I recently got the chance to study two really well done and similar hot rods with completely different backgrounds. One was the product of a proffessional shop made up of a team of extremely well trained and tooled craftsman. The other was built by a guy in his garage during nights and weekends. While I enjoyed each car for what they were, I was surprised to find how different each made me feel.
The pro car was polished. The shop that built it was stocked with all the latest in machinery and tools. Every guy on the team had a specialization – the welder was a master with a tig, the machinist had the latest CNC jive down flat, the metal man could use the wheel with the best of them, the body guy was dieing from lead poisoning, the paint guy was as flighty as ever, etc… These guys came together, the moons aligned, and an absolutely perfect car rolled out of the shop. It could have just as easily been one of those Discovery channel shows. Smooth. Simple. Sharp.
The amateur car was polished, the fit and finish was graceful, and the level of detail was equal to the pro car, but it was missing the sharp edges described above. This home builder wasn’t the master of any trade, but he had a good solid understanding of all the aspects of building the car. He did all his own welding on the same tig, he might have borrowed his buddy’s english wheel, his 4-in-1 lathe worked okay most of the time, and his make shift paint booth did its job. This car was painful at times. The builder spent weeks thinking about problems, fabricating and refabricating brackets, figuring out new/borrowed tools and how best to use them, etc… There was nothing easy about this build and comprehensively documenting the process in a step-by-step manner would be nothing less than impossible. No glamour shots here boys…
I’ve always been a detail guy. Meaning, when I look at a car I look for those little details and imagine the sacrifice it took to pull them off - the late nights, the conversations with the pissed off wife/girlfriend who needs attention, the missed episodes of Weeds or Project Runway, the blood, sweat, and tears… Hot Rods with soul aren’t easy and they aren’t done to a formula. They take more time, more thought, more effort…
And while the pro car was detailed to the nines and glorious in its execution, I didn’t get the same feeling of respect (for lack of a better word) that I got when I looked at the home built car. The home built car was passionate like an Enzo, while the pro built car felt formal like a laboratory produced prototype.
What’s my point? Building a hot rod (or kustom for that matter) isn’t about having the right tools or the right skill set. It’s about having passion and knowledge for these cars in general. This mind set beats skill sets any day of the week on my calendar.