Archive for the ‘ History ’ Category

THE TRUTH BEHIND THE PROOF

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.

(more…)

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 BAY BRIDGE

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…

BACK WHEN IT WAS ALL NEW, ALL OVER AGAIN

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…

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…

LINDA LOVELACE BUILT MY HOT ROD

Thursday, August 8th, 2013


Linda Lovelace and Funny Car driver, Ed McCulloch

This Friday, a little film with some big names attached to it will release in just a few theaters and video-on-demand. “Lovelace” stars that chick from Allentown, PA – Amanda Seyfried – as the iconic Linda Lovelace and if this movie had its own FaceySpacey page, the relationship with American popular culture would be categorized as “It’s Complicated.”

Now’s the perfect time for a biopic about Linda Lovelace. Why? Well, because everything bitchin’ about the Seventies is hip right now, but we’re all skirting around what made it possible: the sexual revolution. Choppers, halter tops, Funny Cars, feathered hair, street freaks, doom metal, Keystone Klassics, Funk…the list just goes on.

Yeah, yeah, we know you think it’s a stretch, but the sexual revolution of the late Sixties/early Seventies was more than just a sex thing. It was a state of mind that allowed everything to be questioned. Tim Conder talks about how his blue-collar dad in a white t-shirt and perfectly greased Flat-Top Boogie discovered bean bag chairs and shag rugs in the Seventies and that didn’t mean he stopped running through the four gears of his perfect ’55 Chevy on the back roads of Kentucky, it just meant that folks of his generation were allowed, nay, encouraged to walk away from the Howdy-Doody bullshit that had been paving over the depths of the human soul for the last several decades.

By the time car culture finally got all the butch wax washed out of its hair in ’72, Linda Lovelace had brought sex grinding onto the silver screen in “Deep Throat.” The first film of its kind to actually wake up the American consciousness, the $50,000 investment (little more than $270,000 in today’s cake) by Louis Peraino and his mutton-chopped gang came to define the core of everything we loved. Namely, Freedom. Freedom to do whatever and whoever we wanted to, whenever we wanted to. And that kind of freedom – the kind that Linda made us all aware of in some very memorable ways – ended up in the haze-smoke of Bob Gerdes’ Circus Paint, the Funny Car circuit that Jungle Jim Liberman and Jungle Pam Hardy made so popular, the music of Pentagram, the mad lab of Dick Allen, the hot rod styling of “Lil John” Buttera, the custom van movement, “Convoy,” the cane-n-cape swagger of Evel Knievel, KISS…the mind just boggles with wizards, metalflake, Jesus toe sandals, Gold Streaks and shaggy-haired jet boat parties.

We could go on and on about Linda’s force majeure that excused an entire generation from the fate of its parents, but hey – that shit’s been done before. We’ll take the time to make the connection between the cult of personality of Linda Lovelace and everything we love so much about car culture. Swallow that.

SPEED WEEK!

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013


Burt Munro: The World’s Fastest Indian

Welp, it’s on top of us again: Bonneville Speed Week out at the Salt Flats in Utah. We’ll be the first to admit that, while we’ve been to The Salt, we’ve yet to make the pilgrimage every August. What we love most about Bonneville is that it’s pretty much the only racetrack that anyone – anyone at all – can drive out onto and experience for themselves, on their own terms, in their own vehicle, whenever they want to (y’know, except for during Speed Week and other cool speed shit that may get you killed if you wander out into the middle of). Those ancient dry salt lake beds are a national treasure that we all own a little teeny piece of through our taxes that run the Bureau of Land Management. So, put it on your bucket list and get yourself out to Speed Week to see how your little slice of salty moonscape is being put to great use: it’s your right as a gawd-blessed American and know that plenty of folks from around the world have paved the way for you.