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Customs Why are customs dying?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Roothawg, Jun 8, 2021.

  1. Jalopy Joker
    Joined: Sep 3, 2006
    Posts: 27,754

    Jalopy Joker

    so much of the younger generations time is spent online - can find most anything that you ever could imagine, or not ever imagined, with a few clicks - plus, even more limited access to someone that is into custom cars to help them learn the ropes - Gene Winfield can not get everywhere - even with increasing wages, as stated, costs are just going up - how many TV car builder shows do you see any true custom work being done? - of course the long time line for car building is always tough to deal with - everything takes more time, and $$ than ever planned in the beginning - but, out there are those that have the interest and drive to get 'er done - when at a car show, etc, need to always take the time to share details about your ride to any youngster showing interest - I learned "cussed' some" and custom car building go together
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2021
    loudbang and Roothawg like this.
  2. abe lugo
    Joined: Nov 8, 2002
    Posts: 2,535

    abe lugo

    Kustoms are dying because just to get the stock clean base car it 12-18K plus. Moriarity's Bubble top is actually 25K plus just for a base car. Then it would have to be a clean paint job if you lucky and not some heartbeat graphic.

    It seems to be a lot of the newbie people get a project and they first want to dump to the ground and chop it, bag it. Then never get it to run or drive correctly, lose interest and sell away. Hence a lot of shitty chopped up project cars exist.
    Also there is a legion of parts flippers that could care less about Kustoms and more about flipping parts for cash.
    grey49ghost, loudbang, pvfjr and 3 others like this.
  3. topher5150
    Joined: Feb 10, 2017
    Posts: 2,542


    I think that's been my biggest issue even with a post-war car you either need to find a solid car with everything together, which just tripled your budget, or hope you get lucky, which I have, and find enough good sheet metal and cobble something together. There are about one or two junkyards left with anything from the 60s and earlier and they are circling the drain. Even finding 70s-80s drivetrain parts in the junkyard is next to impossible anymore.
  4. goldmountain
    Joined: Jun 12, 2016
    Posts: 3,183


    Those traditional custom parts are getting hard to find. If you want '55 Starchief side trim, where are you going to go? Find a restored Pontiac to shave the side trim off and then try to resell it as a mild custom to supply the Merc you are building? I Don't think so.
    loudbang and Roothawg like this.
  5. jimmy six
    Joined: Mar 21, 2006
    Posts: 10,307

    jimmy six

    In a different side of the custom world many feel the low-rider bagged cars are the customs of today. Paint is over the top on the best ones but the bodies and trim are all stock or better be. I’m not a 13” wheel guy who would own a 50-60’s car that can cruise Whittier Blvd on 3 wheels but you have to admire the skills to design and build the systems. The chrome bill on one these “customs” would break the bank of many of us. You-Tube is packed with videos of these cars and more are of HAMB friendly age than are not.
    Customs of the past led to many of them from their fathers and grandfathers we grew up with and were our friends.
    egads, loudbang, Roothawg and 2 others like this.
  6. buford36
    Joined: Feb 7, 2007
    Posts: 220

    from Maine

    "A REAL custom needs body mods, even if it is as simple as nosed and decked.
    I built this 20 years ago when I had a youth flashback and wanted a custom like I would have had when I was 16 if I could have afforded it. Started with a rust free South Dakota junkyard car; nosed , decked shaved door handles and grafted 54 Mercury 1/4's and tail lights ( liked them better than the 53's). Pontiac side trim and some shiny paint. 351 Windsor and a C4 automatic. Not a lot of money invested just my time. Tom... IMG_0888_LI.jpg IMG_0889_LI.jpg
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2021
    bchctybob, dan31, T Hudson and 23 others like this.
  7. F-ONE
    Joined: Mar 27, 2008
    Posts: 3,073

    from Alabama

    I appreciate a nice custom, I really do.
    Although I appreciate them, (Who does not love the Hirohata Mercury?) I've never been a Custom Fan.

    I think it's an important part of the hobby. I think it's an important part of the culture.

    I also think it can be "cliched". I don't have the photo example but there was a really unique Custom Shoebox Ford. It went to an overseas buyer and was "restored". What made that car so unique and such a great custom car was destroyed in that restoration. They threw all the clichés at it. It might as well had had James Dean, Elvis and Marylin airbrushed on the deck lid. :rolleyes:

    I also think to be a good customizer, you have to love the car. You have to understand the design of the car. You customize to accentuate the attributes of that design while down playing the faults of the design. You do not customize just for the sake of customizing. JC Whitney had a whole catalog for that mindset.
    What I'm getting at is this takes the eyes of an artist or at least someone who appreciates style. We live in a day where people wear sweat pants and T shirts to a Friday night dinner. Now the Great Customs come from a time when if there was a knock at the door, the first thing a gentleman did was put on some kind of coat.....just to answer the door.
  8. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 22,083


    There's some truth to that.
    loudbang likes this.
  9. Rand Man
    Joined: Aug 23, 2004
    Posts: 3,996

    Rand Man

    On subject of parts availability, my son works in the rapid prototyping field. Just about anything can be produced on a 3D printer. Then molds are made, plastics cast, and plastic can be painted or chromed. I would love start reproduction production.
    54delray, drdave, dmikulec and 2 others like this.
  10. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 22,083


    I think that is the next generation of hot rod parts.
    arkiehotrods, jimmy six and loudbang like this.
  11. Customs are not dying IMO. I would say as many or more are being built than ever. You just need to get off of HAMB once in a while to see it.
    bchctybob, blowby, rockable and 5 others like this.
  12. I agree with it takes a designers eye to properly do a custom, especially once you get into the big mods that really go off from the base car, There are alot of poorly chopped/sectioned cars or cars with with bumpers/trim/head and tail lights that dont flow with the car. Its easy to loose the flow of a car when doing all those changes. I mean that's kind of what happened in the mid 60s when the show cars really went wild and making changes for the sake of changes to keep the cars competitive in the show circuit.

    Thats kind of the issue I mentioned as to my buddies have a hard visualizing the flow of a custom or just even thinking how little pieces of trim or this cars head light ring would be good for a custom when at a swap meet. A good example is I was a truck stop with some of my car buddies on a trip and while just walking to the rest room they had semi accessories next to them and they had a box of chrome bullets that covered lug nuts on a truck on sale and I ended up buying them all as I knew they would be perfect for a grille and all my buddies thought I had lost my mind.
    54delray, Rand Man, F-ONE and 2 others like this.
  13. pwschuh
    Joined: Oct 27, 2008
    Posts: 2,501


    There are customs and there are traditional customs.

    We've already hashed out that building new traditional customs is a rich man's game because of supply and demand. Short supply of original parts and affordable, useful project cars. But there are enough people with enough money to keep the hobby alive for the time being.

    But building modern customs on the cheap should still be very possible, so why aren't people doing it? Their are lots of "custom" modern cars, but they are primarily bolt-on/bolt-off jobs. With maybe some custom paint, or just as likely, a vinyl wrap. Of course there will always be examples of young people getting into the field, but the VAST majority of them don't care enough to learn the skills. Many of them don't care about cars at all, not even enough to get a license. In our day, you would have to walk 100 miles to find a young person who didn't get a license the moment they turned 16. Now, in most cities, you only have to go 100 feet.

    We are in the "second golden age" of customs now. Hard to say how long it will last. There are so many cool customs out there now. What I wonder is, in 30 years will there be enough people who care about them to even own them and keep them up.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2021
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  14. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 22,083


    I attend the KKOA Spectacular just about every year. I also attend Micky's "Lead Ain't Dead" show as well. Where would you suggest I look? I lurk on several custom forums, but never post. Even so, it looks like the same 20 people posting on those sites. There may be folks building them, but it's not growing by leaps and bounds, by any stretch of the imagination.
  15. Squablow
    Joined: Apr 26, 2005
    Posts: 15,494


    I LOVE customs. The price of a custom car build only seems very high until you consider the price of anything new. Then it seems reasonable. But you can't pick out a chopped Merc with 0 down on an 84 month loan and drive it away that day.

    Shop space is an issue too, you need to have a place to build your custom car, or even just a place to keep one, and real estate isn't exactly cheap anymore.

    New blood will never compare a custom car to the cost of a new car because they see that custom car being used twice a year for a couple car shows (if you're lucky) and that's a big investment of time and money for something that sits in a garage (that they might not even have) most of the time. A bad example has been set, I know I've been guilty of it.

    If you want to attract new interest into custom cars you need to drive them every day, just like you would some late model Toyota or whatever. Let it get some paint chips and road wear. That's what I admired about BobK so much. His stuff got used so heavily, who didn't want to be like him and build cool shit? Way cooler than the guy who "kept his stuff nice" and only took it to BTTF once a year.
  16. denis4x4
    Joined: Apr 23, 2005
    Posts: 3,819

    from Colorado

    jimmy six made a good point when he mentioned low riders. I really appreciate the time and effort that goes into these cars. More over, the low rider scene is more family friendly than almost any other aspect of the car culture. Too, most low rider cars fall into the HAMB friendly age group
  17. 210superair
    Joined: Jun 23, 2020
    Posts: 1,137

    from Michigan

    I agree that customs and traditional customs are two separate things. The no bags rule keeps a large number of custom guys off the site. I live in bfe and I know at least 3 that aren't here due to bags. Talented guys too...

    I ain't bitching, just sayin....
  18. pvfjr
    Joined: Apr 28, 2020
    Posts: 159

    1. Hydro Tech

    I'm 37, and somewhat new to the scene, so perhaps I can offer some perspective as a part of the generation responsible for the perceived decline in customs.

    The cars I grew up with (80s and 90s) were crap from a styling standpoint. From my perspective, things older than this (60s and earlier mostly, 70s were a mixed bag) are amazing pieces of history. Guys older than me grew up with cars that had amazing styling. These cars were ubiquitous, and thereby cheap. Since these amazing cars were run-of-the-mill, the older guys often felt compelled to exact extreme mods upon them. Different was cool, and it helped the cars stand out and get attention. Since they were cheap, cutting them up didn't seem like a sacrilege.

    Now, when I search for a sweet old car, you have to pay through the nose for a rust bucket. A good deal is a needle in the haystack. When I got my '55 Roadmaster with no floors for a triple-digit price, it felt like finding a unicorn. And when you find a unicorn, you don't take it under the knife immediately (surely my daughter would agree).

    I don't feel compelled to chop up my '58 Star Chief either. Bone stock, it commands a lot of attention. People (people in my circle) ask where I found it, and are amazed that everything is stock, and has stayed stock throughout the many decades. And when they see the '48 Streamliner, they're even more awestruck at it's original condition. All I want to do is fix them up and drive them around. I don't think they need anything custom to stand out.

    Old timers will tell me, "back in my day, we bought this or that for $25 and drove it off a bridge after downing a 12 pack." Somehow there's this implication that the car isn't that special--informing us how they used to be disposable. I think those days are long gone. I think the cars I have are special, just the way they were made. I mean, compare their curves to the lines on the 81 Datsun 720, 86 Civic hatchback, '84 Fairmont, or '97 Aerostar that I grew up with. Those boxes were just awful by comparison, but those were normalized to me.

    When I was 17 I bought a square body stepside with my graduation money. $500 or so. I jacked it up and beat the snot out of it off road. We cut body panels, and stuffed it with suitable parts from myriad other makes/models to suit our needs. It got pretty custom. We had tons of fun with it for about 10 years. They were old beater trucks, so it didn't matter. 20 year olds now would have a moral objection to that, it seems. Prices of them have skyrocketed. I even see kids swooning over '93 Buicks. I'm not sure what's happening there. Times change, I guess.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2021
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  19. UNSHINED 2
    Joined: Oct 30, 2006
    Posts: 1,097


    I think its a lull in the action. I see new builds here and there that are in process and just need finishing. I have enough custom projects to last me two lifetimes. They just aren't done yet. My son has a custom project he want to start after he gets his pickup finished. He's 20. I have a friend with 2 very nice projects. Both need very little to be driving.

    They are out there, just not seen. Or they don't get the attention of the magazines and photographers, because its a small time show. So many different reasons.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2021
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  20. anthony myrick
    Joined: Sep 4, 2009
    Posts: 8,989

    anthony myrick

    The FB pages are full of em.
    Merc prices are getting stupid.
    Customs cost a lot to build and/or very time consuming.
    I e been trying to start a merc build for 20 years but everybody’s else ride and life gets in the way. The other junk I built was quick make it go and stop builds. Maybe I should apply that theory to the merc.
    Roothawg likes this.
  21. Squablow
    Joined: Apr 26, 2005
    Posts: 15,494


    This is another really good point. I'm 3 years older than pvfjr and I agree, any 50's or 60's car that runs and drives is a sight to see, they don't need to be customized to stand out and be interesting or fun. That doesn't mean that I personally don't love customs, because I do, but the younger crowd doesn't remember these cars being ordinary, ever. Even the plain-jane 4 door sedans.

    Building a custom car is a huge commitment of time, effort and money. Maybe it's OK that they're not that common. Maybe that uncommon-ness makes them an extra level of special. That's kind of the point of customs anyway, isn't it?
    57JoeFoMoPar, Blues4U, egads and 5 others like this.
  22. SDS
    Joined: Apr 28, 2011
    Posts: 337


    Simple don't take shop class in high school anymore - therefore, unless someone at home introduces them to fabrication, their interest in making things is nill compared to when I grew up (born 1971). A few generations of that and hot rodding is dead.
  23. TrailerTrashToo
    Joined: Jun 20, 2018
    Posts: 1,132


    Please tell me where to go...

    Reading the HAMB, I found my way to Lead Ain't Dead (Thanks @straykatkustoms ). Then off to a Gene Windfield class in Mojave, CA. Followed by 2 classes in Phoenix (@Pinstriper40).

    20200909 Shamrock.jpg I had this car built - shaved, fender skirts, 53 Buick headlight bezels, custom grill, nerf bars, etc. The mechanical work (4 cylinder banger - modified) and other upgrades are my labor. Smooth Engineering (Phoenix, AZ) did the customizing and rust repairs. Drove it to Lead Ain't Dead 2020 and received the Koolest Kruiser award.

    Back to the subject on hand - the HAMB is actively discouraging progress in the custom (Kustom?) world. Recently, a young guy found an old British sedan and was collecting some ideas on how to build an affordable family custom. Some of the regulars contributed some great ideas and photoshop pictures. Both threads disappeared.

    Somehow, if you post from Europe, your threads remain??? @Ryan , @Moriarity

    I'm an old guy (76). My build thread (see my signature below for the dead link) had some good tech on do-it-yourself in the garage. One night, @RichardHead posted: 'THIS IS NOT AN AMERICAN CAR" on my build thread. The build thread was gone in the morning.

    I'm looking for a custom friendly website, "Please tell me where to go...;)"

    54delray, dmikulec, Budget36 and 7 others like this.
  24. 210superair
    Joined: Jun 23, 2020
    Posts: 1,137

    from Michigan

    I saw that thread, and was also bummed it was gone, but site rules. Same with bags. Honestly it wouldn't bother me if they allowed bagged cars, but I also get why they don't. Tradional means just that....
    54delray and Mpmurphy1 like this.
  25. Tman
    Joined: Mar 2, 2001
    Posts: 35,182


    There has never been a no bags rule. Hell, even the boss had bags on more than one of his cars. As I mentioned in the now deleted thread there is also nothing against foreign cars. IT IS ALL IN HOW YOU PRESENT IT. Post like a grenade inspector and you will probably have issues.
    54delray and Rand Man like this.
  26. Hopefully there will be a generational backlash in the future and that generation will see what we see in these cars (or eras).
    70L34 and loudbang like this.
  27. guthriesmith
    Joined: Aug 17, 2006
    Posts: 5,860

    1. H.A.M.B. Chapel

    It seems we are getting somewhat hung up on using the exact same parts that were used on some of the original iconic kustoms as a hurdle, at least when it comes to money. I am no kustom expert, but suspect that the guys that used them originally somewhat just used what was available. Pretty sure there are still plenty of kool old parts to kustomize cars with that are available and period correct for a traditional build.

    On a side note, this thread is making me want to see how kool of a kustom can really be built on a budget and still be considered traditional as well. Pretty sure I have a good start already that happens to also be my daily driver. :rolleyes:
    54delray, Blues4U, egads and 7 others like this.
  28. Here Here! I'd go further, that a mild custom with a top chop isn't a radical custom. Where's the rolled pans, fabricated grills and taillights, grafted-on quarterpanels? Particularly the fabricated grills and taillights. If you look at a lot of the iconic customs, they don't have store-bought parts, these bits were made. All the materials are still available, if anything there's even more choices.

    This a major issue, but I'll be an apostate and say why not? Customs have always been about stretching the envelope. Now this isn't to say you can use later parts willy-nilly, a true 'traditionally styled' custom has a certain 'look' and needs certain design elements to be true to form. But the origin of the parts shouldn't make any difference if the final 'look' is right. If disregarding the prevalent 'parts snobbery' will get more customs on the road, I'm all for it. As @Taboo56Chevy and 28phonebooth pointed out, chasing a ever-diminishing pool of 'trad' parts can be the road to financial ruin.

    The custom world seems to me to be mostly stagnant right now. There's the lovingly restored survivors, clones, what I call 'cartoon cars' (exaggerated styling or anything with a mid-50s Caddy grill/bumper grafted on) that are more outrageous than styled and should also include most 'show rods', the Merc/Shoebox/early 50s crowd who have seemingly settled on a formulaic approach (grill from column A, taillights from column B, etc) who are chasing parts. The big $$ pro builders seem to have settled into two categories; 'coach-built' builds that look more European than custom, or cars that look like factory prototypes. There's been a few guys carrying the flame here; the Kaiser Dragon build from some years ago, @50Fraud and his '40 Ford, and @FlynBrian with his unfinished T-bird (I'm waiting patiently for this to be done....LOL) are three exceptional examples.

    Of course there are exceptions, but they seem to be rare. And as Moriarity says, customs have never had the numbers of the other flavors. And for every truly great car, there's probably at least five ugly ones. Customs have never been easy...
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2021
  29. Yeah I know Taboo was built was originally buy Ron going to the local Chrysler dealer and just buying the parts over the counter. I actually talked to the parts guy that sold all the head light pieces and fenders to cut up to Ron when we debuted the car at its first show post restoration.

    I think you could do a nice clean mild custom on a budget, question is what would be a reasonable budget number to aim at?
  30. Special Ed
    Joined: Nov 1, 2007
    Posts: 7,034

    Special Ed

    I agree completely. Unless you're building an exact clone of someone else's previously-built custom, there's absolutely no reason to follow a very specific inventory list of parts. Customs were ALL "one-offs" back in the day, and showed your own unique taste and individuality. If you're building a traditional custom, and you're using parts that were available in a specific given era, you're good to go. Pretty simple stuff, really.
    Roothawg, blowby, Tman and 2 others like this.

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