This month, we examine the current trends that have made the most impact on the hot rodding hobby, as well as the emerging ones that we think will gain steam in the coming years. You can read the entire story by Tech Editor Christopher Campbell starting on p. 32. The funny thing about the word trend is that it’s a buzzword, and you have to be careful that you don’t overuse or misuse it. A trend is not a vision of the future, it’s a snapshot of the present. You often hear the phrase future trend thrown out, and it’s nonsensical. It’s impossible to see the future, but it is possible to bend it in the right direction.
One of those guys bending the future in the right direction is Chris Sondles of Woody’s Hot Rodz. I run the risk of sounding like a broken record, since we’ve mentioned on several occasions the Real Deal Steel Tri-Five bodies that Chris sells, but with our spotlight on trends this month, it makes sense to do it again here. Chris and the folks at Real Deal Steel are visionaries who imagined that the hobby could be so much cooler if a certain product existed, and then they went out and made it happen. The same goes for all of the companies doing new steel bodies for classics —the larger mega-trend at issue here.
…once they make the product, they’ve got no control over how we use it. We get to hijack it for our own purposes… "
Thanks to Chris, Tri-Five Chevys are no longer reserved for the people who hoard original bodies, or who are really good at finessing hopeless sheetmetal (or in absence of that, writing really fat checks). And while there will still be lots of people who can’t afford the five-figure entry price for a Real Deal Steel Tri-Five body, it is a giant step in the right direction. (Trivia: When Popular Hot Rodding bought Project X in 1965, it cost $250. Now it’s insured for a cool $1 million.) Not satisfied with the state of Tri-Five-dom, Chris went out and changed it.
Now imagine what happens when you take that kind of creativity and entrepreneurship and multiply it by thousands of visionary companies. You’ve got all kinds of trends large and small bubbling up simultaneously—the physical manifestation of this being the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas each year. But making the jump from offering a cool product to creating an entire trend doesn’t happen on its own, it requires customers who buy into that vision. That’s you, that’s me, and that’s everybody who ever picked a swap meet or dialed Summit Racing or bid on eBay.
So the other half of the trend coin—and from my vantage point the most important half—is us. Without us, there is no trend, no matter how many Real Deal Steels there are. Funny thing is, once they make the product, they’ve got no control over how we use it. We get to hijack it for our own purposes, completing the trend. To continue with the Tri-Five example, some people are going to build stock replicas, but a more adventurous guy might build a gasser, a road race track car, a Two-Lane Blacktop clone, an AMG-killing street car, or even a lowrider. Once you become free of the notion that you’re destroying a real classic, the chains are gone.
Trends come to an end eventually, because they are their own enemy. When a trend peaks, it becomes a threadbare fad and the stuff of jokes. (Pro Street or custom vans, anyone?) When something gets done to death, it creates a restlessness to do something new, and a new trend is born. And when it is born, it will come from you guys, not a magazine. So what’s your next trend going to be? Fabulously fast four-doors? Hybrid hot rods? Imaginary gassers of the ’80s? Large and in-charge land yachts? Bring it on!