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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book review: Art Of The Hot Rod, by Ken Gross and photography of Peter Harholdt

above is the softcover edition cover, below, the 2009 hardcover cover

by the number (thank you John for that phrase!)
20 Chapters
122 pieces of paper between the covers

Quality photos. Well, this is my usual location to tell you how many hi def, hi res color images you'll find... normally I have to count between old black and white and new hi res hi def. Not this time. Every single photo is a stunning image by Peter Harholdt and without getting every car into a controlled studio environment. Amazing photographer, stunning photos that earn your respect as delivering on your expectations that were formed when seeing the cover, and reading the title

But you aren't reading this review to see that I think it's a deal. You already know I ain't gonna waste your time with a book I don't like and recommend.

So what's inside that's got my admiration? Photos of hot rods that are awesome, both the photos and the hot rods.

You'll think that some of these are museum quality, of course they are. But the So Cal Speedshop Belly tanker wasn't built to be a museum piece. Neither was the So Cal Speedshop 3 window "Kong", the Norman Timbs Special, James Hetfield's 37 Ford 5 window coupe by Rick Dore, the Nuemeister 29 roadster, the Bell 303 Crankshaft Special, the Berardini Bros deuce roadster, the Dick Flint 29 roadster, Eddie Dye's 29 Roadster, the Doane Spencer deuce roadster, and Billy Gibbons' 66 Chevelle and 35 pickup are most definitely not museum cars. They are frequently near museums... http://justacarguy.blogspot.com/2011/02/nhra-museum-in-pomona-has-rat-rod-out.html  as the 35 truck was at the front of the Wally Parks NHRA Museum during the 2011 Grand National Roadster Show.

Not museum cars in this book. Not Chip Foose cars. Not Boyd Coddington's cars.

See the connection? Well maybe not yet.

The book is 20 interviews/write ups from Ken Gross (ought to be given a doctorate in hot rods and writing in my opinion, he's all that and a tank of nitro) when he went around the US and got talking with car makers and put into each chapter the interview, opinions, and pages of photos of the cars they've made. Not every one, but ones that you can see demonstrate the masters touch at building, restoring, painting and designing hot rods.

Ridler winners? Probably a couple in here. Out of the 20 builders, a couple have won the Ridler, and the Grand National Roadster award, and the AMBR award, and other awards. These builders are that exquisite in their finished cars, that perfect in their designs.

You know most of them by name, Troy Trepanier, Rolling Bones, Don Orosco, Pete Chapouris, Roy Brizio, Rick Dore, Posies, Bobby Alloway, Alan Johnson... and maybe you know the others, but they were either new to me, or I don't recognize the names but know the cars. You know.. like the car, never meet the builder? I have a lot of those. Thousands.

Back to the book, you can sum up the feeling I got when reading the interviews, with remembering that way some easy going down to earth type of people have when you get a moment to chat with them. No pretentious or unsettling conversation, just satisfying and enjoyable. Ever talk to some one like that? They are famous, genius or accomplished more than anyone else at their skills, but seem as cool as the guys at work? That's the way the interviews read.

I talk to Gene Winfield every time I see him, just to say hi, and damn it's good to see you again. He's that nice, and so are the guys interviewed here. Vern Tardel is maybe a bit like a "What are you doing here" flathead traditionalist in his interview when approached to be in a book about cars that are this beautiful, but I get the sense he's one of the hardworking old timers that is fed up with Boydsters, people wanting to buy his cache of treasured impossible to find hot rod parts, and fiberglass wanna be's. I got no problem with this approach to hot rodding at all.

The others are a bit more business casual, but all seem to have the deep values of made in the USA, no billet, and master craftsmanship that  you expect from the best in the business. For guys like Trepanier that can make million dollar rides, or 100 thou hot rods... to Don Orosco who went back to the bench to build Ardun Heads and Veda Orr knockoffs... or Chapouris who has Thom Taylor and Chris Frogget doing the artwork to set the wheels in motion.

These are the best, with the most incredibly rich traditional ways of not knocking the competition, regarding the 40's and 50's ways of building, and making cars ride like bimmers and benzs when it's apropos.

How they took such great photos without a studio is demonstrated at http://lowreysautorestoration.com/coverage/hotrodart.html


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