Last night I was on the phone with a buddy having a fairly typical hot rod debate. See, he’s a 60′s freak and I’m more of a late 40′s/early 50′s type of guy. There’s only a decade separating our favorite genres, but as we all know, a lot happened in that decade. Namely, the “custom rod” became one of the center stones of the automotive world.
To me, a hot rod is a car that is built with purpose. Form follows function and the end result is a car that looks good because it was built to go fast. For the most part, there are no embellishments to that formula. Of course, the “custom rod” broke from this idea. Form became the utmost concern after the basic hot rod foundation was set – big motor, small car, proven geometries, and hot rod proportions. Essentially, fellas were building dream cars regardless of feasibility.
Now, my buddy listened to my reasoning, agreed somewhat, and then argued that I was discounting one element (“like you always do,” he said) of the 60′s era custom rod. Creativity.
“You need to open your mind and think about stuff other than wire wheels, flatheads, and Gomer Pile hot rods. Your definition, while accurate, stinks of a guy that doesn’t truly understand the art of creating a dream car. Function doesn’t always have to be number one.”
Now, I admit to being a total whore to functionality at times and I might even admit to being a bit biased to earlier style cars… but close minded? To prove my pal wrong, I decided to use my “middle of the night baby feeding time” to find and study my favorite custom rod. The result of my search? The X-Sonic.
In 1959, Ron Aguirre took a 1956 Corvette and built a fairly mild custom just in time for the 1960 Roadster Show. Through the next 18 months or so, Ron continued to show the car while making minor adjustments to paint and body work. The car looked good and showed well, but Ron wanted something more. Undaunted, he tore into the Vette with aspirations of creating something truly unique.
He started with the suspension. I’m unsure of the accuracy of such a statement, but many consider the X-Sonic to be the first car to feature an adjustable hydraulic suspension. Whether or not it was the first, the feature certainly caught the attention of such publications as Rod & Custom and MotorTrend.
“The Space Age X-Sonic featuring Hydo-Suspension!”
“Wild Vette operates entirely through electronic magic!”
With the variable stance in hand, Ron moved on to the body. Through the years he had reformed the fiberglass body to add strange ground effects, quad lights, and fins, but this time Ron wanted something even more outlandish. He started with pontoon shaped front fenders that rolled back gracefully to the previously formed rear fins. The headlights were then hid behind the concave Opel grille. Still, the shape Ron wanted wasn’t popping… The addition of a bubble top finally got the car over the hump.
The interior is typical 60′s show fair with one exception – there is no steering wheel or joystick. Inexplicably, the X-Sonic had “push button” steering. Now, I’ve got no clue how such a device would work… and while you would think that the bubble top would have already rendered the car useless as a street car, I’ve actually heard folks talk about seeing Ron bomb around The San Bernadino/Riverside area fairly regularly in the car.
In any case, I love the shape of the X-Sonic. And to prove my buddy wrong, I thought I would shout to the world that this very well might be (there is a Gene Winfield asymmetrical car I’m in love with too) my favorite “custom rod” ever built – crazy steering and bubble top and all. Enjoy the photos stolen from a number of vintage sources: