While the big-name builders and shops on the scene often get credit for being the most influential sources of innovation, some of the most creative thinking in the hot rodding community is born out of the garages of everyday enthusiasts like you.

This year for our annual Reader’s Projects feature, we took a slightly different slant inspired by our annual Trendsetting Builders special, and cherry picked a few readers pushing boundaries and expectations—and possibly defining their own trends.

So are we looking at trendsetting readers? Only time will tell, but there is one conclusion that’s obvious: PHR’s readership harbors some of the most creative minds in the hobby.

1962 Dodge Dart
Jerry Stewart • Wayne, MI

Despite the surreal amount of work involved in bringing to life something like this dream Dart that appears to have escaped from a gearhead time vortex where Vipers and second-gen Darts exist simultaneously, Jerry wants PHR readers to know first and foremost that this is a budget-oriented, family man project coming together in his garage. Actually, this will be the second time Jerry has built it, though the first time it was a custom scale model. A friend convinced him that the concept was too cool for plastic, so Jerry began collecting parts and determining where the cuts would have to happen to morph a real ’62 Dart as closely to the model as possible. The D.H. 500 Special, named for Jerry’s son, Daltyn, and daughter, Hailey, will serve as a rolling billboard for Jerry’s All American Auto Upholstery business as well as sunny day stress relief. We love pretty much everything about this thing—the surprisingly appealing blend of Dart and Viper style, the dramatically shortened wheelbase, the V-10 underhood. Do it right, and this is the kind of build that can really make a mark. We’ve only seen one other project successfully pull off a morph of this magnitude: Murray Pfaff and his gorgeous Imperial Roadster. Could we be witnessing the birth of a trend—reshaping curmudgeonly cars into a sexier style? Let’s hope! We like where this is going so far.

1958 Chevy Corvette
Greg & Nancy Taghon • South Bend, IN

You know how some projects just get back-burnered indefinitely as the plans and ambitions of the owner change or progress? That’s where Greg Taghon and his ’58 Corvette are. Originally the plan was for a showroom stock restoration to be completed on the car in time for Greg and wife, Nancy, to drive away in it on their wedding day. Well, they’re celebrating their 26th anniversary this year. The reason for the derailment? Somewhere along the way, Greg decided a Pro Touring build with an emphasis on performance and driving enjoyment was what he really wanted. PHR may or may not have been partially to blame. It’s all OK with his ever-understanding wife; however, she thinks Greg made the right decision because he’s having so much fun with the build now.

1965 Ford Falcon
Pierre Wessels • Abbotsford, BC, Canada

Pierre Wessels started his project with a question: “Is it even possible for an average guy to build an innovative, cool, non-rat rod, mid-’60s two-door anything for under $10,000?” Then he decided to do it for almost half that. By plumbing the depth of Craigslist and eBay, Pierre turned up everything he needed to build a big-block ’65 Falcon with an airbagged Mustang II–style frontend, mini-tubs, and an eight-point ’cage. He’s even powering the 390 FE with a killer retro Tri-power EFI setup using Honda CBR1000RR throttle bodies and an old 3x2 manifold. Budget can be the mother of invention. So far, Pierre is on target to complete the car (including paint) for around $6,000. He says the only drawback is that sometimes there are delays in finding the right deals, but he’s he says the hunt for parts and doing the engineering is very rewarding.