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History Identity and Ego Trips

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by 50Fraud, Apr 21, 2016.

  1. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,877


    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?
    Ned Ludd, Fueler38, 47ragtop and 29 others like this.
  2. Well, I'll agree that ego definitely enters into this, but I personally have never been too concerned about impressing other people, only with pleasing myself when it comes to my vehicle choices and looks. Having an artistic background, I've never been 'stuck' on one particular look, always willing to look at the possibilities inherent in most vehicles (even if I couldn't realize them). Been car-crazy my whole life; I still remember the ass-whoopin' I got when I managed to get my 5-year-old hands on a can of paint and a brush and proceeded to apply 'custom paint' to my birthday-new pedal car. I got as much if not more on me, my new clothes, the sidewalk and the dog as got on the car... To this day, I've never owned a personal vehicle I haven't altered in some way.

    I'm definitely of the 'Traditional styled' school, but the cars/people I admire most are the ones that successfully 'go outside the box' and come up with something that's both fresh and 'trad'.
    wraymen and Stogy like this.
  3. 50Fraud, you pretty much just posted the story of my life. I found so many parallels in your "life account" that it's almost scary. If I didn't know better and you weren't on the entirely opposite end of the country, I would think we were brothers.:)
  4. slack
    Joined: Aug 18, 2014
    Posts: 533


    All that peckin and all them words to say: "My car was/is an extension of self. I was/am just like everybody else, normal." Even guys who drive Prius's :eek:
    low down A and falcongeorge like this.

  5. I like cars that I am happy with- I don't care a toss if someone else does or does not like my cars. When you drive past one of those long reflecting windows and you catch a glimpse of your car, and think " shit, that IS neat!", there ain't a better feeling.
    When I was young, I always had the oldest (by at least 25 years) cars amongst my friends, and they all thought I was a freak. Now all my friends (30 years later) mostly have pre-'60 cars, and we think we are quite normal, those who don't "get it" are the weird ones!
    Stogy and Barn Find like this.
  6. Hnstray
    Joined: Aug 23, 2009
    Posts: 12,047

    from Quincy, IL

    Well said, Tony. And, like lothiandon1940, your personal story so closely parallels my own experience it evokes a sense of 'kinship' .

    However, I do think that while we may have been conscious of impressing others, that was secondary to fulfilling our image of ourselves.

    It seems that goal is pretty much shared by most people, by whatever means they feel compelled to express it.

    Last edited: Apr 21, 2016
    50Fraud, Stogy, wraymen and 4 others like this.
  7. It's funny that you posted this now. I just picked up a project and i struggled for a short while on a build style. i decided to build it like the cars i saw running around my neighborhood when i was a kid, the same style i tried to emulate on my first few cars. back when we had stickers that said "we don't care how they do it in california". it's a good thing i have a bunch of outdated parts still!
  8. slowmotion
    Joined: Nov 21, 2011
    Posts: 3,273


    You said a mouthful there, Ray.
    Even on dailys, I've always done something, even subtle sometimes to personalize or put my 'stamp' on it. Car guys 'get it', regular folk, not so much. It's just an affliction we all got, that I guess only 'we' understand.
    I never set out to impress anyone ( though that's cool if it happens). I just like to put a smile on my own face when I get in and turn a key.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2016
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  9. dechrome
    Joined: Dec 23, 2004
    Posts: 303


    You wrote my story. Thanks
    50Fraud likes this.
  10. wicarnut
    Joined: Oct 29, 2009
    Posts: 7,423


    Have to agree with some of your thinking, we, car guys have Passion for cars, IMO, that's the key to everything, be it hunting, fishing, sports, music, career, etc., Passion, just shy of obsession makes for a happy busy fulfilled life. Through the years have met people without any interests (Passion) they seem to be lost and unhappy and always have excuses for their misery. So....... WE are the Lucky people who found our PASSION..
    Joined: Jun 3, 2005
    Posts: 8,220


    Interesting reflections of a lifetime car guy. We all have a certain reason I suppose. I might as well be brutally honest about my youthful endeavors, it was about the money. Some of the koolest stuff I had, that I miss, I made pretty good money on the flip. I bought my homes, my equipment, several newer vehicles by making a decent chunk of dough on cars or even just parts. I was less about the look and more about the next one, about what I knew regarding the market desires. As I aged and became totally engaged in the business my shift toward the cars that storied manufacturers built for those a generation or 2 ahead of had dreamed of. If you think about it, who paid a sum equal to 3-4 Deluxe Fords of the time for 1 car? I'm not sure if we can remove things like ego or avarice that were the focus of their marketing such cars, but it seems like maybe to a minor degree it was involved and stimulated. My cars today should reflect a degree of my abilities and services offered were I to be "responsible" with them. Yet my latest is going to stay original paint for it's looks and the expression of preservation. Deep down there's a huge relief about it. I feel I'm "off the hook" in regard to the finish. What would we call that? I feel as though if I roll out in a vehicular debutante it has to be a certain degree of quality or select plurals of such. My people expect it, my profession demands it, my current project has to refuse it. It's too good for now so lucky me. I don't have to invest 500+ hours and couple grand in materials for a body restoration. But inside where me and Mrs Highlander will spend our time with it, I guess I'm expressing comfort, style (to more than just us), durability, and one of my special talents will be in sharp focus.

    I changed too. For a long time I was all about how well it ran. In a few of my daily rods I had to have some degree of performance that was over and above the average of the time. N2O, exhaust, traction, all designed to give respectable performance at 2am somewhere in the outskirts of the suburbs. That grew too and "we" (the car and I) became a dedicated 1/4 mile racer. As is normal we all have peer groups in that life too. I heard it all, like how I'd never see a certain MPH or ET out of it. I took it in stride, often in complete agreement with whomever threw those ideas out, but deep down knew better. I was after my own personal challenges, to run 10 seconds on small tires, without "the juice", in a steel car with simple chassis enhancements. I was happy to accpet a low 11 knowing I could tune or tweek to get closer, but there also had to be a look and a name, something that was all me and nobody else. "The Highlander" was boldly emblazened on the doors, the tartan cloth design of my ancestors proudly sewn on the seat back, and in a rebellious fashion that wouldn't be seen on the back of anyone's car I had to say something else. Not "Gotcha" or "Follow Me", "You Lose", "See Ya", nope not this one,not this guy. "Up Your...Kilt!" is what mine said. Of course it was green, what other color is there for a real Highlander, right? On it's maiden outing I only hit 11.22, but I could feel it right then, knew there was more in it right there on that day. A small simple repair, a minor tweek, 10.88, and by the end of the night 10.80 on a break out. I was hooked, I let it own me, flogged every tenth of a second out of it, upped my game to enviable reaction times and reliable 60' times. She ran a best of 10.32 and 129.86 MPH. The fact I recall those numbers 20 years later says something about those days, that mindset, no? The only time it saw a final was with my friend behind the wheel. I knew when to say enough and those days are gone. I'm haunted by them when I visit the local track just looking to be entertained. For the 1st hour I want to be there again, I want to be strapped into the car feeling the exhaust as well as hearing it, sweating in the summer sun waiting for a tree to count down, G forces challenging normal movements. That's passion. it's not ego, avarice, identity. The identity is on the scoreboard for mere seconds and then it's gone, left on a piece of paper. Even then time will fade the print and it's gone forever. This car shit is a sickness in many ways and that was mine. I'm healed, I'm better, I don't give a fat rat's ass about fast the new one is. I just want it to handle well, be comfortable, show my wares in polite and professional ways. I want my dearest friends to enjoy it too. I don't think words apply at that point, do you?
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2016
  12. belair
    Joined: Jul 10, 2006
    Posts: 8,714


    Good thoughts, 50Fraud. Finding the (a) source of identity is a profound subject. To keep it HAMB friendly and not chase any of the forbidden rabbits of the site, I will apply the old saying about "doing things you detest, to make money you don't want, to buy things you don't need, to impress people you don't like". If you don't know who and what you are, that may wind up on your tombstone.
  13. denis4x4
    Joined: Apr 23, 2005
    Posts: 3,751

    from Colorado

    Great observation. That kind of thinking is what I perceive is driving the auction industry. Too, as the boomers age, the hot iron tends to be muscle cars as that is what they remember. One has to wonder if what kind of money the Barris Prius will bring at Barett-Jackson in 2045
    alanp561 and 50Fraud like this.
  14. j3harleys
    Joined: May 12, 2010
    Posts: 912


    And I thought it was only me. Thanks for making me feel somewhat normal
  15. Tony, a well written article and your thought's pretty much speak for our generation and how fortunate we were to grow up and experience what has made the lasting impression on us.

    As other members have expressed,our lives are so similar we could be twin sons of different mothers. :) HRP
  16. gnichols
    Joined: Mar 6, 2008
    Posts: 10,989

    from Tampa, FL

    I'm sure many of us fee that way... but if I could have been a racer I'd be tossing out old stuff left and right to go faster. If hot rodding is about hop ups, why get nostalgic for slow stuff? Gary
  17. Well it didn't take me long to figure out that cars and bikes don't make me cool. I was still an outsider once I started playing cars and motorcycles just like before. But even though I am not one od the cool guys I don't care, I am who I am and that's that. I am not proud or ashamed of that fact that is just the way that it is.

    I do agree that a car is an extension of yourself, I guess that is why I don't have much respect for some ( most?) guys because I know that a car is a reflection of ones self.
  18. 50Fraud, I'm sure you caught a little bit of everyone in your analysis. I thought a hot car, bike or truck would impress the ladies. You found out later that the ladies it didn't work on were the ones you really wanted in the long run. I also found that it works in reverse too by pissing people off. Like Cops, the crabby neighbor down the street that called them on you and other assorted straight laced inhabitants. I am at a point now where the only one's I try to please are my family, close friends and myself(Even though I still catch good natured hell from all of them).
  19. I agree up to the point of if my car looks shabby I am embarrassed to drive it. Shabby to me means I drive it and I drive it every where- in the rain - in the mud What ever. And I am proud about that. I do clean it but after 2000 miles in rain and wind I ain't cleaning it until I have seen sun for a few days.
    ct1932ford, F&J and wraymen like this.
    Joined: Jan 24, 2010
    Posts: 2,142

    from IDAHO

    Thanks for the insight 50fraud and that helps explain why I am still driving a 40 Ford sedan delivery when the sixties have been over for 4 or 5 years...
    The 39 guy, hfh, falcongeorge and 3 others like this.
  21. Well I have married my lady twice, never should have let go the first time and she likes fast cars and motorcycles. Of course she was raised by a hot rodder and the truth be known she is probably more impressed with the guy that owns the fast car and or bike than with the actual machine.

    Funny story, before we actually met she was standing in the hall if the high school with a mutual acquaintance that was also a young lady. She said, " See that guy, I'm going to marry him." The other young lady said, "Who Ben? You don't even want to know him, he's no good." I don't doubt that part of what she said was true, at least the no good part. LOL
  22. falcongeorge
    Joined: Aug 26, 2010
    Posts: 18,341

    from BC

    And we think the young kids are "screwed up" because they dont want to build hot rods...:rolleyes::D
    A whole lot of truth to this. For me, a big part of it is also still probably a big middle finger for my dad. He was a sporty car guy and really hated hot rods and drag racing. I am a generation younger than you, so my obsession with build styles of the late fifties/early sixties period specifically probably has more to do with my early obsession with the few Spotlight books my dad had than impressing my peers, pretty much all of them are muscle car/street racer types, but thats really splitting hairs. When I started down the "car guy" road it was definitely about the image I wanted to project.
    I have really had to re-evaluate that whole way of thinking as I have aged, because the fact is, no-one gives a shit anymore, and you have to be honest with yourself about that, and then take that as a jumping off point to decide if this is something you still really want to do. FAST cars are a rush, Thats another side to it, and I do get a REAL PHYSICAL kick, going out early on a Sunday morning and tearing up the streets, but that has very little to do with the HAMB side of the hobby.
    I really do not lament the fact that the car hobby as we know it is dying, it is/was a transient thing, based on a particular set of circumstances and social conditions that converged in Post-WWII North America. The cars alone cannot and will not re-create that world, it is GONE.
    When I look at my 7 yr old daughter, I lament the passing of those social conditions and the total annihilation of the middle class and representational democracy, and the belief in the possibility of a better life for all far more than I lament the loss of the car scene. We like to talk about how much harder it was in our day, that is SUCH a self-serving crock of shit. When I go to my daughters school and look at those children, and think about the "brave new world":mad: they are faced with, knowing that those who call the shots intend that we will have a standard of living equal to Vietnam it literally turns my stomach. In the overall scheme of things, I have to realize that the car thing really is irrelevant and transient.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2016
    thintin, trollst, Phillips and 6 others like this.
  23. ..................."Beaner. You'll always be cool to us and really who else matters.............'cept the wife of course.:D;)
  24. Geee, . . . gosh. :oops: :D :D
  25. falcongeorge
    Joined: Aug 26, 2010
    Posts: 18,341

    from BC

    Highlander, man, that is every bit as profound as what Tony posted. Street racing is a whole 'nother world unto itself, and if the car hobby is an addiction, that shit is the heroin...It never leaves, its always there, I am glad that scene is gone, if it wasnt, I know I would be sneaking out of the house at 1am and heading down to Viking Way or Latimore rd. my wife would leave and take the kid, for real, I'm serious here. I know if it was still out there going on, I wouldn't be able to stop.

    I remember when we were doing the heads-up small tire thing at the track, there was one night in particular when the program ran long, we were in the Real Street final, it finally went off about 11:30. We had both parked on the grass at the side of the staging lanes, I was standing behind the car with another guy that was an old street racer. It was totally dark and cool. We got the call, and as the cars pulled out, the pebbles were picked up and plinking in the wheelwells. At that moment this violent chill ran up up my spine and into my scalp, I looked at the guy beside me, and he was pale. We both said the same thing at the same time, "feels like the real deal" we didnt have to say anything else, we both knew exactly what we were feeling. We were at the track, and it was legal, but in that moment, we were both back at Latimore Rd at 3am on a saturday night.

    "Disillusioning, you push the needle in
    From life you escape, reality's that way"
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2016
    Just Gary and wraymen like this.
  26. We all fight devils, some of them more evil than others. Some of us follow the line and others jump off, every man has one addiction or another.

    Hello my name is Beaner and I am a . . .

    JOYFLEA and wraymen like this.
  27. falcongeorge
    Joined: Aug 26, 2010
    Posts: 18,341

    from BC

    Oh man! MORE words of real TRUTH! Hell of a thread Tony, Why on EARTH did you wait so long! Or maybe the time is right...
    wraymen, 50Fraud and lothiandon1940 like this.
  28. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 49,261

    Member I was talking with some of the guys on the high school robotics team, a couple of them are into working you really want a girl that will be impressed by something that superficial?

    Meanwhile, the old cars. yeah, I still wear the same kind of clothes I wore 35 years ago. I still drive the same truck I drove 35 years ago. I still go with the same gal I went with 35 years ago. Lots of truth here, thanks for finally posting it.
    ffr1222k, trollst, 50Fraud and 5 others like this.
  29. Atwater Mike
    Joined: May 31, 2002
    Posts: 10,633

    Atwater Mike

    Aw hell, I thought I was the only one that went thru this...but with occasional support from a 'select few'...

    Like Squirrel, same truck for 44 years. Same girl for 40, style too. Same hair, just silver. :cool:
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2016
    50Fraud and lothiandon1940 like this.
  30. J. A. Miller
    Joined: Dec 30, 2010
    Posts: 1,593

    J. A. Miller
    from Central NY

    You'd just have to change the dates a little and there I am!
    lothiandon1940, 50Fraud and brad2v like this.

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