Archive for the ‘ History ’ Category

THE TRADITION OF IMMIGRANT TATTOO

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Really neat piece by Damien Shiels on the tattoos of Irish enlisted men that were recorded by the Union Navy during the Civil War that photographer, Jeremy Harris, turned us onto.

And much as we love the history of tattoos in America, we love how that tradition has continued into modern day: we’re still seeing tattoos as marks of identification and specific messages abundant in immigrant communities, as opposed to the more general ‘adornment’ approach that has taken over the cultural mainstream – especially in the corners of car culture that have, thankfully, escaped the bullshit of reality TV. And we love that good, good stuff. Keeps the colorful (we had to say it) history and culture of tattoo grounded in an age of such inking fuckery, no?

WANNA FIX STUFF? ASK A CAR GUY

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

“A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”
– Henry Ford

Much has been written about what kind of a complicated guy Henry Ford really was. No doubt, the man was an anti-Semite and displayed some violent tendencies toward worker unions (which should never be forgotten) and there’s probably some paranoia folded into the mix, too, but his contributions to the industrialization of this great land outlived him.

And in a piece by the Business Insider, the case is made for one of Hank’s earlier and most well-known innovations – beyond the Model T and the perfection of the assembly line: the $5 Day.

Yep, the man more than doubled the daily wage of his assembly line grunts in a lagging economy that couldn’t get out from under itself. Holy shit, right? One of the largest American companies of the day was gonna up and pay the lowest-paid, barely-educated humps more than twice what they were worth? Had the man gone soft? Daft? Commie? LIBERAL?

NO.

The man possessed a shrewd noggin for business and knew that in order to be successful, the lives of his employees had to be worth living. And, as we all know, your job is where you spend the majority of your waking hours. Sure, the ‘$5 Day’ allowed Ford employees the luxury of buying one of the cars they helped build, but it also allowed them to afford their jobs at Ford, get it?

Apparently, we can’t seem to learn from history, so we’re doomed to repeat it: the McDonald’s and Walmarts and Papa John’s of the world – the businesses that employ those on the bottom rungs of the American Dream ladder, just keep telling their employees to 1) get a second job, 2) apply for welfare on your break, 3) you’re not worth taking care of, so thanks for making us raise our prices and lose money, you assholes, or 4) all of the above.

A real car guy knows how to cut through the bullshit and fix stuff. We think that management at some of these American brands should rethink their next corporate retreats in Cabo and spend a week in Henry Ford’s management garage. Telling broke employees to pray the pay away and then turning up the Kenny Chesney to drown out the screaming does not a strategy to restore American Greatness make. Christ, don’t these people read any books besides Art Of War and Decision Points?

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013


photo: Brian Bossone

We were over on FaceySpacey a few weeks ago when we stopped dead on our keyboard: Brian Bossone had posted up two shots of a Buick Nailhead that looked achingly familiar.

Back in the mid-Nineties, we found a ’63 Buick Riviera stuffed into a basement-turned-living room in central Pennsylvania and plunked down $1500 for it before the owner could get out a “Well…”

LOVED that car. As far as a factory custom, nothing came as close as the Riviera that ended up in the Buick camp for the 1963 model year after the boys over at Cadillac turned the design down. Now, this one was bone-stock, but rusty. Typical PA car. But that mattered not. Nearly 20 years ago, there just weren’t many Rivs in the general consciousness of the custom car magazines and Rob Fortier – who was at Custom Rodder at the time – was the only one touting the lines of Riviera in the magazines.

Much as we loved the Riviera, the 2-speed DynaSlow was keeping that 401 Nailhead from realizing its full potential, we thought. Not only that, but we thought that motor could breathe a little better and be, well, FASTER. Picked up Pat Ganahl’s “Street Supercharging” book and cover-to-covered that sumbitch for a whole summer between beers and stair-diving at a summer share in South Bethany Beach, Delaware. And that was IT, brother: a blown Nailhead was what we needed, but we didn’t want a roots-type sticking up through the hood, so a centrifugal type that could be hung off the motor somewhere under the closed hood was the answer.

(more…)

SPADE GEORGE

Monday, July 29th, 2013

We were at the venerable Fillmore over the weekend to see the third tour stop of The Cult (thanks again for the hookup with Ian, Brian Awitan!) and ran into the one and only Spade George parked on the sidewalk outside the show.

If you didn’t see the feature we did on George a few years ago (“The Tao Of The Mantis Fist” issue #18) in the last issue of GARAGE magazine, we can tell you that he’s one of the great jewels of underground motor culture in San Francisco. Been here, working on bikes (“Yes, We Work On Sportsters!”) for 43+ years out of his Hole In The Wall shop for every stripe of customer you could – and probably couldn’t – imagine.

Now, when we met Spade George for the first time, we’ll admit that we swallowed hard on that nickname at first. But after sitting down with him for a few hours at his shop on San Bruno Ave. in the Portola, we realized that his station in life as the bridge between factions of outsider biker culture on both coasts changed the entire meaning of it. George commands respect from an element of biker culture that respects a very precious few, but he’s also the first to help out whenever he sees the need.

A trip to Hole In The Wall was one of the great San Francisco experiences for any gearhead and there’s a story in every relic jammed into each square inch of floor and wall space. We’d get lost in there for hours, just soaking it all up. But, tragically, Hole In The Wall fell victim to the ever-booming price of a square foot of real estate in the city and George had to head for points south.

Before he left town, George bequeathed us with the Harley flathead jug that he used to prop the front door of the shop open for forty years and it’s one of our most prized possessions. No doubt, we shed a tear when we had to watch that door close for the last time, but this town is nothing if not a blend of history and constant change, so, y’know, c’est la vie and shit…

Now, George can be found at Hole In The Wall in the San Francisco Peninsula burg of Redwood City. Still Spade George, still all the great stories, still a helping hand when it comes to anything Harley. While you’re here in town on your hot rod/biker fantasy camp, let us know: we’ll run you down to see Spade George and you’ll come away with a whole new understanding of underground motoring history from a completely unique point of view.

SEVENTIES PAINT

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Working on a very special project right now that, while we’re sworn to secrecy (OK, we just promised we wouldn’t blog about it. YET.), has us all amped up and pacing back-and-forth like Hoffman in Rain Man. And we’re looking for some original ’70s painted panels. Could be a fender off a doorslammer. A front clip from a F/C? Maybe a tailgate from a T roadster pickup show rod. Possibly a hood from a ’55 Chebby street freak. You get the idea: it really all comes down to some insane fade/panel/fishscale/lace/metalflake that’s been untouched since some time between, say, ’69 and ’77.

Let us know whatcha got and there’s a little fame in it for you. Just a little.

“IT JUST HAPPENED BECAUSE WE WERE ALL FRIENDS…” GOODBYE, ANTHONY CASTANEDA

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013


Images courtesy Emily Dutton, Keith Weesner, David Perry, Dan Collins and some others we’re sure we forgot

In the early, early Nineties, a real revolution was taking place in Southern California among young car guys. We’ve published much about what’s now known as the hot rod revival, or more commonly known to our generation as the true Rat Rod movement and there was a small handful of souls who fleshed it out in ways that we’re still feeling the impact of, some two decades later.

In those early days, those kids stuck together because of the common interest in early hot rods and customs. And because there was no support for what they were doing, they formed car clubs – just like the guys they were emulating 40 years prior. Of those car clubs, the Shifters was one of the most influential. And of the Shifters, Anthony Castaneda was a beloved brother and catalyst for the entire culture. We lost Anthony in a tragic car crash involving his ’32 Ford pickup truck over the weekend.

What Anthony and his band of brothers were doing in Southern California back then – turning a wee roadhouse in Anaheim called The Doll Hut into a hot rod rockabilly ground zero, incubating a resurgence of classically beautiful/functional speed parts in the automotive aftermarket, creating an entire subculture fused of Punk Rock and hotrodding and skateboarding and mid-century fashion and a nod to the cultural history of the first middle-class American generation – wasn’t a calculated move to own a franchise of casino lobby tattoo shops or a t-shirt line based on a Maltese Cross or sell Misfits stickers in bulk to Hot Topic stores at the mall. No, they were kids who adored what they found in the pages of old copies of Hot Rod from the Fifties and Car Craft from the Sixties. They were picking up what was being cast-off by the street rodders and building hot rods with soul out of them. They inadvertently created an entire generation and living, breathing culture that turned into something so much larger than we’re sure they could’ve ever imagined.

Anthony built a classic, Sixties-era bubbletop dubbed the “Brown Neck Bandito” that’s still influencing builders to this day. He and his wife, Blue, bought The Doll Hut and fostered a generation’s worth of great music and art and shows there for years and years. As a member of the Shifters C.C., he helped carve out a touchstone for style and taste that custom car culture could always come back to and check itself…

In Emily Dutton’s 1995 documentary, “Desperate Generation,” a very young Anthony Castaneda explains what drew him to the lifestyle he helped turn into a global phenomenon at a time when nobody could’ve imagined what was to come. When we lost him, his foot was still in it and he never lifted.

BEHIND THE SNAKE AND MONGOO$E

Monday, July 22nd, 2013


McEwen’s freshly-repaired ’79 ‘Vette body at the Salinas Boys shop – photo furnished by Cole Foster

Our man-about-town in Bennington, VT, Dan Strohl at Hemmings, posted up the latest trailer for the oh-so-anticipated “Snake & Mongoose” film releasing this year and we couldn’t resist mentioning it here, again – especially since Cole finished up the Mongoose ‘Vette body that was roughed up a little bit during the making of the film (above).

Now, one of the things, as journalists, that bugs us the most about the Glory Days of Drag Racing (roughly 1965 to 1973) is that the guys (and let’s face it; the girls, too) who were living those wild and wooly years to the wildest-wooliest don’t wanna talk about it.

Sure, they’ll talk about it, but only if they get a swearsies-double-knuckle-cocotaso promise from us that we’ll never write about them talking about it. Late at night, in the back shop at Gotelli’s in South San Francisco – on the same floor that the #19 car was built (the most beautiful dragster ever to roll through the box), we’ve heard some of the most epic stories of what happened at tracks, bars, motels, cargo slabs in chase wagons, truck beds, roadsides, service bays and up against chain link fences among these gladiators and the people who loved them.

And having heard enough of these stories in wide-eyed wonderment, we can say with every ounce of certainty that the generations since them – ours definitely included – have not LIVED. Nossir, you may think you have some epic stories to tell, but unless you drove/built/wrenched a drag car in the days when so many died going so fast, brother, you ain’t shit. And we include ourselves in that group, too, so don’t get your t-back in a wad.

Back to Prudhomme and McEwen. As much as this little film promises, we’re quite certain that the stuff we’d love to hear about the most was probably not left on the cutting room floor, but never broached to begin with. And that’s a shame. Story is what we’re all about. Story is what lives on after we’re gone – the good, bad, ugly and epic. And while we don’t know Don or Tom personally, we’ll slap leather that the epicness we really want to know about won’t be revealed in any film backed by the NHRA.

But hey – we’re still gonna see the film. We’re still stoked that the cars have been restored, the haulers dragged back out and repainted, Don and Tom celebrated and lauded in a much-deserved way. Stoked. And it just strengthens our resolve that much more to get to the stories nobody else will. Or can.


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VINTAGE NASCAR AS SEEN BY THE BLUEBLOODS

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

We couldn’t be more stoked: historic stock car racers have finally infiltrated the green, green grass of the American concours circuit. Woke up to a post over on the Hemmings blog this morning by Kurt Ernst about the St. John’s Concours d’Elegance and its decision to feature a few great examples of perfectly restored NASCAR cars and we can hear Big Bill France chuckling and shaking his head all the way over to the great tire rack in the sky.

First it was the hot rods and customs showing up every two years at Pebble Beach and now this. And while we think it’s a strategically great idea to keep interest in the graying scene at concours all over the country, vintage stock cars on the grass brings up a few questions for us…

For instance, how is the provenance of an old stock car checked? Like any other racing machine, shit got changed. ALOT. Bodies, motors, rolling assemblies, paint…what started out as a Ford entry may have ended up as a Mercury by the end of its racing days. So where does a restoration project stop the chronological clock on a car? Its last iteration as it was found? Maybe. Or maybe its first skin on the track? Or its trim when it made some important contribution to the development of NASCAR? Maybe the answer is ‘yes’ to all of the above.

The Historic Stock Car Racing Series has been working on these kinds of questions long before the blue-jacket-n-straw-hat crowd started asking them and we’ll leave them to it. But the one thing we’d like to suggest is that the cutoff year for these restorations be somewhere around 1984.

See, just like any other form of racing, more money equals more risk equals less willingness to risk the money. And by the early Eighties, NASCAR was starting to reel from the effects of the cash rained down on it by sponsors big enough to really change the alchemy of the rowdiest form of motorsport ever to make it big. Once the domain of moonshiners and cowboys in helmets, NASCAR really started to lose its edge when it went stratospheric in the Nineties and the media coined a term for all the guys showing up to the track, blasting Garth Brooks from their new Scottsdales, in jean shorts and Mossy Oak-branded headsets with matching kidlets in tow: “NASCAR dads.” UGH – just stick a sharp corner of a foam Snickers-branded stadium butt-cozie in our eye.

Up till the early-to-mid Eighties, NASCAR was still exciting. A fight in the pits, beers in the over-the-wall gang, drivers you might actually talk to before a race, teams you’d see in the parking lot at the bar afterward…a real traveling band of incredibly talented gypsies just under the radar of national consciousness. And what we mean by that is a Bill Elliott hat only available for purchase at a truckstop, not a Jeff Gordon XXXL girls hoodie at fucking Walmart. See the difference?

So, we can’t wait to see some of these restored cars at concours all over the country. It’s an important movement in the development of the American auto industry and these old warriors deserve this kind of respect and adulation. And we’d love to hold a panel discussion at Pebble on the merits of preservation vs. restoration when it comes to this amazeballs development in the relevance of concours events.


pics courtesy Hemmings Daily

WE DIDN’T KNOW JACK

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Off working on a few projects, so we’ll keep it brief this morning: had a great conversation with Steve Scott the other day that turned to none other than Wolfman Jack. He’s one of those characters we certainly know, but didn’t really know much about. Seen the shot of him and Kim Fowley, loved his role as the mysterious oracle in “American Graffiti,” but never really knew much about his years on Mexican border-blaster radio. Neat stuff. As you’re googling around today, do a search on ol’ Wolfman and dig in a little. Good to reacquaint yourself with the classics every once in a while…

20 YEARS OF KUSTOM KULTURE

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

1993 was 20 years ago. Yeah, it was news to us, too.

That year changed us, dramatically: We were on the East Coast – living in Fells Point, Baltimore – and, while we never strayed too far from cars, let’s just say we were much more concerned with where the next party was in those years.

Anyhoo, the word was out about a show at the old train station in town that had been turned into a fairly bitchin’ art museum of sorts: apparently, there were going to be some cars and some art and some other shit that sounded like something we shouldn’t miss. Turns out, it was the Kustom Kulture show that was traveling across the country and it BLEW. OUR. MINDS.

From that show, an entire subculture gelled: Kustom Kulture became an actual phrase to describe what was happening at the time, Juxtapoz magazine was founded and everything we loved really started to make sense as an actual movement that we could define ourselves as members of.

Now, exactly 20 years later, C.R. Stecyk III, Greg Escalante and Paul Frank are doing it once more. Kustom Kulture II opens this weekend at Huntington Beach Art Center and we couldn’t be more stoked. Not only could there be no one better to put this show on, but now’s the chance for our generation’s artists – our own national treasures – to be featured alongside the very artists who influenced them in that show 20 years ago.

Can’t wait to see how a new generation is influenced by this show. Lord knows, by looking at some of the magazines on the stands, we desperately need it…