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Customs Why are customs dying?

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

  1. BamaMav
    Joined: Jun 19, 2011
    Posts: 6,633

    from Berry, AL

    I’m just a youngster at 62, but my feelings are the traditional customs were built with 1948 and earlier cars, and those built out of cars later than that tended to morph into show cars with modifications added just to be different to score points, most times without much thought given to the flow of the body. Look at the icon cars built by folks like Harry Westergard, early Barris Brothers, early Gene Winfield. Those cars were smooth front to back, often with subtle mods you didn’t notice the first ten times you looked at them. Most of them looked fast sitting still.

    The Hirohata Merc and the Moonglow Chevy were built in the same style, and it worked for them, where many others tried and failed. It was all in the eyes of the builder, and a lot of builders just didn’t have the vision.

    As far as using modern parts on older cars, it has been done, but most here poo poo them as street rods, which can look as good as anything else if done right. One thing that was popular for a while was using Dodge Neon headlights in fat fender cars. Not my cup of tea, but it was a custom touch. Another was the use of flush mounted tail lights, again called street roddy, but I always thought custom when I saw them if they were done right.

    My car? I don’t know what to call it, mild custom maybe? All chrome painted silver, removed some emblems, no skirts, single color paint. May swap bumpers end for end, for sure gonna lose the bumper guards if I can. Stock 302 with AOD transmission, very little chrome. Restomod?

    Really doesn’t matter to me. It’s older than I am, am building it to suit me, and don’t care who likes or doesn’t like it. It has always gotten looks and comments, some good, some bad. It’s different, just like me. When it ceases to be fun, it’ll go down the road.
    F-ONE and Frank Kennedy like this.
    Joined: Jun 6, 2007
    Posts: 5,312


    I built this 1946 hot rod truck. I want to know if it is a custom or just a cool old shop truck.


    Attached Files:

    F-ONE likes this.
  3. fastcar1953
    Joined: Oct 23, 2009
    Posts: 3,529


    They are still out there. 154848504_4004678189552336_6055635676986561919_n.jpg
    rod1, 40two, juan motime and 3 others like this.
  4. gimpyshotrods
    Joined: May 20, 2009
    Posts: 23,211


    Is this satire?
    Phillips, Baumi, Special Ed and 2 others like this.
  5. I thought we were talking about a young kid here.. like a year outta High School working everyday, living at home...I agree if you got a rent payment like that, plus the expenses that come along with it...your lucky to have a beater to get around in..1500-2000 K in rent ouch...
  6. chopolds
    Joined: Oct 22, 2001
    Posts: 6,198

    from howell, nj
    1. Kustom Painters

    A little story, first.
    A young guy, in his early 20's, spent the last year and a half, and all his spare earnings building a custom car. He attends, probably, the second largest custom car show on the East Coast, at the time. He's fortunate enough to be sitting at a picnic table, when one of the more well known custom guys sits down near him. While talking, the older guys says this "Kid, this is about as big as it gets. Enjoy this gathering of customs, it's going downhill from here".
    The 50's? 60's? No, it was 1984, the beginning of the custom car revival. Sledscene East in Virginia Beach. The kid was me, the 'old timer', Barry Mazza, who now owns the Aztec. I think he owned the Bettancourt Merc clone at the time.
    It's all a matter of perspective. I'm glad Barry was wrong, and I'm sure he is, too, as he later went on to greater fame restoring the Ogden Buick, and the Aztec.
    I'm in this stuff too deep to judge, but there is still interest in customs, but I can see the expense of building one, is too high for the average 18-15 year old. But then again, (in the 50's) who could afford to buy a brand new Merc, and then pay the Barris brothers to chop it, customize it and paint it?
    I think customs have always been more for the "elitist owners" or for the guys who can build them. At leas the more radical ones. Mild customs were affordable back then. Maybe not so much now, but still around the same as building a nice muscle car.
    There are some young guys that are carrying the torch, and have a passion for customs. See Tony Ray's thread on his Shoebox Ford. I'm doing the custom bodywork, and teaching him about the details of what a custom is, at the same time. He spends all day Saturday and Sunday at my garage, doing the dirty work, and eventually learning how to do it himself. All with a wife and daughter, at home. He's dedicated, energetic, enthusiastic, and willing to learn. THIS is what will carry customs on to the next decade, not my saggy old self!
    wicarnut, F-ONE, Tman and 5 others like this.
  7. Just like one of my students lowering their s10 or civic.
    Customs live on

    Don’t worry, they won’t post pics here
  8. I’m no Cali expert, but I’d imagine that’s not much to live on there. However, in Bama, that’s not bad money for a young person.
    I visited a former student at a shop, he isn’t old enough to legally buy alcohol but just bought his first house. He was finishing up work on his own custom, a pearl flop on a lowered Mustang gt. Nice to see the custom flame still burning with these youngsters
  9. wicarnut
    Joined: Oct 29, 2009
    Posts: 9,021


    I'm a Wisconsin guy and Kustoms are never in quantity like other places IMO. We have some and some real nice cars, never in big #'s from my years 50+ years of playing with cars. We've went through a huge uptick in Hot Rods, now fading IMO, restored Muscle cars is the largest surge in recent times here. Here I see a fair amount of young guys coming in with their families, some backyard kustoms, old school type an older 50-70's modified old cars minus fancy paint/upholstery/chrome, several shows, fun type, I enjoy these shows and the young people. It reminds of my youth, nobody had much money, did the best with what we had and had fun, tons of good memories. The Kustoms are not dying IMO, never was a big percentage of hobby and not growing much due to all the reasons stated, $$$, skills, time involved to build and to have one built turnkey, Huge $$$. I had a Kustom Ford ragtop in the 60's, later years a 51 Mercury mild Kustom recently sold, (check my albums) way back always nosed/decked/removed chrome/painted in driveway, consider myself a fair backyard painter, results just like I have paid good money for, fish eyes, dirt, sags and over spray. Again IMO, The car hobby is strong as ever, just changing as things always change with time, time stands still for no one, maybe here in the HAMB for us Seniors.
  10. Frank Kennedy
    Joined: May 22, 2021
    Posts: 25

    Frank Kennedy

    Interesting reading through everyone's thoughts on this. I can agree that seeing a full out custom cruising the street is pretty rare, even hot rods, its a rare sight for sure. Especially anything "traditional". You see more modified modern cars than anything which is cool in itself but not the topic we are discussing. I don't think hot rods or customs are dying, just evolving and a lot of it has to do with money and time more than anything else.

    I think a great example of this is the "traditional" aspect of things. I love traditionally built cars with all the vintage period correct parts. But we all know that the price of these parts is outrageous at times. And I think a lot of badass cars have been built but get no love because instead of a 283 the guy freshens up and slaps in a junkyard LS engine he bought for $300. The "modern way" has slowly taken the place of the traditional builds we all know and love. I'm not saying there is no place for traditionally built cars, im saying its ok to mix match and combine new and old. I think the future of these cars lies in the modern interpretations of them. Obviously customs have a certain look to them but whos to say you cant achieve the same look and style with modern parts? With stock parts from modern cars? And even in my case with my MG, why cant it be built in the style we love with a car not usually seen? I just think the real custom culture is evolving in ways that don't sit well with the old heads so the assumption is that its dead. Not dead just different.
    49Olds, Special Ed, K13 and 1 other person like this.
  11. Easy, when I bought my acreage and built my house I was making $10/hr at a deadend hot rod shop job. Lot cost me about 34K, built the house/shop with nothing in the bank. Worth 10x that now. Around here McDonalds and Little Caesers is starting folks out at 15/hr. Our plant starts GED folks out at 24/hr. Not a bad place to start. And yes, you can build wealth off these amounts.
    Roothawg likes this.
  12. The first thing that pop's into my mind when I hear the word Custom is the 49 to 50 Merc's, I grew up in the 60's and these cars caught my attend as a kid, I still love them.

    Today there are not that many untouched Merc's left waiting their turn to become customs, I have looked at several cars in the last 20 years and they need so much work just to get them to the rust free stage to have something to work with, and even junk brings a premium today.

    At this stage of the game if I ever have a chance to own my dream car Merc I will be better off buying a nice older build. HRP
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2021
    guthriesmith and TrailerTrashToo like this.
  13. Not everything in this country is as inflated as your Bay area prices and incomes.
    stanlow69 and Roothawg like this.
  14. stanlow69
    Joined: Feb 21, 2010
    Posts: 7,348

    Member Emeritus

    You don`t need a 500 dollar car payment. My house payment was less than that when I had one. Move out to the midwest. Make less and spend less. And a lot less stress.
    Roothawg and TrailerTrashToo like this.
  15. Dan Timberlake
    Joined: Apr 28, 2010
    Posts: 1,522

    Dan Timberlake

    Just the other day I saw one of these -

    And was instantly reminded of the styling on cars "styled" like this that was ridiculed for decades after we became enlightened -

  16. Squablow
    Joined: Apr 26, 2005
    Posts: 17,312


    Another thing to keep in mind is relative age, a '49 Merc is a 72 year old car. A 72 year old car in ChopOlds's story about Barry Mazza would be a 1912. In '84 it was only 35 years old, that's the equivalent of a 1986 model today.

    They're not cheap and plentiful, and what is left is in rough shape, or very pricey. Give the young guys a break. It's not as easy as it was 20-30 years ago (90's to early 2000's if we're doing the math). Considering how old the stuff we're working with is, I think customs are doing just fine.
  17. BrerHair
    Joined: Jan 30, 2007
    Posts: 4,993


    Interesting thread but so far I can't make out whether customs are dying or not. Seems some heavy hitters are on both sides of the question.
    As for the quotes above, I will merely point out that Ray Erickson customized a few English Fords among his many projects. No deep meaning implied, just FYI:
    ford_prefect_0001.jpg image0-4.jpg
    guthriesmith likes this.
  18. They are suffering if you look at the world through the scope of the HAMB.
    Now this is not a dig or trying to be negative towards the best site for building rides.
    I see lots of custom builds but the vast majority of the builds I see do not fit the narrow scope of the HAMB. (I’m OK with it so settle down)
    The pro shops are using aftermarket chassis, computer controlled engines and trans. I’m even seeing some Tesla parts being used.
    I’m also seeing some of the best metal work I’ve ever seen being performed on these cars.
    I guess that’s the only bad thing about excluding this type of build here.
    But be rest assured, there’s a lot of rides being “customized” as we waist our time here talking about em.
    wicarnut, Tman, 210superair and 4 others like this.
  19. This is very true. There are piles of customs being build and shown on Instagram but many of them have aspects that don't fit here. Part of the reality is forums are for the most part the social media of choice for older users. Younger builders are not on forums. They are on Instagram and Facebook.
  20. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 24,421


    Please don't take this the wrong way, as I seem to offend people regularly, but what you are describing are really not what I would consider a custom. I get that kids are using what they have, but that's not a traditional custom. I would consider it closer to a tuner. I know that there are a lot of neat things going on in the modern hot rod world. I read a lot and have friends that own businesses doing LS swaps every day. They have been trying to get me to convert for the last 15 years. With that said, the "narrow scope of the HAMB" is why we are all drawn to this place.
  21. @Roothawg, we have a shop in our vicinity (that we both know of) building some very high end cars that I would definitely consider customs. Traditional...not so much, but they are Ridler-type builds and about as custom as we could define using multiple styles and methods that are traditional. However, they also include big wheels and late model drivetrains typically. However, chopped, smoothed, frenched, shaved, louvered, etc. all falls into very traditional styles and what I would call custom. Just to muddy up the water more... :rolleyes:
  22. Here is a perfect example. Bagged, has an LS motor in it and I believe a Mustang II (not sure). Great looking car but why would someone put it on here or do a build thread when they can't show 90% of what they have done to it. Oh yeah this is Plowboys car.
  23. Yep. And any deviation from stock is a custom.
    A tuner is a custom just like a vintage hot rod.
    A chopped merc is a custom but not a tuner.
  24. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 24,421


    Yeah they put out some beautiful cars.
    jimmy six likes this.
  25. indyjps
    Joined: Feb 21, 2007
    Posts: 5,376


    My take, within the traditional custom world theres some " established" ways to do a custom car. If someone deviates from that, they take shit from the custom guys that they didnt adhere to the rules and do it like someone else did it years ago. Which is kinda fucked since the point of doing a custom car is to express your vision of the car.

    So, you got guy building a car, 1) modify it and take shit fron the restoration crowd 2) build a custom the way someone else did, win accolades from the traditional custom crowd, unless its considered a rip off of another car and not up to snuff, then take shit from custom guys 3) build a custom your way and take shit from the restoration crowd and the custom crowd.

    Im being obnoxious in the views to prove a point.

    Customs are a huge amount of work and so many times criticized to extremes. I understand why they are in decline.
  26. It boils down to one word: IMAGINATION.
  27. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 24,421


    I’m a novice. I have built a lot of hot rods and even a few muscle cars. I just like the look of sleek lines and minimalistic trim. I keep hanging around these guys hoping to glean knowledge. I have the hot rod thing down, customs, not so much. I plan on driving the crap out of ours.
  28. And I told Aaron on FB to post that thing up here! You can easily and tactfully post a car like that here without showing or talking about the underpinnings. As far as LS stuff? hell, they are actually closer to the Yblock than anything else. Just don't post a picture of one.
  29. Elcohaulic
    Joined: Dec 27, 2017
    Posts: 2,212


    I'm into old cars that run and drive real well. That usually isn't a custom.. Some are very cool looking though.. I always liked that Emeriald Green 57 Ranchero that's around here from time to time..
  30. But the point is why post something when you can't talk about large portions of what you have done to the car? "Great car what it got for a motor?" "Can't talk about that here." What did you do for the suspension? " "I can't talk about that here." I am not knocking the scope here (it is what it is) but to expect people to take the time to post here about cars that large portions of their build don't fit the criteria is not realistic. The vast majority of customs I see getting built on Intagram have major aspects that don't fly around here (and not being allowed to show or talk about those aspects is the same as being banned regardless of the actual rules).

    People come here for cars that have a very narrow criteria of acceptable changes but then want to see all the cars that don't fit that criteria but don't want to go anywhere else to see them but it doesn't work that way. There was a thread a while ago (might have been Cody Walls Ejob thread I can't remember for sure) that had multiple posts deleted because a non compliant motor was showing in the pictures. The post wasn't about the motor, he didn't mention the motor but it was deleted. He had to argue to get the pictures put back up. How many times are guys going to do that before they just stop posting?

    Customs are not dying they are just not all being built to the ultra narrow focus of this forum in any great numbers.
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2021
    210superair, KevKo, ClarkH and 6 others like this.

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