the introduction of the 426 that the Hemi truly came into its own. Besides being available in a number of Mopar muscle cars, the Hemi also established itself as competition powerhouse – both in NASCAR and on the drag strip. Chrysler continued the lineage with the reintroduction of the new “Hemi” V8 in the early 2000s.

Small Block Ford

Ford’s small block contribution is not to be overlooked. In the 1960s the 260 and 289 cubic inch V8s appeared not only in standard Ford vehicles, but also in competition-bred vehicles like Carroll Shelby’s Mustangs and Cobras. The small block Ford also made waves in the 1980s with the introduction of the fuel injected 5.0 HO, which helped launch the modern muscle car era.

Pontiac V8

Today it can be hard to fathom that GM’s brands once had their own unique powerplants completely different from each other. Of these, some of the greatest were Pontiac’s series of V8s in the 1960s. It was the 389 cubic inch motor that made history in 1964 when Pontiac decided to drop it in the mid-sized Tempest and create the first real “muscle car”.

Ford FE

Ford’s FE series big blocks could be found not only in hot street cars, but on the race track as well. The famous 427 powered winning drag cars, sports cars, stock cars, and was the heart of the Ford GT40 during its run at Le Mans. There was also the experimental SOHC “cammer” 427 that became a favorite among drag racers after it was outlawed for NASCAR use.

Big Block Chevy

While GM’s factory race presence in the ’60s paled in comparison to Ford , Chevy’s take on the big block was equally potent. On the street, these big displacement engines became the top dog choice for muscle cars like the Chevelle and Camaro, as well as the Corvette. Besides hot street cars, these motors could also be found in Can Am machines as well. To this day, the BBC is still a top choice for racers seeking outrageous amounts of power.

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source:  speedhunters.com