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Arguably the most famous custom car in the classic style, the Hirohata Merc[1]
Arguably the most famous custom car in the classic style, the Hirohata Merc[1]

A custom car is a passenger vehicle that has been either substantially altered to improve its performance, often by altering or replacing the engine and transmission; made into a personal "styling" statement, using paint work and aftermarket accessories to make the car look unlike any car as delivered from the factory; or some combination of both. A desire among some automotive enthusiasts in the United States is to push "styling and performance a step beyond the showroom floor - to truly craft an automobile of one's own."[2] A custom car in British according to Collins English Dictionary is built to the buyer's own specifications.[3]

Although the two are related, custom cars are distinct from hot rods. The extent of this difference has been the subject of debate among customizers and rodders for decades. Additionally, a street rod can be considered a custom.[citation needed]

Custom cars are not to be confused with coachbuilt automobiles, historically rolling chassis fitted with luxury bodywork by specialty body builders.

History

The iconic "T-bucket" custom, with characteristic exposed engine, flat windshield, headers, and open pipes. Soft top (shown) is optional. Also features chrome five-spoke wheels, dropped tube axle, transverse front leaf spring, front disc brakes, open-face aircleaner, Weiand valve covers, and single 4-barrel (probably a QJ).
The iconic "T-bucket" custom, with characteristic exposed engine, flat windshield, headers, and open pipes. Soft top (shown) is optional. Also features chrome five-spoke wheels, dropped tube axle, transverse front leaf spring, front disc brakes, open-face aircleaner, Weiand valve covers, and single 4-barrel (probably a QJ).
"Rat rodded" Model A with Edelbrock head and chrome carb hats on late-model flatty
"Rat rodded" Model A with Edelbrock head and chrome carb hats on late-model flatty

A development of hot rodding, the change in name corresponded to the change in the design of the cars being modified. The first hot rods were pre-World War II cars, with running boards and simple fenders over the wheels. Early model cars (1929 to 1934) were modified by removing the running boards and either removing the fenders entirely or replacing them with light cycle fenders. Later models usually had fender skirts installed. The "gow job" morphed into the hot rod in the early to middle 1950s.[4] Typical of builds from before World War II were 1935 Ford wire wheels.[5]

Many cars were "hopped up" with engine modifications such as adding additional carburetors, high compression heads, and dual exhausts. Engine swaps were often done, with the objective of placing the most powerful engine in the lightest possible frame and body combination.[6] The suspension was usually altered, initially by lowering the rear end as much as possible using lowering blocks on the rear springs. Later cars were given a rake job by either adding a dropped front axle or heating front coil springs to make the front end of the car much lower than the rear. Immediately postwar, most rods would change from mechanical to hydraulic ("juice") brakes and from bulb to sealed-beam headlights.[7]

The mid-1950s and early 1960s custom Deuce was typically fenderless and steeply chopped, and almost all Ford (or Mercury, with the 239 cu in (3,920 cc) flatty, introduced in 1939[8]); a Halibrand quick-change rearend was also typical, and an Edelbrock intake manifold or Harman and Collins ignition magneto would not be uncommon.[9] Reproduction spindles, brake drums, and backing based on the 1937s remain available today.[8] Aftermarket flatty heads were available from Barney Navarro,[10] Vic Edelbrock, and Offenhauser. The first intake manifold Edelbrock sold was a "slingshot" design for the flatty.[10] Front suspension hairpins were adapted from sprint cars, such as the Kurtis Krafts.[11] The first Jimmy supercharger on a V8 may have been by Navarro in 1950.[12]

Much later, rods and customs swapped the old solid rear axle for an independent rear, often from Jaguar. Sometimes the grille of one make of car replaced another; the 1937 Buick grille was often used on a Ford. In the 1950s and 1960s, the grille swap of choice was the 1953 DeSoto. The original hot rods were plainly painted like the Model A Fords from which they had been built up, and only slowly begun to take on colors, and eventually, fancy orange-yellow flamed hoods or "candy-like" deep acrylic finishes in the various colors.[6]

With the change in automobile design to encase the wheels in fenders and to extend the hood to the full width of the car, the former practices were no longer possible. In addition, tremendous automotive advertising raised public interest in the new models in the 1950s. Thus, custom cars came into existence, swapping headlamp rings, grilles, bumpers, chrome side strips, and taillights as well as frenching and tunneling head- and taillights. The bodies of the cars were changed by cutting through the sheet metal, removing bits to make the car lower, welding it back together, and adding lead to make the resulting form smooth (hence the term lead sled; Bondo has since largely replaced lead.) Chopping made the roof lower[13] while sectioning[14] made the body thinner from top to bottom. Channeling[15] was cutting notches in the floorpan where the body touches the frame to lower the whole body. Fins were often added from other cars or made up from sheet steel. In the custom car culture, someone who merely changed the appearance without also substantially improving the performance was looked down upon. Juxtapoz Magazine, founded by the artist Robert Williams, has covered Kustom Kulture art.

Customization style

Custom cars are distinct from cars in stock condition. Builders may adopt the visual and performance characteristics of some relevant modification styles, and combine these as desired. There are several different custom themes, including:


Other builders attempt to modify vehicles to make them more upscale, such as with the Chevrolet El Morocco.

Features

The Reactor (show rod) by Gene Winfield shows paint fade style blending from one color to another
The Reactor (show rod) by Gene Winfield shows paint fade style blending from one color to another

Paint

'32 three-window with a classic-style flame job and Moon tank, reminiscent of Chapouris' California Kid
'32 three-window with a classic-style flame job and Moon tank, reminiscent of Chapouris' California Kid

Paint was an important concern. Once bodywork was done, the cars were painted unusual colors. Transparent but wildly colored candy-apple paint, applied atop a metallic undercoat, and metalflake paint, with aluminum glitter within candy-apple paint, appeared in the 1960s. These took many coats to produce a brilliant effect – which in hot climates had a tendency to flake off. This process and style of paint job were invented by Joe Bailon, a customizer from Northern California.

Customizers also continued the habit of adding decorative paint after the main coat was finished, of flames extending rearward from the front wheels, scallops, and hand-painted pinstripes of a contrasting color. The base color, most often a single coat, would be expected to be of a simpler paint. Flame jobs later spread to the hood, encompassing the entire front end, and have progressed from traditional reds and yellows to blues and greens and body-color "ghost" flames. One particular style of flames, called "crab claw flames", which is still prevalent today, is attributed to Dean Jeffries.[16]

Painting has become such a part of the custom car scene that now in many custom car competitions, awards for custom paint are as highly sought after as awards for the cars themselves.

Engine swaps

Engine swaps have always been commonplace. Once, the Ford flathead V8 engine was the preference, supplanted by the early hemi in the 1950s and 1960s. By the 1970s, the small-block Chevy was the most common option, and since the 1980s, the 350 cu in (5.7 l) Chevy has been almost ubiquitous.[17] The 325 cu in (5.3 l) Chevrolet LS has begun replacing the 350.[citation needed] Flatheads and early hemis have not entirely disappeared, but ready availability, ease of maintenance, and low cost of parts make the Chevrolet V8, in particular the first and third generation small block, the most frequent engine of choice.[citation needed]

Once customizing post-war cars caught on, some of the practices were extended to pre-war cars, which would have been called fendered rods, with more body work done on them. An alternate rule for disambiguation developed: hot rods had the engine behind the front suspension, while customs had the engine over the front suspension. The clearest example of this is Fords prior to 1949 had Henry Ford's old transverse front suspension, while 1949 models had a more modern suspension with the engine moved forward. However, an American museum has what could be the first true custom, built by Cletus Clobes in 1932, among its exhibits.[18] With the coming of the muscle car, and further to the high-performance luxury car, customization declined. One place where it persisted was the U.S. Southwest, where lowriders were built similar in concept to the earlier customs, but of post-1950s cars.

As the supply of usable antique steel bodies has decreased, companies such Westcott's,[19] Harwood, Gibbon Fiberglass[20] and Speedway Motors[20] have begun to fabricate new fiberglass copies,[21] while Classic Manufacturing and Supply, for one example, has been making a variety of new steel bodies since the 1970s.[22] California's "junker" (or "crusher") law, which pays a nominal sum to take "gross polluters" off the road, has been criticized by enthusiasts (and by SEMA) for accelerating this trend.[23] Starting in the 1950s, it became popular among customizers to display their vehicles at drive-in restaurants, such as Johnie's Broiler in Downey, California. The practice continues in Southern California.

Customizers

Examples of notable customizers include George Barris, Vini Bergeman, Bill Cushenbery, the Alexander Brothers, Bo Huff, Gil Ayala,[24] Darryl Starbird,[25] Roy Brizio, Troy Trepanier (of Rad Rides by Troy), Boyd Coddington, Darryl Hollenbeck (working out of at Vintage Color Studios; winner of the 2016 America's Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) trophy with a custom Deuce)[4] Harry Westergaard,[26] Dave Stuckey,[25] Dean Jeffries, Barry Lobeck, Phil Cool (who won the 1978 AMBR trophy with a bright orange Deuce, cover car for the July 1978 issue of Hot Rod),[27] Troy Ladd of Hollywood Hot Rods, Doane Spencer (builder of a 1940s Deuce considered the template for the hiboy),[28] "Posie",[29] Ron Clark and Bob Kaiser (of Clarkaiser Customs),[30] Joe Bailon[25] (inventor of candy apple paint),[31] Gene Winfield, Rick Dore[32] Joe Wilhelm, "Magoo",[33] Chip Foose,[34] and Pete Chapouris.

Others, such as Von Dutch, are best known as custom painters. Several customizers have become famous beyond the automobile community, including Barris, Jeffries, and Coddington, thanks to their proximity to Hollywood; Barris designed TV's Batmobile, while Chapouris built the flamed '34 three-window coupé in the eponymous telefilm "The California Kid". Another Barris creation, Ala Kart (a '29 Ford Model A roadster pickup), made numerous appearances in film (usually in the background of diner scenes and such), after taking two AMBR wins in a row. Some customizers have become well-enough known to be referred to by a given name alone. These include Boyd (Coddington), Pete (Chapouris), and Jake (Jim Jacobs).

Awards

The highest award for customizers is the AMBR (America's Most Beautiful Roadster) trophy, presented annually at the Grand National Roadster Show since 1948 (also known within the customizer community as the Oakland Roadster Show until it was moved to Southern California in 2003). This competition has produced famous, and radical, customs.

Another is the Ridler Award, presented at the Detroit Autorama since 1964 in honor of show promoter Don Ridler. With one of the most unusual car show entry requirements, winners of the prestigious Ridler Award are selected as the most outstanding among cars being shown for the first time. This prompts builders of many high-end roadsters to first enter the Autorama first and then the Grand National show in order to have the chance to win top honors at both shows. Few cars and owners can claim this achievement.

Notable customs

'Big Daddy' Roth 'bloodshot eyeball' shift knob was a 1960s craze.
'Big Daddy' Roth 'bloodshot eyeball' shift knob was a 1960s craze.

Some customs gained attention for winning the AMBR trophy, or for their outlandish styling. Notable among these is Silhouette and Ed Roth's Mysterion. Some of these more unusual projects turned into Hot Wheels cars, among them The Red Baron.

Other custom cars became notable for appearances in film (such as Ala Kart {1958},[35] The California Kid three-window {1973},[36] or the yellow deuce from "American Graffiti" {1973}) or television (such as The Monkeemobile, the "Munsters" hearse, or, more recently, Boyd's full-custom Tool Time '34, or Don Thelan's[37] '33 three-window, Eliminator, built for the ZZ Top video[38]). Specialist vehicles, such as the T/A, KITT, from Knight Rider, are not usually considered customs, but movie or TV cars, because they retain a mostly stock exterior.

Still, others exemplified a trend. One of these is the 1951 Merc built by the Barris brothers for Bob Hirohata in 1953, known forever after as the Hirohata Merc. Even without an appearance in the film ("Runnin' Wild"), it is iconic of 1950s customs, and of how to do a Merc right.[39] The same year, Neil Emory and Clayton Jensen of Valley Custom Shop built Polynesian for Jack Stewart, starting with a 1950 Holiday 88 sedan.[40] Polynesian made the cover of Hot Rod in August, and saw 54 pages of construction details in Motor Trend Custom Car Annual in 1954.[41]

Language

'28 A roadster with Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels
'28 A roadster with Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels

Certain linguistic conventions are followed among rodders and customizers:

The "cutoff year" as originally promoted by the National Street Rod Association (NSRA) is 1949. Many custom car shows will only accept 1948 and earlier models as entries, and many custom car organizations will not admit later model cars or trucks (also with some imports – this has been a gray area of what's acceptable e.g. an air-cooled VW Beetle, a Big Three product manufactured overseas e.g. a Ford Capri built in the UK or a General Motors – Holden's product, not to mention captives), and/or a vintage import automobile with an American driveline transplant but this practice is subject to change. Modern-day custom car shows which allow the inclusion of muscle cars have used the 1972 model year as the cutoff since it is considered the end of the muscle car era prior to the introduction of the catalytic converter. The NSRA has announced that starting in 2011 it will switch to a shifting year method where any owner with a car 30 years or older will be allowed membership. So in 2011, the owner of a 1981 model year vehicle will qualify, then in 2012 the owner of a 1982 model year vehicle will quality, and so on. Additionally, the Goodguys car show organization has moved the year limit for its "rod" shows from 1949 to 1954 in recent years.

Types

Common terms

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Custom car" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (October 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Front suspension of a lowboy Deuce roadster, with color-matched springs on coilover shocks, tube axle, and vented disc brakes. Also features chrome five-spokes, dropped tube axle, transverse front leaf spring, front disc brakes, open-face aircleaner, Weiand valve covers, and single 4-barrel (probably a QJ).
Front suspension of a lowboy Deuce roadster, with color-matched springs on coilover shocks, tube axle, and vented disc brakes. Also features chrome five-spokes, dropped tube axle, transverse front leaf spring, front disc brakes, open-face aircleaner, Weiand valve covers, and single 4-barrel (probably a QJ).

Some other common terms:

Some terms have an additional, different meaning among hot rodders than among customizers: NOS, for instance, is a reference to nitrous oxide, rather than new old stock.

Gallery

See also

References

  1. ^ Kress, Joe. Lead Sleds. MotorBooks International. p. 10. ISBN 9781610590631. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  2. ^ Ganahl, Pat (2001). The American custom car. MBI. ISBN 9780760309506. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  3. ^ "Custom car definition and meaning: Collins English Dictionary". collinsdictionary.com. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  4. ^ a b Shelton, Chris. "Then, Now, and Forever" in Hot Rod, March 2017, p. 16.
  5. ^ Shelton, Chris. "Then, Now, and Forever" in Hot Rod, March 2017, p. 18.
  6. ^ a b "The evolution of custom cars". Retrieved 2016-10-11.
  7. ^ a b Shelton, Chris. "Then, Now, and Forever" in Hot Rod, March 2017, pp. 18 and 20.
  8. ^ a b Shelton, p. 20.
  9. ^ Shelton, pp. 17–18.
  10. ^ a b Shelton, p. 20 caption.
  11. ^ Shelton, p. 24 and p. 26 caption.
  12. ^ Shelton, p. 26 caption.
  13. ^ Rod Action, 2/78, p. 64.
  14. ^ Street Rodder, 2/78, p. 15; Custom Rodder 1/97, p. 29.
  15. ^ Jezek, George. "The All Deuce Round-Up", in Street Rodder, 2/78, p. 58.
  16. ^ Hotrod magazine, 1999.
  17. ^ See any issue of Street Rodder, for instance.
  18. ^ "1932 Clobes". Wheels Through Time Museum. Archived from the original on 2008-09-28. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
  19. ^ Street Rodder, 2/78, p. 44.
  20. ^ a b Street Rodder, 2/78, p. 43.
  21. ^ See, for instance, Street Rodder, 8/99, p. 183.
  22. ^ Street Rodder, 7/94, pp. 132–34.
  23. ^ See, for instance, Dick Wells column "SRMA Update", Street Rodder, 8/99, p. 234.
  24. ^ Rod & Custom, 8/89, p. 60.
  25. ^ a b c Street Rodder, 1/85, p. 56.
  26. ^ Rod & Custom, 8/89, p. 55.
  27. ^ Shelton, Chris. "Then, Now, and Forever" in Hot Rod, March 2017, p. 23.
  28. ^ Shelton, p. 29.
  29. ^ Rod Action, 2/85, p. 5.
  30. ^ Fetherston, David, "Detroit Dreams", in Rod & Custom, 7/95, p. 58.
  31. ^ Ganahl, Pat, "The Candy Man", in Rod & Custom, 7/95, p. 81.
  32. ^ Gross, Ken (2012). Art of the Hot Rod. Motorbooks. ISBN 9780760343005 – via Google Books.
  33. ^ Street Rodder, 12/98, p. 206.
  34. ^ Bishop, Mike, "The 45th Grand National Roadster Show", in American Rodder, 6/94, p. 27.
  35. ^ Hot Rod, 12/86, p. 29 sidebar.
  36. ^ Hot Rod, 12/86, p. 29.
  37. ^ Gingerelli, Dain. "Jake's '34". Written on June 23, 2005 Hot Rod Magazine online (retrieved 19 June 2015)
  38. ^ Auto Editors of Consumer Guide (2007-09-20). "The ZZ Top Eliminator: Profile of a Hot Rod". HowStuffWorks.com. Retrieved 2010-10-31.((cite web)): CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  39. ^ Rod & Custom, 8/89, pp. 8 & 10.
  40. ^ Custom Rodder online (retrieved 28 July 2018)
  41. ^ Rod & Custom, 8/89, p. 68.
  42. ^ For instance, Street Rodder, 8/99, passim; Rod Action, 2/78, passim; Hot Rod, October 1987, pp. 8, 10, 18, 20, & 22.
  43. ^ a b Fortier, Rob. "A Little Pinch Here, A Little Tuck There", in Street Rodder, 8/99, p. 136.
  44. ^ American Rodder, 6/94, pp. 45 & 93.
  45. ^ Geisert, Eric. "Tom's Fun Run", in Street Rodder, 8/99, p. 149cap.
  46. ^ a b Freiburger, David. "Hot Rod Dictionary", in Hot Rod, July 1993, p. 45.
  47. ^ Street Rod Builder, 7/03, p. 126.
  48. ^ PHR, 7/06, pp. 22–23.
  49. ^ Fortier, p. 53cap.
  50. ^ Fortier, p. 54cap.
  51. ^ Fetherston, David, "Track Terror", in Rod & Custom, 7/95, p. 35; Emmons, Don, "Long-term Hybrid", in Rod & Custom, 7/95, p. 52; & Baskerville, Gray, "Tom Brown's '60s Sweetheart", in Rod & Custom, 9/00, p. 162.
  52. ^ Bianco, Johnny, "Leadfest" in Rod & Custom, 9/00, p. 86.
  53. ^ American Rodder, July 1993, p. 59
  54. ^ Hot Rod, October 1994, p. 94.
  55. ^ Freiburger, David. "Hot Rod Dictionary", in Hot Rod, July 1993, p. 44.
  56. ^ Rod and Custom, 12/91, p. 29 caption.
  57. ^ Hot Rod, 12/86, p. 85 caption.
  58. ^ Ganahl, Pat, "Swap 'til you Drop", in Rod & Custom, 7/95, pp. 68 & 70.
  59. ^ Street Rodder, November 1998, p. 141
  60. ^ a b Baskerville, Gray. "How to Talk Hot Rod", in Hot Rod, October 1987, p. 46.
  61. ^ Custom Rodder 1/97, p. 17.
  62. ^ a b c Street Rodder, 12/98, p. 212.
  63. ^ Geisert, Eric. "The California Spyder", in Street Rodder, 8/99, p. 34; Mayall, Joe. "Driving Impression: Reproduction Deuce Hiboy", in Rod Action, 2/78, p. 26; letters, Rod & Custom, 7/95, p. 10.
  64. ^ Hot Rod, 2/87, p. 38.
  65. ^ Street Rodder, November 1998, p. 143
  66. ^ Hot Rod, 12/86, p. 52 caption.
  67. ^ Burhnam, Bill. "In Bill's Eye", Custom Rodder 1/97, p. 17; reprinted from Goodguys Gazette.
  68. ^ "Mr. 32", in Street Rodder, 2/78, p. 40.
  69. ^ Sport Compact Car, August 1993, p. 44
  70. ^ Fortier, p. 51cap; Bianco, p. 82.
  71. ^ Ganahl, p. 70 & "Coupla Cool Coupes", p. 74.
  72. ^ Mayall, Joe. "Joe Mayall's Driving Impression: Reproduction Deuce Hiboy", in Rod Action, 2/78, pp. 28 & 29; Hot Rod Magazine, 11/84, p. 6.
  73. ^ "Street Corner", in Street Rodder, 8/99, p. 16, & Fortier, "Jr.'s Highboy", p. 98.
  74. ^ a b c d e f g h i Baskerville, Gray. "How to Talk Hot Rod", in Hot Rod, October 1987, p. 47.
  75. ^ "Cowboys and Indians" in "Reaction Time", Hot Rod April 1991, p. 7
  76. ^ Hot Rod, October 1994, p. 84 caption; American Rodder, July 1993, p. 59
  77. ^ Contrast "Street Corner", in Street Rodder, 8/99, p. 16.
  78. ^ Hot Rod, 2/87, p. 43.
  79. ^ Car Craft, September 1998, p. 38.
  80. ^ Coonan, Steve. "Who's Chicken", in Street Rodder, 2/78, pp. 56–57; 1001 Rod & Custom Ideas, 1/76, pp. 24 & 25.
  81. ^ Bianco, p. 82.
  82. ^ Rod & Custom, 8/89, p. 70.
  83. ^ Rod & Custom, April 2000, p. 154 caption.
  84. ^ Popular Cars, 12/85, p. 51.
  85. ^ Hot Rod Magazine, 11/84, pp. 46 & 50.
  86. ^ Ganahl, Pat, "Coupla Cool Coupes", in Rod & Custom, 7/95, p. 74cap.
  87. ^ Hot Rod Magazine's Street Machines and Bracket Racing #3 (Los Angeles: Petersen Publishing, 1979), p. 33.
  88. ^ Hot Rod, 10/80, p. 61.
  89. ^ Clausager (1994), p. 25
  90. ^ Jalopy Journal.
  91. ^ Rod & Custom, 7/95, p. 143cap.
  92. ^ Hot Rod, 4/95, p. 8.
  93. ^ Yunick, Henry. Best Damn Garage in Town: The World According to Smokey.[ISBN missing][page needed]
  94. ^ Street Rodder, 12/98, p. 292.
  95. ^ Rod & Custom, 7/95, pp. 26–27 & 33.
  96. ^ Tann, Jeff, "Two-Timer" in Rod & Custom, 9/00, p. 58.
  97. ^ "Kustoms and Hot Rods Gallery: Hirohata Merc". Barris.com. Archived from the original on 2011-07-07. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
  98. ^ Hot Rod, 4/95, p. 36.
  99. ^ Fortier, Rob. "25th Salt Lake City Autorama", in Street Rodder, 8/99, p. 51cap, Rod & Custom, 7/95, p. 143cap.
  100. ^ Rod Action, 2/78.
  101. ^ Street Rodder, 8/99, pp. 202, 204 & 205.

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