Archive for the ‘ Bring It Back ’ Category

SANDY CUADRA: TINY LOCA AND LOST ANGEL

Sunday, November 10th, 2013


photo: Tiny Locas

Just days after our post on the Tiny Locas show (see below), we got one of those calls you never want to get: Nomad and good friend, Cisco Lastra, was on the other end of the phone with the news that Sandy Cuadra had passed away.

Not only was Sandy the voice of San Francisco’s Mission District for its residents who were here long before the hipster lumberjacks and Austin transplants jacked the rents some 4000% and started curating $40 artisanal whisky cocktails out of repurposed garages that once housed some of the West Coast’s best lowriders, but she was also heavily involved with the civic duties of the most colorful neighborhood of a damn colorful city.

We hope that someone else puts Sandy’s flag in the air and waves it like she actually does care. The Mission – and the city – needs to remember its roots while it continues forward.

THE TINY LOCAS

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

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We’ve talked about this before, but one of the foundation underground movements that has shaped what car culture (and a certain element of witless hipsters) looks like right now was happening in Latin neighborhoods on the West Coast forty years ago. The Tiny Locas right here in San Francisco’s Mission District? Yep – they were part of it. And while one has to be very careful driving an old drum-brake car (like us) in The Mission these days because those skinny hipsters in the lumberjack beards and their girlfriends’ jeans tend to not watch traffic as they jaywalk with nose-to-iPad, the ‘hood is still hiding some tucked-away gems…one has to just look up from one’s iPad long enough to notice.

The world is so beautiful. It just has to be seen in the right light.

SUZANNE SOMERS AND HOT ROD CULTURE: WHEN THERE WAS NO NSFW IN YOUR LOLZ

Friday, October 25th, 2013

In 1972, a 26 year-old blonde – the archetypal California Girl – posed for a photo that would bring hot rod culture, the world of flatbottom hot boats, pop culture television and the underground ‘adult’ scene together in one glorious moment.

Suzanne Somers made a career of being the ultimate ‘California Girl’ of the Seventies: bubbly, blonde, legs for days, can’t find a bra to save her life…the girl-next-door every baby boomer kid wished really moved in next door. Lucky for us right here in Nor-Cal, she actually was: born and raised just down the San Francisco peninsula in the airport town of San Bruno, Suzanne came of age among some of the great names of hotrodding and drag racing in the Sixties.

And by the time she reached her mid-twenties, Suzanne had some of the most memorable bit movie parts under he belt: the “blonde in the T-bird” in George Lucas’ “American Graffiti” and the topless girl in “Magnum Force,” to name a couple. But in 1972 – five years before “Three’s Company” would really make her a household name – Suzanne also posed for a photo that would become an underground icon for dudes all over the Seventies.

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BOARDWALK EMPIRE

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.

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THE AGE OF THE LOW CUSTOM

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…

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PRESERVATION

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…

LOVING THE CUSTOM VANS

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!

THE SECRET LIVES OF THE UNDERGROUND

Monday, August 26th, 2013

We’re in full production on a project that we’ll be talking so much more about in a few weeks, but for now, we’ll show you a little sumpn’ we know you’d dig…

We love it when a plan comes together. In this case, we had heard photographer Dylan Maddux was back in Sucker Free for a few weeks from his perch in Cambodia. We also knew we wanted to shoot Tyler Pullen‘s grey ’54 Chebby (the original customer told TP that he wanted the coupe painted grey, so Tyler did what you see above). On top of that, we got the chance to work with Olivia Dantes. And when Tyler said he’d bring us to this secret location, we knew we had something good on our hands.

Now, we had heard about an abandoned warehouse in the San Francisco Bay Area that doubles as a graff nation historical landmark years ago, but we never gave it much thought. So, when Tyler told us that he’d taken a few of his bitchin’ customs to a certain warehouse that was all tagged up, we were ALL IN.

In Japan, there’s a temple that features a long hall with the full bodysuit-tattooed skins of its long-gone members framed on its walls. Point is, there’s a long history of buildings that feature the art of the cultures they were built amid over the course of human history and this one is no different.

While Dylan was shooting, we found tags dated back as far as the early Eighties – which, if you think about it, ain’t really all that long ago…but we’re talking about modern urban graffiti, here. Those early (in graff nation terms) tags were created in the first days of Hip Hop, when artists – musical and otherwise – weren’t given the respect they command these days, in the light of classic roots history. They probably had no idea that, 30 years later, Adidas would run multi-million dollar spots during the VMAs on cable TV featuring RUN DMC as old men, still rocking the early, crude Hip Hop aesthetics as retro-cool to kids who can’t imagine a world with pagers and 30 D cell battery-powered ghetto blasters or without Instagram or video screens hanging from the ceilings of their moms’ minivans.

But, here we were, just amazed by the sheer volume of art on nearly every square inch of the interior of this long-abandoned warehouse – and not only that, but the decades of undisturbed art history. Sure, the taggers who found out we were there were far from enthused by our presence, but fuck it – Tyler’s work is no less important and, in the spirit of truly free art, has just as much right to temporarily occupy this hallowed, underground space. We all bleed for our art – whether it’s 200 hours of painstakingly masked and measured panels on a ’54 Chevy or hanging 200 feet above a concrete floor to reach virgin rafter space with an aerosol can. It’s all art and this shit is important.

More stories to come…

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE

Thursday, August 15th, 2013


art: John Bell Studio

In our world, car culture influences just about everything. EVERYTHING. And while it’s so obvious how a Mako shark took its design cue from a ’63 Corvette or that the U.S.S. Enterprise was definitely shaped from a General Motors Autronic Eye a thousand years after those crazy things disappeared from dashboards, we also realize that the uninitiated might not realize the connection.

But in a pretty bitchin’ example, Cameron Day and his creative team at Barnhart in Denver just tapped gearhead and artist, John Bell, for a new ad campaign for their Wyoming Tourism client.

Now, let us back it up a sec, here: John Bell is not only a working artist, illustrator and designer, he’s also a gearhead. Growing up near the Englishtown dragstrip in Jersey during the last great era of the Funny Car, he got a healthy dose of good design, color, style, personality and how the pursuit of speed could influence all of it in some really great ways. So, when he moved to California to work in the movie industry, he slammed everything he loved into an amazing career and is still doin’ the do.

One of the many things that came out of John Bell Studio was a series of window decals inspired by those fucking cool-ass mid-century state decals that were so plentiful when the U.S. Interstate system was brand-new and it seemed like everyone was pulling a camper behind the Brookwood and really discovering America and shit. Except, that John’s decal series featured the great car shows on the West Coast: the long-gone Cruisin’ Nationals in Paso Robles, the California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield, Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats, the list goes on. What a great mashup of design, history and car culture.

And Cam Day was paying attention, too. So, when his ad agency caught the Wyoming Tourism business, he saw a chance to put John and his great style to work. Wyoming is one of those states, very much like California, that is on just about everyone’s vacation bucket list. What’s not to love about this section of big sky country, right? Hell, we’ve never been there, but we’ve got visions of dragging a ’61 Holiday House behind the Henry J through that state and stopping at every boot shop and antler chandelier maker and jackalope taxidermist between Yellowstone and Cheyenne.

And what came of that? Welp, a new series of John Bell signature Wyoming travel decals, that’s what. There are some 18 different decals that John illustrated for Cam and his client and when you hit the Wyoming site, you can get one sent to you just for signing up for some shit. And then, the idea is that once you get to Wyoming and start your roadtrip, you can pick up the entire set as you make your way across that grand state. We really don’t need much more of a reason to do it. We just hope the entire state doesn’t run out of ‘em before we get there…

RESTORATION V. PRESERVATION: BIG WILLIE ROBINSON’S DAYTONA

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Our friends over at Hemmings brought the latest evidence of the restoration vs. preservation internal battle to light with the recent acquisition of a Big Willie Robinson Daytona.

Now, we can appreciate the new owner’s right to do whatever he wants with the car he rightfully owns, right? But when there’s some goddam history involved, well, that’s next-level shit. In this case, it sounds like the new owner of the last of Big Willie’s Daytonas didn’t just go off on some bullshit restoration project where he threw a wheelbarrow of cash at the project and removed every bit of handpainted, rough-cut, hammered, wrinkled, bent and force-of-will personality from the car…only to roll it out to shows and bask in the cheap, florescent glow of the shallow adulation of man-babies in lion-tamers and bluetooths before heading off to Chili’s for Bleu-Cheese-Jack-Wings and pints of Cleveland Steamer Brown Summer Pale Ale all across this great nation, then selling it at some Barrett-Jackson auction to some other fat-ass for 36x what he put into it. And so it goes.

No, this guy definitely seems to have put some real thought into the car. And, while it sucks that he felt he had to make the decision to go full resto on it, Corey Owens has our heart for really doing the due-diligence and considering a preservation of one of the last significant relics of the Big Willie Robinson legacy, before making the decision to fully restore it.

Good stuff, Corey. Can’t wait to see the car when you’re done and we think the Brotherhood would be proud…