What is the perfect hot rod? Is it a professionally built, custom-chassis show winner with a high-tech powerplant and an AMG-inspired interior? Is it a late-model performer with fuel injection, stability control, ABS, and 26 mpg? Is it a 9-second pump-gas street-strip terror with a cowl hood and wheeltubs? Is it a late-’60s intermediate with a big-block, 18-inchers, and overdrive? Is it a gasser-style tribute car with a Mooneyes tank on the grille, trumpets through the hood, and Coker piecrust whitewall slicks? Depending on your tastes, it could be any of those things.
Everyone has favorite car models, but in the end, the specific cars that pull your trigger are the ones with a certain ethos about them. You could like ’69 Camaros, for instance, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily like them all. (If you do, please have your head examined!) There could be something about the stance, the choice of powerplants, the integration of visual elements, or even something simple like adhering doggedly to a theme.
The best professional shops do a really good job of keeping their clients on point, and here I’m talking about keeping consistent to a build ethic. A guy like Foose, for instance, isn’t going to let a customer put a chrome air cleaner, mile-high front springs, fake braided hoses, and a peeing Calvin window decal on a car he just spent two years building. But when a shop does this for a client, it really is like babysitting, isn’t it? The most obvious difference between a rich rodder and a poor one is money, and as a corollary to that, it seems that bad taste cuts equally across class barriers. It’s for this reason that the very best builders like Foose, Alan Johnson, Troy Trepanier, and Bobby Alloway interview their prospective clients as much as the other way round. There just isn’t any room for shenanigans.
Don’t get me wrong—not everyone has bad taste. Fortunately, some guys do have a refined sense of style, and those guys aren’t always the ones with bulging checkbooks. This is the guy you want to be, irrespective of your finances. Take Jeff Peoples, for example. I ran into Jeff while admiring his ’72 Buick Gran Sport at the Goodguys Spring Lone Star Nats at the Texas Motor Speedway. Jeff’s a guy of modest means, but who also has that rare quality of intuition when it comes to style and substance. He doesn’t have to be rich, just smart. There’s no high-dollar master rendering for Jeff’s Skylark; it’s all in his head. Jeff set out to create his ultimate street car, and I think he succeeded in glorious style.
A Buick diehard, Jeff knew the GS had to have Buick power, but he also wanted to modernize it with a FAST fuel injection, an overdrive transmission, air conditioning, modern rubber, good brakes, and effective suspension mods. Jeff even built the car himself with help from friend Mike Modena. And while any of us could’ve conceived and built this, only Jeff actually did. What I’m getting around to is this: Jeff had a vision in mind from day one that was informed by the ethos of what a Buick GS would be if the factory had built it today. Although that idea is indeed a worthy one, it’s more important here to note that he picked one cool idea out of many, and stuck to it. He didn’t get sidetracked by door locks with Elvis dice on them, he didn’t slap on a steering wheel from a Saturday-night dirt track racer, and he didn’t bite on a used set of 15-inch chrome nuggets the first time he saw a set at the swap meet. The fact that Jeff’s GS runs 11s in the quarter and cuts a mean lap in the autocross is just icing on the cake. Keep an eye out—we’ll be featuring it in an upcoming issue.
I know times are tough, but it is possible to build your perfect hot rod. Just craft your concept with care, and build it one brick at a time. If anything, you’ll have a lot more time to carefully plan things out. The lesson here is to follow your vision and not succumb to loading your car down with cheesy junk—unless of course that’s your theme! Have you got high style with a bucks-down approach? Send me an email and a pic to firstname.lastname@example.org!