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.