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.

RAT FINK’S ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE: THE VOLVO HEMIZON

Ok, I’m going to be completely straight with you. Before this shoot, I didn’t know a huge amount about gasser cars. So this was an incredibly cool experience. It also transpired pretty quickly that this wasn’t actually a gasser – simply a car that has elements of the style. Actually this car has lots of styles going on. So what is this Volvo thing, then? It’s a baptism of fire! That’s what it is!

Take a good look at this picture above. The car you see, is without a shadow of a doubt, one of the wildest vehicles I have ever got to spend some time with. Cars are sometimes considered to be pieces of art by some, but there’s no doubt in my mind that this jaw-dropping Volvo Amazon with Hemi motor deserves a place in the history of time. I genuinely think that this will strike a chord with each and every one of you.

One thing’s for sure: whether you’re a lover or a hater of this vehicle on face value, you can’t help but get drawn in by it. You immediately want to take a closer look. The first feelings for me were mainly that of confusion. I mean, what the hell is going on? That jacked-up front end, those mega-wide rear tyres and the monstrous intake up front… it’s a sight to behold. I mean, this thing looks hungry! It’s a scary looking contraption. I say contraption because it’s not technically a Volvo model any more. The Chrysler Hemi motor sees to that. So what is it then if it’s not a Volvo?

It’s a Hemizon! The huge Hoosier stock car slicks have been installed for one purpose and one purpose only: BURNOUTS! And that’s what this car is all about: going crazy! With that in mind, and like many Scandinavian builds, form is dictated firmly by function and the wheel fitment is proof of this. As I read that last sentence back it almost seems more sensible to use the term body fitment, rather than the usual wheel fitment descriptive. It looks to me like the bodyshell is almost an afterthought to the rolling chassis, but I can assure you that is not the case.

No, in fact, everything was an afterthought to the engine. I want to talk you though the car’s heart – its crazy soul – much more but I’ll come to that a little later on in this feature. First let’s explore the roots of this gorgeous-looking shell.

The owner and builder of this car is interested in things of the metal variety. Always has been. And it shows. Henrik Larsson is his name and he’s the owner of Larsson Customizing. Henrik’s a super cool guy with a great sense of humour. When I asked him why he liked gasser cars – he simply laughed and said that he’s not really into them! Or at least he wasn’t until this build. Henrik’s passion is Pro Street Cars and hot rods. But he has a very open mind.

A mind so open in fact, that he allowed Emanuel Sandél, who works for Larsson, to bring some gasser craziness into his thought process to create this hybrid of tuning styles. And crazy this build most certainly is. But it’s almost more stunning than it is crazy. It’s stunning in more than one way as well. Yes, it’s a visual assault, but it’s a visual assault that was almost never to be. Why? Because it was pulled from the junk yard. It was almost crushed. “There was no trunk, no fenders, seats, windows or any of the parts that made it a car. Just a shell,” Henrik explains.

So the shell itself has been brought back from the dead. The Hemizon is actually a zombie! If you’re familiar with gasser cars you will know that weight reduction is often employed to allow for fast quarter mile times, and items like fibreglass body panels and plexiglass windows all play a part of this build.

Often the new lightweight glass would be coloured for added stupidity. Henrik admits, laughingly, that the green hue can make you feel a little bit nauseous and disorientated after a long time of being in the interior. As you can see, the innards of the Hemizon are as radical as the exterior. The interior in Henrik’s creation almost looks poisonous though! But nothing is quite as intoxicating as the motor…

There are four pipes poking out of the wings and towards the sky, which suggest that this car has a serious bark.

Taking a step back and working your way around the vehicle brings the enormity of the motor into full view. It’s something to be impressed by.

And here is the imposing power plant. The size of it is actually considered to be small. Yes, you read that right – this is a 331 cubic inch Chrysler V8 Hemi motor from 1954. The engine was purchased from a customer who was removing it from his race car. At the time Henrik had no clue what he was going to fit the motor into, but he knew he had to have it. Why? Quite simply because of the noise it made. That, to me, seems like a perfectly good reason!

For quite some time, the 331 Hemi sat on a stand in the corner of Larsson Customizing. It wasn’t left unused though. Oh no. Every Friday, Henrik and his team would get some fuel and start it up on the stand to listen to the V8 roar into life and sing angrily until the fuel ran out.

“We love Fridays!” smiled Henrik. “What about the shop upstairs?” I asked. “They hate Fridays!” he laughed. So it was motor first and everything else later. It’s a plan that you’ve got to admire.

Facing the Hemizon square on is kind of scary. It looks hungry.

The super big intake could potentially eat you.

To hear this car start up is insane. To see the Hemizon move is a beautiful experience. It’s art in motion.

This ’54 lump is also kind of special because it’s the last year Chrysler made that motor. It’s also the only year that the extended bell housing wasn’t employed on the 331.

The pre-’54 motors had extended bell housings which could be more challenging to fit into other cars. The power output is beefed up by an old GMC 6-71 blower with on-the-top double Edelbrock 650 carburettors.

The power’s not huge: 400-500hp is expected once it’s fully developed. But it’s the brutal delivery that’s impressive. Just the bark of the motor displays how incredibly instant the throttle response is. This of course, makes this motor perfect for laying down rubber.

The front axle is an old hot rod set-up combined with some drag racing parts from 1960 which include some very skinny wheels of unknown origin.

The lightweight front axle is complemented by a small fuel tank which keeps weight down. Interestingly, Henrik is talking about fitting the radiator system at the rear to allow for a further transferring of weight.

As previously mentioned, Henrik’s passion is metalwork and the art of creating panels and parts. He showed us how it’s possible to make pretty much any body part for a car with just four tools. We’ll bring you an in-depth shop tour story detailing this impressive skill. But in the meantime I just want to show some appreciation for the lovely way this metal body has been crafted. It’s so raw and yet so well executed. Don’t take this the wrong way, but there’s something kind of sensual about metalwork like this. It’s honest and true.

Speaking of honesty and truth: Henrik opted to leave this classic piece of rot that almost all Amazon’s suffer from. The cars collect salt and the result of that is this corrosion just about the headlights. These particular headlights are convex items from the older Volvos. Henrik installed these because they look cooler.

The rear axle is an 8.75 Chrysler item from 1950-1960 and the back end is pretty sparse as you can see. There’s still a bit more development to go on out back. The language barrier was a bit of an issue, but from what I can gather from Henrik, his main objective is to do the very best burnouts possible!

The inside of this car is a beautiful array of metalwork fabrication. These door cards have been hand-rolled by Henrik to create what can only be described as a kind of faux-leather diamond quilt. Albeit made from sheet metal. They’re stunning and completely unique. I’ve never seen anything like it. The skill involved to create such perfectly crafted panels like this is very impressive. A dying art? Maybe so. But at least there’s people like Mr Larsson who are still extremely passionate about sheet metal. So much so, that I don’t think I’ve ever seen a vehicle with so much creative fabrication. Nothing is rushed with Larsson; everything is very thoughtful.

And so to the driver’s seat. This is where Rat Fink’s Zombie Nightmare takes place. Rod and Henrik joked that this car would be a super-intense dream gone wrong for Rat Fink. During his sleep Rat Fink would experience a succession of images, concepts, emotions and sensations. He’s supposed to be in a hot rod, but in actual fact he’s in this Volvo’s driving seat. This car breaks the rules and it’s so wrong – this nightmare drive shouldn’t be happening to Rat Fink!

This car is so off-key it just shouldn’t work. On paper it doesn’t add up. But Henrik Larsson’s managed to pull this off perfectly. It seems to me that the Scandinavian people love to break with convention. Whether this is on purpose or not, I haven’t worked out yet. I don’t know if these guys are even aware of the rules to be honest, or maybe they just don’t like them.

To me, though, this car isn’t a nightmare at all. It’s a vehicle that rhymes with sensory overload. I absolutely love the way Henrik and the team at Larsson Customizing have brought the shell back from the dead. I admire the skill involved and the fabrication work. And I’m very excited to see this car used with no mercy whatsoever. It might be Rat Fink’s Zombie Nightmare, but for me, and anyone that’s into fantastic stupidity in its greatest form, this Hemizon is positively dreamy.

 

Words by Ben Chandler
Twitter: @Ben_SceneMedia
Instagram: @ben_scenemedia

Photos by Paddy McGrath
Twitter: @PaddyMcGrathSH
Instagram: speedhunters_paddy
paddy@speedhunters.com

 

Rat rod stories on Speedhunters

Other gasser stories on Speedhunters

 

Henrik Larsson’s Hemizon

ENGINE
Early Chrysler Hemi 331 from 1954-1955, GMC 6-71 supercharger, double Edelbrock 650 carburettors, exhaust through front fenders.

DRIVELINE
Three-speed automatic transmission (TH350) from GM/Chevy with adaptor to fit from hotheads early Hemi parts.

SUSPENSION/BRAKES
Custom rear shocks and fully custom front end set-up from hot rod/drag car.

WHEELS/TYRES
15×10-inch Slot Mag wheels (rear) with NASCAR slicks, custom wheels and drag car tyres (front).

EXTERIOR
Volvo Amazon body, complete new floor, custom firewall, trunk floor, all manufactured one-off by Larsson Customizing.

INTERIOR
Full custom interior by Larsson with a really old steering wheel of unknown origin.

 

 

<< HOME

source: speedhunters

WORLD OF OUTLAWS: DOIN’ IT SIDEWAYS IN SIN CITY

At the beginning of this year I told myself that I would try to experience as many new types of car culture as possible, so when I heard that the World Of Outlaws Sprint Car Series would be coming to the West Coast, I knew that I would have to check it out.

I’ve been meaning to shoot dirt oval racing for a while now. I just love seeing cars go sideways, and these guys raced sideways way before drifting emerged from Japan.

Dirt oval racing started getting popular after the First World War, but back then they mostly raced modified Ford Model Ts. They raced on horse racing tracks because there were no paved racetracks available.

Dirt Oval has come along way since then. Today it is one of the most popular motorsports in the United States. There are an estimated 1,500 dirt oval tracks in existence. The sport is also very popular in Canada and also in Australia, but down there they make right turns instead of left turns.

There were a few classes running that weekend. These are the Dirt Late Model cars. From a certain angle they seem to be able to pass for the Batmobile.

One of the other classes that was running was the Dirt Modifieds. They looks so crazy going sideways. As they would huck it into the corner their body panels would flap around. It was insane.

They would constantly corner on three wheels and if I did not know any better I swear these things looked like they were going to fall apart any minute. Of course they didn’t, but the racing was super intense as they had to be careful passing each other since their front wheels were exposed.

Without a doubt my favorite class of race cars that night were the winged Sprint Cars. These were definitely the fastest, and I also think they were the coolest looking.

No wonder why the World Of Outlaw guys have the slogan ‘The greatest show on dirt!’. Well… because it was!

Every type of race car has a personality. The winged Sprint Cars just look like they have a bad attitude, especially when they enter the corner at high speed and the downforce from their massive wing just compresses the suspension.

I swear that watching these guys was like watching an optical illusion. You just can’t believe your eyes when you see them going around that corner at speed. How was it possible to defy physics like that? After seeing the Modifieds and the Late Model cars I felt like I was watching the Sprint Cars in fast forward.

This particular round was held in Las Vegas. I seem to be finding many reasons recently to make the day trip to Sin City.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway has nine stand-alone race tracks, and the dirt oval is one of them.

The sufrace is very interesting. It is actually a very fine dirt – more like clay, I guess. Although, I’ve also heard that this track had more rocks than most other tracks.

When it dries up it cracks, but when it’s wet it is actually quite sticky. My shoes almost came off as I was walking across the racing line.

The day starts off with the racers picking numbers for their order of qualifying.

First up to battle it out were the Dirt Modified guys. They lined up right outside the track and they would all drive in at once as soon as they got the signal.

It really surprised me how many different lines these guys took. Sometimes they go super wide and sometimes they cut the corner pretty sharp. It was still early in the day, so I am assuming they were trying to find the line with the most traction.

The surface did change over the course of the night, and had to be watered down a few times. Having watched dirt oval racing at night, I am very curious to see what the experience is like in the daytime.

The Dirt Late Model cars had transmissions and reverse gears, so they could stop and pull of the track if they needed to.

But the Sprint Cars do not have a transmission: it’s a direct drive system. Part of the reason is to keep the weight down, but mainly it is for tradition. Although they do have a disconnect, which allows them to be pushed without starting.

The Sprint Car drivers also don’t run radios, so unlike in NASCAR there are no spotters. You just have to listen for the cars behind you. Those helmet tear-off sheets were understandably everywhere. Every time a pack of cars would come buy a few tear-offs would fly up in the air.

Normally at events that I have never been to I try to make some friends. Luckily, I knew a few people in the industry that were at the race.

The guys from KW Suspension were there, debuting their new suspension for Sprint Car racing. They have done much testing on these shocks, but this was the first time they would be put to the test in a race.

They were testing it on the Roth Enterprises team, which is a two-car team. One car would run the normal suspension that they regularly run and the other car would be the test mule for KW.

Behind the wheel was Kyle Hirst, a young driver from Elk Grove, California. He is only 25 years old, but he has been racing Sprint Cars for almost 10 years.

My favorite motorsports are the ones that stay true to the fans. Sprint Car racing was just like that. The pits are wide open and you can meet any of the drivers and strike up a conversation.

One of the biggest legends in Sprint Car racing is Sammy Swindell. He has been racing in World Of Outlaws way before I was born. The passion for the winner’s circle just does not die down over time.

Qualifying for the Sprint Car teams was getting closer and it could not have come soon enough as everyone was getting restless.

Kyle was also getting anxious, but he was ready to drive. Who knew how the new suspension would work out in real racing conditions? There was only one way to find out.

As soon as the call came in to suit up, he darted into the trailer and got his helmet. It was time to hit the dirt.

I will go into qualifying in more detail in my next post, but each driver gets two chances to pull off their fastest lap.

You really have to be focused as the lap times were sometimes separated by a few thousands of a second.

One by one the guys pulled out and did their hot laps. It was actually quite nice because this was the only chance I had to photograph the cars running solo.

Just like with rallycross, the drivers are pitted against each other in heats to decide who will go into the final race.

Kyle pushed super hard for position, but he did not finish well in his heat. Luckily he was able to pull through in the last-chance qualifier race – also known as the LCQ.

Basically all the people who did not finish well in their heats get thrown into one free-for-all race for the last remaining open slots for the main race. This went for all the classes that were racing that night.

It was total carnage in the LCQ race for the Late Model guys. It is a lot easier to bump each other, as it seemed like that was just one of the ways they could pass each other.

Quite a few guys ended up in the wall, with some them having to be towed off.

Some of the guys just parked in the middle and watched the rest of the race.

From the back, the Late Model cars actually reminded me of Group C cars from the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Except these guys went sideways on dirt. I bet these guys would do really well in Formula Drift.

The Dirt Modified guys let it all hang out as well. There was no holding back and there was just as much carnage.

It’s actually interesting to watch, considering how large these racecars are compared to the Sprint Cars. To have that much traction on dirt without any downforce just amazed me.

All the Late Model and Modified guy were done for the night and it was time for the Sprint Cars to battle it out for the win.

As a tradition for the main event, the entire grid packs into a four-wide formation for their parade lap. Seeing this sent chills down my spine. That was a whole lot of horsepower just waiting to be unleashed.

The sound pierced through my earplugs. I ducked for cover as soon as the pack passed and I hid behind a large lightpole. As the rocks hit the pole it sounded like I was being shot at.

These guys run very low tire pressures, so it is very easy for them to de-bead the tires.

Pit crews were standing close by to change whatever was needed. The crew also brings extra wings and other aero parts as well.

What was interesting to me was the caution laps don’t count towards the number of laps completed. So if the race was 30 laps, without a doubt the fans get to see 30 laps of racing.

For how close these guys raced I was actually surprised to see only one flip the entire day.

The driver was just fine and the safety crew extracted the dead Sprint Car with ease.

Once again the entire pack rounded the corner, awaiting the green flag to punch it.

Kyle actually ended up finishing in mid pack. Not bad for the first time running brand new suspension.

It was restart after restart, there must have been at least eight cautions for the A-main race.

How about that four-car tandem? I just could not believe how fast these guys would accelerate towards the wall.

There is just so much in this world of racing that I need to explore, and I have barely scratched the surface going to this race. I’ve been told that the Wingless Sprint Cars are the ones to watch out for, but that will just have to wait till next time. For now stay tuned as I talk about a few more technical details that stood out to me while I was at the World Of Outlaws Las Vegas.

 

<< HOME

source: Speedhunters.com