It must have been half-past three in the morning when I stumbled through the front door. Covered in dust from head-to-toe, my hands were scraped up and my fingernails black from grease, grime and similar. I was exhausted, delirious and probably looked borderline looney—but I couldn’t have been happier.
Why? I had just gotten back from a 12-hour blitz at some of my best friends’ motorcycle shop. They’ve been thrashing on a pair of vintage bikes to take to the One Motorcycle Show in Portland, Oregon, which is being held this weekend. All work had to be finished by Wednesday night so we could leave Thursday. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure if either of them have even left the shop in the past couple of weeks.
A wise man once said that work is like a gas. Not matter how much time you’re given, it’ll somehow manage to fill that space. It’s human nature to push things down to the wire. At least that’s how it is for me. Whether we’re talking hot rods or motorcycles, there’s no doubt that these projects take time—a whole lot of it.
As we wrenched, the clock ticked. Although we weren’t rushing, there was most definitely a sense of urgency. The opportunity for revisions and re-designs had long since passed. Our eye was on the prize; we had to meet that deadline.
While we worked, I thought about how there are few things more traditional than the art of the late-night thrash. Ever since the dawn of our hobby, friends have been working together to get their projects finished for the big show, race, cruise-in or whatever event is next on the calendar. Sometimes you make it, sometimes you don’t. In that final push, we managed to wrap-up both bikes and prep the pickup for the trip. We hit the road the following day. Sleep deprived? For sure. Happy? I think you know the answer to that one.
In the spirit of this weekend’s excitement, I’ve unearthed some vintage indoor show coverage from early 1964. This was a dynamic period in our hobby’s history, where shows featured a wild mix of hot rods, radical customs, mild customs, competition machines and a whole lot more. Of the full set, I especially like Wiz Rothermel’s ’33 Chevy Gasser, Larry Maas’ Olds-powered ’53 Ford and, of course, Pete Arend’s “Mongoose” Corvette. These cars pushed the envelope, and I can only imagine seeing them in person.
Winding things down, I’ll ask you this: do you have any memorable late-night build stories? What were you working on and what deadline were you trying to meet? I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I’d love to hear about them.
Photos from Popular Hot Rodding, March 1964, which was a gift from my good friend Kerry Horan (more on him later).