I just ran across this thing I wrote in 2010. I'm pretty sure I intended it for the HAMB, but I don't think I ever posted it. Maybe I thought I still had more to say, but after re-reading it, it seems pretty complete and accurate: ________________________________________ I’m writing this about me, but I suspect that it will be familiar to many of you. I’m already uncomfortable doing it. I can see that if it’s going to be at all useful, I will have to admit stuff that is embarrassing to me. I became aware of customized cars when I was about 10, circa 1950. I recall seeing a mildly customized Chevy and a fenderless roadster around that time, and being intrigued by both of them. About the same time, I could see that when I got a little older, a car would provide me with mobility and independence. It would greatly enhance my personal power. I was a wimpy little kid, and that promise of power was extremely attractive to me. I discovered car magazines when I was 11, and was off and running toward a lifelong car addiction. The more I learned about hot rods and customs, the more wonderful I thought they were, and I could imagine a cooler version of me driving one of those. I spent a lot of time drawing pictures and building models of the cars that I would drive when the time came. It’s now been 65 years since I bought that first magazine. From the time I got my first car at 15, I’ve been particular about the looks of the cars that I drove, choosing and customizing them to suit my personal taste. The notion that this tweaking was a creative act, and an important component of my identity, didn’t occur to me until I was well into middle age. When I was a teenager, I imagined that having a cool car was an important part of impressing my peers, especially girls (this notion still lurks within me, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding). The car would serve as an external representation of my identity, and would communicate what a cool guy I was to anyone who saw it. There was a shred of truth in that; my popularity grew when I got a better car, and certain girls seemed to enjoy riding around with me. As an aside: It’s my observation that guys of my generation chose a personal style, or presentation, early in their lives – teens or twenties. We decided how to comb our hair, whether to wear a beard or a tattoo, whether to wear shorts or pants with cuffs, and basically stuck with that style for the rest of our lives. Everyone did this – even the people who looked scroungy, and didn’t appear to have any style at all. At the time of those decisions, we conformed to the style of the people we hung around or admired, influenced to some degree by our work environment (blue collar/white collar). For me, at least, the same thing applies to cars – I choose to drive cars that look like what I wanted to drive 50 years ago. I’m certain that I’m not alone in doing that. I haven’t always been consistent, and have followed some fads: I’ve had cars whose features were influenced by race cars, sports cars, off-road trucks and taildraggers. I sometimes felt like an imposter driving something that wasn’t really my style: my taildragger phase didn’t even last a year. I generally return to what suited me in 1958. My identity and my car are intertwined. When the car looks the way I want it, I drive it with pride, and it’s as much an expression of me as my face. When it’s particularly clean and shiny, I’m in a great mood; when it looks scruffy I’m embarrassed to be seen in it. I notice that this is also true of my perception of others. I have known people whose identities are fixed in my memory by their cars – the guy who had the ’29 coupe in red oxide; I knew him by his car but don’t recall his name. I’m sure there are people who know me exclusively by my car. For a long time now, I’ve detailed my cars according to aesthetic decisions that I made 50 years ago. My mother once told me that “Imagination is the rearrangement of experience,” and I think she was dead right. I’m preaching to the choir, I realize. “Traditional” just means what we decided was cool way back when. To summarize: - We chose our identities (or styles) when we were young, and haven’t changed them much during our lifetimes. - I thought that my car, enhancing my identity with its style and power, would impress others. - My cars deliberately look like stuff built in the ‘50s. Lately it’s dawned on me that I’m working at impressing people who are long dead; how dumb is that? Does this ring a bell for anybody else?