Archive for the ‘ Culture ’ Category


Friday, October 11th, 2013

images courtesy Oilers Car Club/Race of Gentlemen

Last weekend and for the second year in a row, the Oilers Car Club put on its “Race Of Gentlemen” on the off-white sand of the Jersey Shore. And we haven’t seen a car show get this much attention since the heady days of Paso – Lord knows, we needed something like this in underground car culture.

Old cohort and schemer, Meldon Stultz, along with paint guru, Travis Hess and the rest of the Oilers have done a great job of pulling the attention away from the West Coast for a few days when they set up the old-tymey starter pylons – this year, on the beach of Wildwood, NJ – and go racin’ like it’s 1929. Taking advantage of the relaxed attitudes of Jersey Shore beach towns, the club has really turned the attention toward the Race because of the natural obsession that most of our own generation harbors: that custom car and hot rod culture is as much a visual experience as anything else and certain things should just be paid attention to, for chrissakes.

The cars look right, the race venue is set up to be visually spot-on and the folks who’ve fleshed-out the race for the second year in a row come era-correct, too. No cupholder lawn chairs, no bullet hole decals, no EZ-Ups crammed full of bright pink zip-ties, no true-flame demonstration tents…no shit. Just a great collection of old hot rods, spanning the earliest years of hopped-up four-bangers to pre-war hot rods and some vintage bikes thrown in for good measure.

One of our favorite aspects of the Race of Gentlemen is that it is truly a unique East Coast trip. Racing on the beach has long been owned by the Right Coast gearheads, but it’s changed over the decades into something, well, devoid of any good taste and style. But them Oiler boys have studied the old photos and books and magazines and just inherently know what hop-ups from the Twenties up through the early Forties should look like, sound like…feel like.



Thursday, October 10th, 2013

photo: Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz

In our on-going pursuit of putting good pinup imagery back into the world, we submit this freakin’ GENIUS work by photographer Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz: milk splashing against body parts to create the wardrobe in his recreations of classic mid-century pinup illustrations by the greats like George Petty, Al Moore, Alberto Vargas and others.

Since we’re fairly sure Jaroslav doesn’t have control of the God Particle, we totally understand why he had to create each of the milk splash duds with hundreds of photos of smaller, more controlled splashes, but that’s just part of what makes this project so amazing: the combination of planning and experimenting with a nearly-uncontrollable element makes for a beautiful image.

But, we can tell you from more than a decade of working in this space, it’s not just the technical aspects of this project that makes it successful. No, at the end of the day, the photographer still has to make a visceral connection with the model to make a compelling image. Pinup is part fantasy, part reality. And if the shooter doesn’t know how to leave the real world to connect with her in the fantasy realm, it just ain’t gonna work. No matter how good the lighting is.

But Jaroslav is not that shooter. He knows how to make a technically and emotionally beautiful image. Go see more of how he does what he does and we’re gonna try even harder to meet the bar he’s raised. Damn him.


Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

There are few things that remind us we’re more than a decade into the new millennium quite like the strange and ponderous collectibility values of Malaise Era cars.

“Malaise Era?” you ask, “WTF?” And for the most part, we don’t blame you. The most active generation of underground car culture was barely conscious when Vanilla Ice notched his eyebrows in the side-view mirror of his 1st Gen 5.0-litre Mustang GT and slept through American History 101 when the half-chapter on the Arab Oil Embargo of ’73 was pop-quized.

But the era of largely-forgettable, nay laughable American cars are now bathing in the light of nostalgia and we have to just deal with that shit. When the oil embargo of the early Seventies put the kibosh on the great Muscle Car era, the early ham-fisted attempts at fuel economy and safety were the rule of the land and it wasn’t pretty. The Mustang II – need we say more? OK, we will: the Laguna S3, the Chevette, Pinto, Gremlin, 2nd, 3rd and 4th-Gen Monte Carlo and don’t even get us started on the ’78 Dodge Challenger that looked suspiciously similar to a Mitsubishi Galant.

But, here we are – some 40 years after the earliest Dayz Of Malaise – and those awkward rubber-bumpered, steel-bodied, hopelessly underpowered shadows-of-their-former-models are now sorta cool. And easy to pick up fairly cheap right now.

We give you this backstory so that we can bring you the actual story: the rise of the Low Custom. And Skoty Chops‘ 1980 Monte Carlo is the perfect example. Take a 1980 Monte Carlo, airbag it over a set of 14″ or 15″ Keystone Klassics, squirt a late-Sixties to mid-Seventies panel job of some sort over metalflake and you’re pretty much right on. It ain’t a lowrider – the hesher wheel choice should give that away. It’s not a traditionally-accepted custom, either – the body model takes care of that misconception. It’s not a hot rod, a street freak, a classic or an antique. It’s a Low Custom…



Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

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Welp, it’s no secret we’ve been tied up for the last few weeks, but we have a feeling you’ll understand: we just wrapped all the shoots for the 2014 wall calendar project and that sucker is off to the press.

For 2014, we decided to stay home and trounce around our own backyard – right here in Northern California, there’s just a ton of underground motoring and some neat shit going on. And we’ll be bringing you some great stories over the next few weeks from all the locations, garages, backseats, liquor stores and rest stops that we had cause to haunt while putting it all together.

You’re gonna meet some talented photographers, a dozen beautiful girls, some downright bitchin’ cars and maybe even a vintage hotboat and a chopper that squeezed out an entire movement. Hell, you might even discover a new strain of underground car culture you weren’t even aware of. We think you’re gonna dig every lowered, jacked, ‘flaked and smokey bit of it.

So, to kick it all off, order a stack of ‘em and get your shipment in time for Christmas. Or Chanuka. Or Kwanzaa. Or National Whisky Day. It’s all waiting for you in the 2014 AUTOCULT Hot Rod Pinup Calendar.


Monday, September 16th, 2013

Photo of a ‘cow shoe’ that was used by a moonshiner during the Prohibition era to distract law enforcement agents trained to track footprints. Newsflash: nobody uses these anymore.

If you’ve been following us for awhile, you know that we’ve dedicated years and years to the history of American moonshine. We’ve worked with some of the most renowned figures in this shadowy underworld – and truly a shadowy underworld it is – to produce the most realistic and authentic stories we possibly could. And what we found, not really to much surprise, was that truth was so much better and stranger and more fascinating than fiction.

But in the face of the ever-encroaching world of bullshit reality TV, we’ve noticed that some of these “moonshiner” shows that have hit the networks are forming public opinion. Shit, in the hot rod scene, everyone seems to have some sort of moonshiner story, so we’ve heard some of the same stories over and over. So, while this is by no means a complete list, we thought we’d mention a few things that’ll at least arm you with some facts and reality when you find yourself facing a wave of that moonshine bullshit:

1. Ain’t that many moonshiners left.
Got news for you: liquor is legal now and weed ain’t. Moonshine is moonshine because the guy with the still doesn’t want to pay taxes on what he makes. But the demand just isn’t what it used to be, so the risk – the jailtime and fines – just isn’t worth the reward. Which means there are very few actual moonshiners left to do the work and make the stuff. Weed, on the other hand, is the new Prohibition cash crop and guess what alot of those former moonshiners are easily transitioning to…

2. Moonshiners don’t call it moonshine.
They call it liquor. They may have called it ‘white mule’ and ‘shine’ or a few other things at one time, but for the most part, you’ll be in the know if you just call it liquor. Which is what it is.



Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

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Why is it that no ad agency can really “get” a pickup truck?

Full disclosure: we’re old agency crags, so take that with a grain of free-range pink Hawaiian volcano salt, and we’re also gearheads and on top of that, we don’t feel quite human without a pickup truck in our lives, so there’s that, too. But dammit, Chevy’s Silverado just can’t seem to find a shop filled with creatives who understand the properties of alchemistry between a guy and his truck.

This latest spot – the one with John Cusack doing the voice-over work on a hangover and a smoking habit – is just the latest frustration for us: camping with your kid? Yeah – in a comfy SUV you don’t have to worry about all your camping gear getting soaked in an open bed by that beautiful water-truck rain in. A trip to the mountains for that get-away the kid’s iPad signal can’t find him on? Sure – and you don’t have to go out and go $60K in debt on a new truck to do it when you still have a year of payments left on your Forester.

Matter of fact, there’s nothing in this new spot by The D office of Leo Burnett that couldn’t swap out the new Silverado for a used Tiguan and claim the exact same “experience.” But there’s some great shit one can experience in a truck – let’s say, for the sake of argument, a new Silverado – that one just couldn’t experience in anything else.

The pickup truck is uniquely American and we’ve seen ad agencies, rained down on by automaker hundies, try as hard as they can to knock one of the greatest-selling vehicles on the planet – a Ford F-series pickup – off it’s pedestal for years to no avail. Why? Well, for two reasons, actually: 1) the creatives usually have no instinctual idea about what makes a pickup truck essential to the American Experience and 2) a budget that can choke the ego of a skinny-jeaned art director enables laziness. As we’re pretty sure Silverado will find out soon enough, quoting Virgil, shooting nine glorious days in Big Sky Country and wasting the pure talent of John Cusack does not a needle move.

We distinctly remembered what happened when we drove our buddy’s new Silverado and it really opened our eyes. We also know what kind of adventures we got ourselves into precisely because we were driving our own trucks. We also know what kind of interesting strain of human being buys a brand-new pickup and we’ve seen what that being will do with/to/because of it.

Get to the meat of what makes a pickup truck essential to living the good life, tell a great story and make a compelling argument. Then, sell a truck. But this beautiful bit of forgettable bullshit? Well, we’re guessing it got some agency creatives out of the office on a fairly remarkable fishing trip…uh, TV shoot. Like our favorite Creative Director, Nick Gisonde, once said, “You put the Eiffel Tower in enough of your storyboards, sooner or later, your ass is going to Paris…”


Monday, September 9th, 2013

photos courtesy of Victor Valenson

We talk about this stuff all the time when it comes to old cars with colorful histories: preserve or restore? We lean toward the preserve end of the spectrum and we’ll tell you why…

Native American tribes put much value into the tarnish that comes about on silver jewelry when it spends time rubbing against human skin. Why? Because those chemical reactions that take place in the physical world and cause the tarnish have alot of significance in their spiritual world – there’s a history of the wearer’s life experiences impregnated into that black tarnish that’s not only beautiful, but can never be replaced ever again once it’s cleaned off.

The Japanese put tons of value into handmade, perfectly imperfect things. Hand-formed motorcycle tanks, handmade denim jeans that are naturally worn and faded from new near-black indigo, individually cast speed parts in the lost-wax process that are more organically shaped than a cold, perfectly formed CNC-machined piece, the list goes on. Why? Well, because they see more beauty and place more value on a thing that has been formed by imperfect human hand-heart-eye-soul coordination and a love of that thing because of what a human has put into it, than a thing forced into existence without the benefit of human touch at all.

It’s like that with old cars. Once an old car undergoes a restoration, gets skinned and its original paint and patina is replaced with brand-new triple-plate chrome and environmentally-friendly code-compliant paint, well, some part of that car’s soul is gone forever. And when we say this, we’re talking about the paint it wore when it made history. The plating it burned through when it changed the world in some big or small way. The upholstery that cupped some pretty important butts when it did some important thing.

So, when Victor Valenson found the “Wild Mouse” ’57 wagon somewhere in upstate New York (from what we can gather), we first flipped like anyone would when seeing pics of the car ‘as found,’ and then almost as quickly caught our breath a little when he said he was gonna restore it. Hey, to each his own, right? But we really hope that he can find a way to get this old warrior back on the road again without trading its soul in for some shitty old-guy restoration. Victor claims that he remembers the car from his childhood and he’s stoked to actually own it. And as long as he remembers that the Wild Mouse never had a tilt wheel or A/C or seat belts or a tweed interior with pan warmers or Dakota digital gauges, we won’t stand to lose a chance at getting a piece of our colorful history back. And that beautiful, decaying, original paint – we hope we won’t lose that, either…


Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

photos: Dennis Dahle

In a perfect mash-up and filed under the “Shit We Love” category comes an email from Nomad Dennis Dahle. Turns out, Dennis was butterfly-collar-deep in the Florida custom van scene in the late Seventies/early Eighties: ISCA shows, Playboy Playmates, hotel room parties, van parties, parking lot parties, party parties…

And he had the wherewithal to snap a few photos of what was going down when he ran into the one-and-only Candy Loving.

Now, we’re not only big fans of Playmate Candy Loving, but we’re also old enough to remember the custom van movement of that era. We were stoked on ‘em in the same way we were stoked on KISS: it was good theater, son. And while we’re not totally convinced that a new build retro custom van is the right thing for the AUTOCULT headquarters parking lot, we do love the theater of it all.

And here’s a good example of why: Dennis was good enough to jot a few lines down about what it was like in those hazy, bong-water-in-the-shag-carpet days of vanning…

“Photos taken in Ft.Pierce, Fla.’74 Dodge van powered by a ’70 (balanced) & blueprinted 340, (estimated) H.P. 400, a Fairbanks Racing 727 Torqueflite trans, 3K stall converter, Mopar 8 3/4 rear with 4:88 for strip & 3:23 for street. Ran 14.20 @ 105 mph. & weighed over 2 ton. Owner-built engine & interior. The interior consisted of 26 yds. of orange crushed velvet & 1382 real buttons. This I know for a fact as I made them all. The upholstery shop refused to do it and pointed me towards the button machine. Exterior was 7 coats of Hemi iridescent orange, gold pearl, candy apple tangerine flames. More gold pearl, then cleared. It was bright in the sun!!!

After the show in Ft. Pierce, it was party time back at the hotel. Candy & her handler/bodyguard/stud for the evening. Bob & Cindy Brazen from Miami (who showed a ’67 Datsun pro street p.u. that scared the crap out of me on a test run. It was bad ass!!). A couple from Jax, Fla. (she had never partied Candy L.-style) and I who was down for some hard core fun. I lived local and glad I did, for Candy could party you under the table. WOW!! She was present at most ISCA shows in ’82 & ’83. The ISCA show in Miami was a blast. Private concert for entrants by Paul Revere & the Raiders, free beer, Big Daddy Don Garlits doing a burn out with the Swamp Rat II in front of the Miami Beach Convention Center. Fun Fun Fun…”

Like we said: theater. And by the way, ‘theater of the mind’ is sometimes even better!


Thursday, August 29th, 2013

photo: National Geographic

At 8pm last night, the Bay Bridge – the straightest shot between San Francisco and Oakland, CA – shut down and it won’t reopen till next week.

Now, if you don’t live here, you prolly don’t care. But it’s not entirely untrue that the Bay Bridge is one of the most iconic bridges in the world, still a distant second to its neighbor across the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge. But what many people who don’t live here don’t realize is that the bridge suffers from a split personality: there’s a big island – Treasure Island, actually – that sits in the middle of the San Francisco Bay and the western span that connects to San Francisco is the hot sister to the husky chick with a lazy eye that connects to Oaktown.

Nobody really thinks about the Oakland span. Neckbomb tattoos on local roughnecks pay homage to the Sucker Free side, not the East Bay side. Some digital artist lit up the SF side with a laptop-fueled light display that changes every few minutes, while the Oakland side stays dark. But, it’s understandable: the Oakland side is just an ugly, steel girder construction of uninspired, faded glory.

But not for long. We’ve been watching as a brand new design is going up on the eastern span of the Bay Bridge and we’re stoked for it. We couldn’t say for sure, but it looks like someone is a huge Golden State Warriors fan, since this thing looks much like the Warriors ‘bridge’ logo.

Anyhoo, we’ll spend the weekend staying off the highways while the clueless minions grind to a halt in their used Xb crates and Camrys (Camries?) on 101N and we’ll hope to have some shots of the gleaming new bridge soon. Can’t WAIT to leak oil all over that thing…


Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Art: Hudson Marquez

If you know anything about Coop, you know that he’s a complete artist. What we mean by that, is that Coop is not only a professional artist – making a very good living for himself with his art – but also a soul working his way through the world with eyes wide open. He knows more about obscure music genres than anyone else we know, is an art historian, a raconteur, has defined an entire generation of car culture with his work and has a far-reaching, eclectic group of friends who’ve changed the world in their own ways, as well. That’s a life well-lived. Living. To be lived. Whatevs.

He recently posted up this fantastic bit of goodness, made by his friend and “Cadillac Ranch” co-conspirator, Hudson Marquez: a sketch inspired by seeing Coop’s old shoebox nearly 20 years ago. Really neat to see what happens when two artists run into each other, hang out for a few minutes, chat and then go their separate ways, only to inspire each other later.

What’s also really cool or kool or kewl (depending on how much you can appreciate this) is how a custom is interpreted by someone not stuck lugging around fifty-plus pounds of old car magazine baggage…