Rocketfire Shoebox

Rocketfire Shoebox

I spent a lot of time in Salina this weekend just sitting and thinking… Thinking about line, proportion, style, and what makes a custom work to my own sensibilities. Riding along in Lee Pratt’s shoebox Ford, staring at El Jefe’s Gary Howard built Cad, and just generally hanging out with the crew that I was with put my mind in a tailspin of sorts. It’s hard to explain really, but there is something really interesting about matching a builder’s personality to the cars they build.

Anyway, as my mind wondered and I became more and more frustrated with the matching game, I remembered an illustration that appeared in R&C sometime in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. I looked and looked for that very magazine this morning and came up with nothing. Then, I browsed through my digital archive and found what I was looking for. I didn’t have the article that it appeared in, but I did have the illustration. It was signed by a guy named R.F. “Rex” Reyes.

From what I’ve been able to find, Rex wasn’t a car guy really. He was an industrial designer for a number of aircraft manufacturers and later in life gained fame in his field for rocket and missile design. He designed for speed and form just happened to follow.┬áIn any case, I’m guessing it was his background that interested R&C and their curiosity must have prompted them to see what they could get out of Rex.

The above illustration is what they got. To me, it’s amazing. Here’s a designer with little to no experience in the “custom world” and yet when he put pen to paper he came up with a car that would fit the scene like a glove. A shoebox Ford with an ever-so-slight section, ’56 Chrysler rear quarters, sliced ’57 Cad rear bumper, ’55 Pontiac (I think?) side trim, Imperial headlight brows, etc… It’s an incredibly radical custom, but it has such a simple shape. It’s subtle… somehow… like a rocket.

And that would make sense, right? Rockets are what Rex knew and loved.

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Note: If anyone knows what issue of Rod & Custom this illustration came out of, I would love to hear from you.

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