special thanks to Lariat Tavern, Skinny Dog Design Group, Self Edge, Renza Celotti and Bella Cristina

Ah…the shortest month of the year. And unless you live south of the Grapevine, we’re gonna go ahead and assume February is as hard on you as it is on us. The weather just sucks and sure – it’s the time of year reserved for working on a new project or tearing down the tub or that hateful rewiring job you need to get to – but let’s face it, you’d rather be out on a drive on a beautiful afternoon. And those late afternoons sure do sound good when it’s dark and cold at 5pm. In February.

So, what’s the perfect antidote to February? Anitra and Johnny Koonce’s Model A coupe for the AUTOCULT calendar, of course! Now, we tend to veer away from the rockabilly themes when it comes to our hot rod pinup shoots. Why? Because too many shitty magazines and hack “photographers” have ruined it for the discriminating public. On the other hand, the American rockabilly scene has great roots and when it’s done right, there are few things as fucking awesome as a great rockabilly hot rod pinup girl.

It was with this in mind that we reached out to Johnny Koonce – a member of the venerable Road Zombies car club in San Jose, CA and owner of Kool Cat Kustoms. And, more importantly, builder and owner of this rawmpin,’ stawmpin’ ’30 Model A coupe. Thing does, like, 9s in the quarter-mile. Seriously. And then we called up artist and photographer, Bill Schuch – at a boozy party one night, he showed us some blurry (well, we were probably the blurry ones) shots of a girl he photographed for god-knows-what and we knew we had to get him and her lined up for this calendar.

Next, we wanted just the right location that would frame up a period-correct hot rod and girl: a place that had history, maybe some bitchin’ neon sign…an old motel, maybe? A roadhouse? An old garage? We jumped in the car and headed south from San Francisco on the El Camino Real to find something. “El Camino,” as it’s known, is the legendary California road that runs mostly north and south over hundreds and hundreds of miles, first laid out by monks to connect all the missions. And since towns sorta sprung up around these early churches, El Camino became one of the major arteries of commerce before California’s legendary highway systems were built. What that also meant was, in the early days of car travel, that roadhouses, motels, bars, garages, restaurants and just about any other business that could serve the motoring public were perched right on El Camino. And fairly close to each other, too, since most folks and their cars really couldn’t drive long distances without stopping now and again.

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, El Camino runs down the peninsula from the city and we knew there are still some roadside gems for our shoot. And we found everything we coulda wanted in the Lariat Tavern – a bar sitting about three feet to the west of El Camino in the town of Belmont. Old Spanish-style building common to the area with a fantastic mid-century neon sign out front. A few conversations with the fair Eastern European bartender about what she lovingly called “that cock-und-balls sign” and it was on like Donkey Kong.

Tricky thing about the Lariat: in order to shoot this thing, the Model A and Anitra had to be up on the sidewalk so that neither would get hit by 40mph traffic. But that also meant that Bill had to be laying in the right-hand lane to get the shot. Which, hey, we didn’t have any problem with – but we became an instant high-value target for the two Belmont cops who just had to put their brand-new Ford Police Interceptors to justified use. We’ll say this much: the good and decent citizenry of Belmont should sleep well at night knowing that two of their finest are keeping their mean streets safe from bandit Central American dope dealers obviously masquerading as hot rod photographers.

Pulled off the February shoot in fine order – even with the truffle-sniffers and the drunk old woman of questionable ethnicity who insisted on teetering into the shot to give sage advice to Bill, Anitra (our model), us, a passer-by, a dog on a leash, a guy who just wanted a drink and we’re pretty sure one of the stop lights in front of the bar. Had such a great time with this one that we’re gonna throw the calendar release party at the Lariat, so come on out and raise one, mkay?

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