Archive for the ‘ Inspiration ’ Category

CUBAN SOUL

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

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Know what we love? When car culture and literature come smashing together in some great ways, that’s what we love. And while there are few better-known writers than Hemingway, we get a little burned out on the Running Of The Bulls and the Cuba thing when it comes to the old man and his sea of great references. So, when we heard that a guy had not only found one of Ernest’s droptops, but that it was a ’55 Chrysler and he figured out a way to nab the car and restore it, we were S.T.O.K.E.D.

David Soul made Hemingway’s New Yorker his windmill and brought along a film crew to make a documentary about its restoration. As any American gearhead can tell you, getting a car out of Cuba is next to impossible, but what it takes to get all the shit one needs to restore an antique car into Cuba…well, one can only imagine.

The good thing is, by ’55, them Chryslers were running the 331 Hemi without the bellhousing cast into the block, which makes parts for a rebuild much easier to find, or cast flywheels in the sand of a creek bank or whatever they have to do in Cuba to get obscure parts for 50+ year-old American cars. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a little. Backing up for a sec, we gotta wonder: is it better to restore or preserve a car like this? It’s in poor enough condition that a restoration makes sense, but is it possible to restore Ernest’s car just to the point of drivability and leave the rest alone and keep its value up? Y’know, interior and drivetrain, but leave the paint and patina alone? We like that idea. Then again, we weren’t invited along, were we? No, we were not.

So, we’ll just be satisfied to enjoy the ride from the monitor here in the shop. Good luck, Soul – if you get yourself drunk enough to think a Cuban tattoo is a good idea, let us know. We got friends in low places…


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THE BLUE COLLAR OF IAN BARRY

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

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Our love for Ian Barry and his Falcon motorcycles is nothing we shy away from. No, we embrace that shit. There are a scant few American builders who elevate their art of the motorcycle to places so far removed from the reality tv show chopper clown circus that they allow us to almost forget that Wal-Mart and 7-11 are deciding forces in modern motorcycle culture. Almost.

But the latest win in that battle is Barry’s feature in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. Along with pieces in Architectural Digest and other well-respected, non-endemic media outlets, his work is not only contributing to what’s good and right about motorcycle culture, but it’s bridging the gap between the mechanical world, the art world and the upper echelons of popular culture. That’s a rare and wonderful thing.

Shot by Douglas Friedman, the piece in VF moves our scene in ways that are necessary to balance things out. So, the next time you feel bad for not being able to unwatch the 8 minutes of the American-Outlaw-Chopper-Garage-Wars train wreck you caught yourself unable to turn away from, you can go punish yourself with a copy of Vanity Fair and put back in your life everything those few minutes took out.

KATE MATCHLESS

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

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Another great motorcycling brand has dipped its oil-imbibed toe in the rushing waters of fashion. This time, it’s Matchless – that great, old British marque that disappeared in the mid-Sixties after a series of conglomerations that gobbled up more than a few British bike brands.

Once the brothers from the Belstaff brand of riding clothing decided to buy the name and relaunch the company last year, Matchless plans to release two of its great bikes – the Silver Hawk and Silver Arrow – in Europe.

And if you just snapped up the bike that helped launch motorcycling in the U.K., you’re not gonna mess around when it comes to launching the motorclothes line bearing its name. So the Malenotti Brothers got Terry Richardson and Kate Moss in the same alley, gingerly placed a few bikes and some jackets within arm’s reach and stepped away, quickly.

What you see here is what Vogue decided to show us, but we get the feeling there’s much more. Oh, yes…there must be so much more…

V. VALE & THE CRAFT MOVEMENT, CONT.

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

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We’ve been talking here at the shop, lately, about the groundswell of the Craft Movement happening all around us. Handmade jeans, typography and sign painting, graphic design, metalshaping, small-batch hard liquor, vintage ‘motoring’-inspired wool sweaters, hand-bound books, private-recipe hair pomade, the Slow Food movement, hand-made guitars, the list goes on.

But really, the artisanal movement behind the anti-mass production/industrial age has been around for a long, long time. It’s just that, right now, there’s a surge and we gotta believe it’s probably a backlash against the digitization and online-ation and instant gratification of the nation. Right. It’s all about slowing down and actually making something in the tangible world. And maybe even leaving it behind for someone else to discover when we’re all long gone in the Warren Miller-ian “Every hundred years, all new people” ethos.

And another great example of Craft is independent publisher, musician, writer and everything-elser, V. Vale. In the Seventies, Vale was working at the legendary City Lights bookstore here in San Francisco when he realized he was in the thick of a new underground movement that was quickly replacing the Hippy scene: Punk Rock. While he watched corporate brands begin to cater to those naked kids in Golden Gate Park – the death nell of any great underground movement – he launched his first publication, Search & Destroy, dedicated to the new Punks and everything they were all about.

Vale was fully dedicated and focused, just like anyone making Craft, and started a typesetting business to support himself as he continued to publish. And publish. And speak. And perform. And publish. Fast forward four decades and Valhalla Vale is one of the stalwarts of Punk, indie publishing and DIY. After all these years, he’s still publishing, still living in San Francisco’s original Beat neighborhood, North Beach and still making things. He’s influenced entire generations – most of whom, we’d venture, don’t even know it. And that’s what we love so much about him: he’s one of those few who will leave the world better than when he entered it because of the things he made for it.

THE NEW HOTRODDING

Monday, March 11th, 2013

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In the late Fifties, the hot rod scene was a little more than ten years old and it was all jumpin.’ Engines were being built to go as fast as possible and the magazines of the era – the only medium that was effectively reaching this crowd – were reporting that it really didn’t matter what vessel they were bolted into. Hot rods, salt flats racers, dragsters, minibikes, go-karts…and even boats.

Now, the boat thing was a natural fit for the Southern California lifestyle that hotrodding was born into. It didn’t necessarily make a whole lot of sense to the guys building hot rods, say, in the southern states or regions of the country with ‘traditional’ winters, but by the early Sixties, the drag boat was a force to be reckoned with.

In the December ’65 issue of Rod & Custom, three months after Hot Rod ran its first and only hot boat cover, an article on Chuck Craig’s Aqua Craft was introduced with, “This boat, along with many others, is an example of the ‘branching out’ of many car builders into the hot boat field.” And that summed up what was happening in those days: custom car builders, fiberglass kit car companies, speed parts shops and dragster brands were all dabbling in multi-purpose flat bottom boats that could be used for drag racing, water skiing, lounging, partying and showing. Just about everything a hot rod was used for, but on the water.

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THE IRON ORCHID

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

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The West Coast has the AMBR, the Midwest has the Ridler Award. This time every year, with the weather just slightly less shitty than it was a few weeks earlier for the Detroit Auto Show, the Detroit Autorama hosts its show at the old Cobo Hall downtown, just like its done for the last sixty years.

And the Ridler Award, named after Don Ridler – the Autorama’s first promotor, has been the centerpiece of the show since the year after his untimely death in ’63. Now, the major difference between the Grand National Roadster Show’s AMBR and the Ridler is that there’s no restriction to the type of car eligible for the Ridler. Hell – fire trucks, roadsters, Pro Stocks and muscle cars are just a few of the winners over the years. The main prerequisite is that the car is being shown for the very first time.

And that brings us to the car that Dave Shuten and Beau Boeckmann entered for this year’s Ridler: a bitchin’ ’34 5-window coupe named the “Iron Orchid.” We love all kinds of cars, as long as they’re done well – and what Dave and Beau pulled off in this car is about as perfect a mid-Sixties early show rod recreation as we’ve seen.

See, by around 1965 or so, hot rod shows were becoming more sophisticated: people were becoming less and less satisfied with just a hot rod being shown, simply because the idea of a hot rod wasn’t the outlandish, counterculture menace it was just fifteen years earlier. By this point, there was an entire subculture with its own catalogs and magazines and sanctioning bodies and rules, for fuck’s sake. By ’65, folks were all, “Yeah? What else you got?” So, the concept of the show rod – a car purpose-built to win a car show instead of running flat-out on the salt – was hatched. And the earliest show rods were cars that looked like they could still be driven off the show floor, albeit carefully over the mirrors so the upholstered fenderwells wouldn’t get scuffed, compared to the phone booth/Pink Panther/funeral coach/bathtub/bunk bed theme rods that took over late in the Sixties.

Which brings us back to the Iron Orchid. Darryl Hollenbeck’s paint is just the tip of the perfectly faded paneled iceberg and we guess what we really love about it is its simplistic adherence to that earliest of show rod treatments: small block dipped in white pearl and chrome, white diamond tuck-paneled every-galldang-thing, a colored plexi-paneled something-or-other, a set of polished Halibrands and (for chrissakes, we can’t figure out why so many others get this wrong) a period-correct pairing of big-n-little BIAS PLYS. Let us repeat that: BIAS PLYS.

We say, if you’re gonna do it, do it right. Dave did it right. And, as always, there are a ton of people involved with something like this and since we haven’t talked to Dave or Beau about the car yet (they’re just a little busy at the moment), we haven’t gotten the full list of contributors. But we hope they win the Ridler this year, if for no other reason than to prove that the generation preparing itself to take over the old-guy slot in car culture hasn’t forgotten what got it interested in this stuff in the first place – which never included A/C, tilt wheels, radials or TPI motors. A boy can only hope.

GNRS-BOUND: BREAKING IT DOWN BEFORE BUILDING IT BACK UP

Monday, March 4th, 2013

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It hurts, sometimes.

When you realize you have to take a few steps back to take a few more steps forward, it just…well, it just pains us a little. But that’s OK – when you’re building something completely custom, this is the kind of shit that takes place. Sum of its parts and all that.

Such as it is, we have to admit that it’s kinda neat to see all the parts of our Model T coupe preened over and carefully oiled down in fresh layers of their bare-metal skin. We heard a story once, of the design team at Ford as it was preparing to come up with the latest version of the Thunderbird a few years ago. As this story went, the head of the design team wanted the crew to come up with something ‘newstalgic:’ a new Thunderbird that harkened back to the first ‘Bird that people just fell in love with in ’56. So, in order for the team – people who, we’re assuming, weren’t even alive when that first car hit the showroom floors – to understand what made people love the first Thunderbird so much, he had each of them go down to the vaults, pull out a ’56 T-bird and…wash it. By hand. To fully understand the car, the designers had to literally get their hands all over the car. Feel the contours and complex curves. Understand the porthole removable top. Appreciate the grille and the headlight bezels. Get their fingers wedged into the rear bumper where the twin pipes exit. We completely get it.

Is that little story true? Who knows. And really, it doesn’t matter: the meaning of the story makes sense and it’s what we were thinking about as we got our hands on every part of the T one more time. It’s important to understand every bend of the frame, every groove in the rails, every drilled bracket Conder maniacally tacked into place. It’s important. The DNA that goes into this car is essential. Sum of its parts and all that…

THE CRAFT MOVEMENT

Friday, March 1st, 2013

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“I quit. I’m out. I’m moving to England to sweep his floors.”

Those were the words of a good friend of ours, who happens to be a very talented graphic designer, after he posted a video of David Smith plying his handlettering craft. 1) We’ll leg wrestle him for the broom and 2) it got us to thinking more about the craft movement that we’ve been expounding on for a few years now.

David Smith is a fucking haboob of talent when it comes to the near-lost art of handlettering and page illumination. Watch the video below, try to erase John Mayer from your consciousness and focus on the absolutely awe-inspiring process Smith puts himself through for his craft. Just a mindblower…


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Of course we love Smith’s work. And what we love even a little bit more is that there’s a pretty incredible movement he’s a member of, happening just below the surface of paved Wal-Mart parking lot acreage and Starbucks stores inside of Starbucks stores. It’s a place where denim jeans are made pair by pair, hot rods are willed into being, mid-century tiki lamps are recreated by hand, custom motorcycles are built by the year instead of by the hour, paint jobs on customs take a little bit of your soul, photographs are still printed by hand and really really good whiskey is an art. The Craft Movement is alive and well, but you’re gonna have to get away from the strip malls and the Olive Gardens and the casino lobby tattoo shops and the bar at TGI Friday’s to find it.

But trust us: when you find it, you won’t ever walk into a Wal-Mart again. Like, EVER.

IT’S A GIFT. SORTA.

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

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So, we’re on to the next phase of the Shanghai Rickshaw as we creep, day by day, toward the Grand National Roadster Show next January. Much as we hate to see the car come completely apart yet again, we needed to do exactly that so we can metal-etch the frame and Conder can tear down the torsion bar frontend and replace the four-sided ends with some nifty splined deals from Norm Rapp Racing here in Sucker Free, among other things.

When you decide to build a hot rod instead of a custom or a muscle car or a restoration, you undergo an additive process: you find a frame, a body, a motor, rearend, wheel and tire combo…you get the picture. And since it’s like that and nothing exists till you build it, fab it, weld it or bolt it, shit gets spendy. ‘Specially when you’re not satisfied with building a car out of a catalog and everything…everything has to be figured out spitball-engineered for the first time.

SPENDY. Lucky for me, I’ve go asthma. Yep. Inhaler-in-the-pocket-next-to-the-Camel-Lights asthmatic. You’ll never see the little kazoo, but it’s always there. I tell you this because as I was elbow-deep into a gallon of metal etch, the cell rang – another asthma research study and was I interested in participating?

Hmmmm…new stainless hardware, a couple buckets of Dow 7 for the mag wheels, a full interior…hell, paint…would an extra thousand bucks help? A broncho-biopsy with a tube down my throat that has a little “Alien”-style metal-toothed mouth that peeks out to snip off pieces of my trachea? For $1000.00? Sure, no problem. All over that shit.

Now, I’ve been officially out of college for more than two decades. In some ways, I feel like the selling-plasma-for-beer-money years should be as far behind me. But when there’s a car to build and a deadline that’s already a little uncomfortable, an extra grand is worth the twilight sleep and huffing salt water till near pass-out twice a week at 6am in a hospital lab with a chick in blue swirly Crocs and a “Keep Tahoe Blue and Weird” lab coat.

When I’m laying there on that slab, hooked up to a bunch of machines with a Hannibal Lecter Special strapped to my face, I’ll be thinking about what color Zodiac naugahyde I’ll be buying with the cash I’m trading for little pieces of my throat. More than fair deal. I wasn’t using those little pieces, anyhow.

2014 GRAND NATIONAL ROADSTER SHOW-BOUND

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

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We were over at a good friend’s garage right before Christmas last year and got to talking about all the reasons why we weren’t gonna be at this year’s Grand National Roadster Show. Now, for the uninitiated, the GNRS is really what kicks off the year for hotrodders: it’s a full-on party out on the edge of L.A. with some of the best hot rods, customs and bikes that set the tone for what the world looks like to gearheads. And for more than a few of us, getting a car to the GNRS is a Biden-sian big fuckin’ deal. Heady stuff, for sure.

Now, if you’ve been following us for any amount of time, you know that we’ve been building our own hot rod for what seems like about a thousand years: a ’27 Model T coupe with a ’53 331c.i. Hemi and some other goodies. Welp, we threw down the gauntlet last Christmas to make a run at next year’s GNRS.

It’s long overdue. For such a small car, there’s a ton of hand-fabricated stuff on it and since none of us had ever built a hot rod like this before and since we’re all visually driven to the point that function follows form on this thing and we ran out of money long ago, well, it’s just taking a while…

We’ve even seen some “copies” of our T that were built in mere weeks, put on the road and forgotten about just as fast. Of course, we’ll tell you that they weren’t copies at all: an unchopped T runnin’ a Hemi does not a better car make. So, every time someone would run up to us and be all, “Hey, man – somebody built your car…when you gonna stop fuckin’ around and get yours done?!?! I’da had 4 of yours built already, dude…c’mon already,” we just smile and nod and realize that we can’t even begin to explain why that other car is nothing like ours at all and why it’s taking so long to finish.

So, come along with us as we get this thing done. Like they say in the construction biz, “It takes 10% of the time to do 90% of the work. And vice-versa.” The body’s been pulled off the frame for the hundredth time. The motor’s been yanked once again. Machine shops have been chosen. Priests are on-call. Yesterday’s coffee is warmed up. Again. Wives have been notified. A new Pandora channel named “They Forced Me To Hate” has been stocked with tracks (thanks for the inspiration, Chopper Dave). It’s ON.