The automobile, since its inception in the early 20th century, has become a platform of individualism and self-expression. It is has transformed from a component of utilitarian design into a canvas of unlimited potential; confined only by the boundaries of the mind. In October of 1908, the Model T was released at a price point every man could afford. The automobile was no longer a luxury for the wealthy. Thus began America’s love affair with the driving. Henry’s only possible blunder could have been in his narrow sighted assumption that his product was akin to refrigerator; strictly utility. He never would have dreamed that he was actually giving birth to one of America’s most beloved hobbies and long-lasting trends in history. He only produced them in black, somehow lacking the foresight to see the desire for individuality.
110 years later, this megatrend has only continued to entrench itself into the fabric of mankind. The love of the automobile is global and extends from the 1% down to the most impoverished, and just about everyone in-between. This ubiquitous popularity means there is a very wide spectrum of trends. This opens the doorway for the good, the bad and the ugly. Some trends are timeless, some are fashionable at the time, and some things are just so ridiculous you wonder how some people have survived to an autonomous, decision making age to even be able to do such nonsense. These trends either ROCK IT or NEED TO STOP IT!
20 Themed Restorations: ROCKS IT!
The classic automobile scene is where you will find some of the most compelling and wonderful machines in existence. It’s an ambitious form of art that requires tremendous skill and tenacity. Not only must you be very mechanically inclined and technically proficient, you must have a distinct and oftentimes unquantifiable vision. Many, many people restore old cars, and however nice they may be, most times they will end up lost in a sea of nearly matching restorations; hardly distinguishable from one another.
When you do have prodigy restoration that’s revolutionary and brilliant, it tends to make waves, big ones. Take this WWII inspired aviation theme from TJ Larvin. Constructed with classic warbirds in mind, this ’51 Ford Deluxe shoebox is a show-stopping hit wherever it goes. I’ve always said that warbirds are the muscle cars of the sky. Take for example the 2,200hp, 18 cylinder Duplex-Cyclone radials used in the B-29 Superfortress, these elegant birds of prey sounded like a hundred NASCAR vehicles on the flight line. If you’d like to imagine what a fully loaded B-29 sounds like at full power on the takeoff roll, picture 8,800hp screaming through straight pipes at 2,800rpm. You don’t hear it, you feel it. So when paying tribute to some of the most revered icons and heroes of mankind’s greatest struggle, you had better bring something good to the table. Luckily, these builders are usually in a class of their own, and their work is immaculate.
19 Crew Cabs: ROCKS IT!
Although you will find some debate about the origin of the first crew cab crediting mid-seventies dodge with the innovation, other sources will direct you to an ever earlier rendition of the design feature so wonderful it should be standard on pickup trucks. In a Popular Mechanics article on revolutionary pickup trucks that changed the world the 1957 International Harvester Travelette is seen poised proudly on display with a fresh light blue and white paint job. International is a semi-major player in the heavy truck industry, but in the private sector, they were never a house brand.
They did produce a few lines of awesome little trucks and utility vehicles that are treasured by the few lucky enough to own them, but most people couldn’t pick one out of a line up to save their life.
Either way, this little truck, originally equipped with three instead of four doors, paved the way for the spacious and roomy cabs that we appreciate in modern trucks today. I’ve been a truck guy all my life; I’ve always owned one. I’ve owned single, extended and crew cabs models. Once you graduate from piling your crap up on the bench seat next to you, sometimes so high that it blocks your right side mirror, to a set of extra doors behind you there is just no turning back, ever. You truck guys already know.
18 Making Your Pickup Even Cooler: ROCKS IT!
With their humble beginnings as utilitarian vehicles, the pickup truck was an unsung hero of American agriculture and industrialization. These special purpose vehicles were designed to do one thing and one thing only: work. Exactly a century ago WWI ended and America was on the verge of an unprecedented economic boom; the roaring 20s were fast approaching. According to CJ Pony Parts, after forming the Ford Motor Company in 1903, Henry Ford had a vision to convert the military pickup truck into a vehicle for civilians. Produced in 1917, Henry Ford had delivered what was arguably the first American pickup: the Model TT. Chevrolet was hot on Henry’s tail with the release of the Model 490; their rendition of the pickup; and so began one of the first rivalries of the two auto giants.
The first year of production, the Model TT sold 209 units at a whopping $600/ea. By 1928, that number blew past an incredible 1.3 million units sold. It was irrefutable; the pickup was here to stay. Through a century of unsung servitude as farm laborers, undignified delivery trucks and workhorses, trucks were the backbone of America. Today however, trucks are some of the coolest vehicles to own as pleasure vehicles, status symbols, and canvases for self-expression. Take this $350,000 example of testosterone and excess; the 2018 Ford Raptor 6X6. 605hp, 622ft/lb of torque, and 0-60mph in 4.9 seconds according to CNet. Do trucks need to do all that? No. Look cool doing it? Sure do.
17 Less Is The New More: ROCKS IT!
Convolution is aesthetic pollution. This one-off rendition of John Sarkisyan’s idea of clean comes in the form of exquisite attention to detail; tastefully lined panels with soft, plush leather; simple yet supremely elegant billet and copper plated shifter; leather-wrapped plain 4 spoke steering wheel fit for a king; and an array of stopwatches mounted to the dash in recognition of the Porsche 356’s racing heritage; six of them to be exact. Each one sitting on a perfectly level plane allowing the eye to flow smoothly across the custom dash of the gray little racecar with a pleasant feeling of nostalgia mixed with modern delight. Every little detail is perfectly crafted into the adjacent detail or panel.
It’s very simple, but less is more and you almost find yourself transfixed in its simplicity. It’s hard to believe this car is actually a driver and not a showpiece. Possibly more incredible is the effort to complete such a build in such a short amount of time. Builder John says he had to work 12 hour days for seven months to get the cars done for the 2017 SEMA show. Yes, I said cars. There is a sister restore, a 912 that was built alongside this one. Together in matching gray paint jobs and equally as stunning, these beauties represent a refreshing shift in the clutter and chaos a lot of restorations fall victim to.
16 Take Your Chrome Home!: ROCKS IT!
Here’s a special treat for you! Don’t thank me; thank the overuse and abuse of chrome on restoration projects for decades. There is a reason and a season for everything. The chrome season passed its expiration date years ago and still today you see it everywhere. It’s not only rodders and high-end builders that make the chrome suicide mistake, but since its proliferation into the mainstream automotive arena, everybody from 1986 Honda Civic owners to 2017 skyjacked Ford F-450 driving general contractors fall for this folly.
Chrome was a carefully selected ingredient in automotive construction for its corrosion resistance and high luster characteristics. In the golden era of the tri-five Chevys chrome was king, and cars were beautiful.
Flash forward to today where you can buy double-sided tape chrome strips to plaster all over your ’92 ford explorer window pillars and door handles. It’s become an ugly disease of automotive styling that people just don’t seem to acknowledge. Thankfully, this 1950 Cadillac 60 Series Coupe breaks this mold along with many others and should be an example of how to be different. According to Street Machine, this monster features a 5.9L twin turbo Cummins pumping out 800hp and 2,000ft./lb. of torque at the wheels. If that’s not enough to drop your jaw, this "car" is equipped with a 1-ton suspension and hidden tow hitch to haul the owner’s fully customized wakeboarding boats to the water for some fun. However, I’d say the fun part is the drive.
15 Creature Comforts: ROCKS IT!
Moving away from aesthetics and the "cool" factor for a moment, let's analyze a component of our automobiles that some of us may take for granted, and others still may be lacking so dreadfully that we forget what the word even means; that word is comfort – creature comfort to be exact. Those are all the little things that make our ride nice and plush as we get from point to point. As aforementioned in some of the previous posts, the automobile comes from a utilitarian heritage. Not only that, by the time the automobile had enough time to get acclimated to consumer wants and needs, the great depression hit.
Technology in the early 20th century was primitive and embryotic compared to modern times to begin with; if cars weren’t comfy before the depression hit, they probably weren’t going to make much progress during it either.
Looking forward, creature comforts are a top priority in today’s auto manufacturing climate. Consumers know the technology is there and demand superlative comfort in their driving machines. Automakers gladly oblige with an appropriate price tag, but even the more economy based models are integrating high levels of comfort into their lines as standard. The plush interior pictured above is that of the legendary Land Rover. Beautiful, clean, sleek and elegant; you feel like royalty as you ease your body into the soft leather seats and rest your elbow on the armrest. Auto Express and Motor Trend both name this a top pick for creature comforts.
14 Aftermarket Parts: ROCKS IT!
Imagine a world with no aftermarket parts houses to order a custom pulley kit from. That was life in 1919. Enter prohibition.
From 1920 to 1933 it was illegal to manufacture, sell and transport alcoholic beverages in the United States. This wasn’t about to stop moonshiners from providing a life for their families however, and a thriving black market for the illicit goods began to solidify. A segment of this market was the transportation of merchandise to buyers from home distilleries. These midnight cowboys of the back roads made a living outrunning the law with dirty tricks like blackout switches and bigger, more powerful engines than the Government Issue sedans. As this trade evolved and cars got faster, runners would argue over what car was faster and who was a better driver. The runners would gather to compete in dirt fields against each other, soon being noticed by fairground promoters who saw a business opportunity. Tickets were soon being sold for all to watch the festivities until it soon became a local pastime after church on Sundays. Literally the birth of stock car racing; by 1948 several tracks existed around the country; NASCAR was founded later that year by several promoters and Bill France Sr. according to Rod Authority.
Needless to say, this led to the rapid expansion of a performance market for cars that would forever change the landscape of what being a hotrodder is all about. Today there’s an unlimited aftermarket selection at your fingertips. Thanks prohibition!
13 Sick Retro Body Styling: ROCKS IT!
It seems like only yesterday when the new 2005 Mustang came out. Being the muscle car fan that I am, I clearly remember the first commercial advertising the new Mustang and I was really excited about it because it signified a very positive movement in the automotive design trend; we were going back to the roots of it all! Over the decades, car manufacturers tend to try to be innovative and edgy. They try to push boundaries and make things cutting edge. Invariably, they always seem to stray away from what seemed to make their product a hit in the first place.
At a certain point you’d look around you and see junk everywhere. The 4th gen Camaros were cool looking, I suppose, but compare it to a current 5th gen and the older body style looks vastly inferior.
Don’t get me wrong 4th gen guys, your cars are still pretty, but you know when you first saw the 5th gen you were like: “Damn, that looks cool!” Thankfully the overwhelmingly positive receipt of this trend paved the way for other models to follow, and even be resurrected from the dead; the Dodge Challenger has been brought back to terrorize the roads with an SRT Demon model that, according to Auto Week, is quicker down the quarter mile than a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, McLaren P1, 918 Spyder, Ferrari 488 and Lamborghini Avendator SV. Yea baby! ‘Merica!
12 The “New" Golden Age Of Horsepower: ROCKS IT!
We’ve come a long way along a winding road of ebbs and flows in the engine performance department. Cars were built for utility; with low power output numbers and dismal efficiency levels, one could only hope to achieve so much. Events and circumstances have come and gone to shape the environment in which the automotive world lives; the Great Depression, Prohibition, stock car racing, WWII, post-war prosperity, the oil crisis, the advent of a plethora of EPA regulations tight enough to make diamonds in, and most recently, technology!
Through and through, each one of these events has made a positive improvement to the current car culture we enjoy today. During times of prosperity, we dump mountains of money into development, produce examples of excess and extravagance and play hard. During the meager times, we tighten up our belt buckles, button down the hatches and hunker down in survival mode to weather the storm. Each hardship brings a newfound durability while each economic boom propels the newly strengthened industry forward even further.
Today’s cars employ the latest technology in the engine control department; groundbreaking designs allow for more efficiently than ever before. More potential power is extracted from every drop of fuel with the carefully calibrated implementation of direct injection, cylinder deactivation, turbochargers/superchargers and variable valve timing. Combine these technologies with precise engine monitoring via sophisticated ECMs and we see unprecedented power and economy levels that were unheard of decades prior.
11 Modern Tech Integration: ROCKS IT!
So here we are, talking a lot about where we have been, and where we are today. I’ve spent the majority of this article thus far discussing all of the cool innovations and trends that have brought us to where we are today, but that’s only the half of it. Perhaps, a more exciting prospect is where we are going from here! Not backward, that’s for sure; I can’t even remember the last window crank I saw on a car that wasn’t a classic. The automotive industry is taking a nosedive into the tech industry, and the interweaving of the two is producing some pretty exciting options for us as consumers just over the horizon. I’m going to omit blind spot sensor and backup camera rhetoric because we’re already there.
Look for integrations of smart assistants from tech-giants like Apple, Google, and Amazon (Alexa). The voice recognition is getting very advanced and the seemingly cognitive ability of these services is almost scary; can you say Skynet? Manufacturers like Toyota, Ford, BMW, and Volkswagen are equipping Alexa’s cloud-based voice service to control infotainment systems and navigation and smart devices with a simple voice command. According to Men’s Journal, the Ford SYNC system can already display the ever popular Waze app to avoid traffic; Samsung Android OS systems are already integrated into Harman’s Digital Cockpit platform; and Bosch is testing systems that use data from other cars to measure spaces between parked cars to assist drivers in quickly finding parking spots.
10 Fake Vents, Fake Tips And Stick-On Chrome: STOP IT!
Seriously, what the heck is this? I almost have no words for how ridiculous this garbage is! Not that I understand you, but if you’re the guy with maaaaaaybe a double tip on each end of your single tips, ok. You get a pass here. But when you have to be the guy that vastly and pompously exceeds the norm in a half-hearted, poorly thought out, mechanically obtuse manner; you deserve a reprimand. I do not see the purpose for adoring your beater with excess weight, reduced ground clearance, and an aesthetically atrocious appearance while neglecting your basic maintenance (you know you don’t take care of your car)!
After all, if your car looks faster, that should counter the sludge in your oil galleries from the generic brand oil you feed your engine every 12,000 miles right?
Your spark plugs either have so much carbon buildup you couldn’t get a hair to pass through it, or eroded away and beaten by knock so bad the tip has dissolved; you could fill a 12oz soda can with the debris that is sitting in your air filter; and your oil filter is so fused to the adapter that you need to poke holes in it with a screwdriver and attack it with a pair of channel locks at the same time to get it off. Fake fender vents? Hood scoops, Plastic-chrome sticky letters with your rim size in the dub font? GO HOME!
9 Tandem Brake/Turn Signal Lamp Function: STOP IT!
By now it may be clear to you that I have a problem with non-functioning excess weight hanging off of automobiles unnecessarily. Similarly, the useless waste of utility and functional potential could be just as bad at the opposite end of the spectrum. The pet peeve in question here is the tandem operation of the tail lamp functions. When there is only one lamp, one bulb, one housing, ok. That’s all there is; understood.
But what’s up with the blatant, lazy and lackadaisical design trend where, at the rear of the vehicle, an engineer decides to put two separate light bulbs, but they act as a single light?! They don’t flash independently! You can’t have your hazards on while braking or the brakes will cancel out the hazards and when you’re using the turn signal and tap the brakes, only the non-signaled brake lamp will work; all the while there is literally enough lamps on the rear of the car to perform all of those functions simultaneously. I’m not even attacking this from an uptight safety standpoint. Fact is, a man who is smarter than I, getting paid exceptionally more, can sit and pick his nose 8 hours a day only to fail to take a bit of initiative and simply split a few wires in a harness and toss two extra connectors at it is beyond all my reasonable thought. I’m a mechanic; I keep the things running that they wash their hands once the project is done.
8 Huge Badges And Emblems: STOP IT!
What may possibly be worse than the owners who add additional and unnecessary emblems to their vehicles are the manufacturers that do it for them. I don’t see any logic other than lazy, complacent designers with no new ideas and a lot of blank space to fill. This does nothing but solicits the impression of a large toy where the idea would be to convey the brand on a model 100 times smaller; it would certainly be legible even at that size. When I was younger and had a Hot Wheels collection, (because who didn’t?). I was very observant and analytical of my toys; the more realism, the better. I’d take note of the variances between quality and detail, which was immediately apparent; the better quality examples were not only constructed of higher quality materials and better craftsmanship, they featured a level of detail that vastly surpassed the cheaper ones. I cannot help but relate my childhood impression of this quality indicator into my adult life as I pass judgment onto the cars and trucks that come across on a daily basis. Humongous emblems, to me, are synonymous to low quality; a cheap, over-compensating, sloppy design; and poor craftsmanship. Although the adult me understands this is not a valid train of thought, I cringe every time I see this type of slothful styling.
7 Stupid Looking Lights: STOP IT!
Something perhaps even stranger than the obscenely ugly styling at the front end of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee is that of the anticipatory attitude that Chrysler seemed to have in preparation for an overtly negative public reception of the design. A screenshot of a Facebook post via Chrysler Communication is found on jalpolink.com; it is reported to have been taken down by the Chrysler PR department just hours after being posted. The post seems to acknowledge that they knew full well people weren’t receiving the design well. There were undertones backpedaling from an irreversible mistake without having said so many words.
It reads: “All-New 2014 Jeep Cherokee – So what do you think? Remember – as you gather your initial impressions – it is a Jeep SUV. Exterior looks are just part of the total package. There’s interior and, for a Jeep SUV, there’s the off-road capability. Those fun details are still to come.”
The post then continues to say things like “…2014 Jeep Cherokee is a design to set a new standard for SUVs…” followed up by some positive PR having nothing to do with the design: “…best-in-class capability…”, “exemplary on-road driving dynamics…” and “fuel economy improvements of more than 45% versus…”. You get the idea. Most comments on that post were pretty negative; the word “ugly” being tossed around a whole lot, says the reporting web source. Some people like it. I’m a Jeep fan and am highly disappointed at the direction they seem to be sliding.
6 More Chrome Than Exterior Surface Area: STOP IT!
I can just picture Jeff Foxworthy saying something like: “If there’s more chrome on your car than an American Airlines 737; you’re probably a redneck.” Not surprisingly, I can also picture him getting out of this thing at a gas station buy a pack of Marlboro Reds and have a smoke as he’s filling up. I don’t quite know what this car is screaming; or if there’s even a car under there at all. It looks like six wheels smashed amidst a pile of recycled metal with a few headlights jammed into the front.
Despite my sentiment about this creation, it’s taken three first place positions in the Houston Car Art Parade. It was up for sale for $950,000. Did he get that? What do you think?
According to Hemmings, this 29’ solar farm is actually comprised of a wide array of, for lack of a better term, junk: two eighties era Mercedes W123 wagons, ’62 Imperial front end atop a tri-axle chassis, dually axle in the center and a Chevrolet truck front axle in the rear that actually follows the car around corners as it pivots on the center axle. A Mercedes turbo diesel powers this scrap yard which contains amenities such as a microwave, freezer, TV, two A/C units and a sauna. Three batteries and alternators keep the juice flowing to the conglomerate of an estimated 40 different cars; 36 mirrors, over 80 lamps, turbine housings, wings, chrome bumpers, hubcaps, and probably a lost puppy or two.
5 Wings Than Don’t Fly Are For Turkeys And Chickens: STOP IT!
This is just ridiculous. But rather than bash it with my commentary, I’d rather you learn something interesting. According to Forbes/Tech: “Do spoilers actually make cars go faster?” (Everybody should know the only possible effect would be to add drag with the desired effect of increasing downforce on the rear wheels, but that was the question). The answer from Ryan Carlyle, a hydraulics engineer: “…typical internet collective wisdom is shockingly stupid about this. While answering the question I had serious trouble finding illustrations…that weren’t wrong.” What Ryan goes on to explain is the difference between an automotive airfoil and a spoiler; the airfoil essentially adds drag while generating downforce to the rear wheels (as you should know by now); a spoiler is “an obstruction to localized airflow that improves the overall airflow around a vehicle.” Basically, it’s a barrier to a region of undesirable airflow to direct it elsewhere.
Essentially, spoilers are not that "wing" you see protruding 2 inches above the trunk of that Honda Civic with a lawnmower engine at all. They are airfoils. Consider the interesting fluid dynamics (air is technically a fluid) occurring when you see a Formula 1 tearing around a completely flat corner at 150mph. Now NASCAR vehicles have spoilers. What they actually do is create a stagnant pocket of air between the spoiler and rear window. Since air likes to take the path of least resistance, it has a tendency to flow over the pocket altogether thereby increasing the overall drag coefficient.
4 Patina Pirates: STOP IT!
First off, I must confess that, although it’s not my preferential finish on classics, I do really like the patina look. It embodies the true nature of an old car and somehow is more honest than a flawless frame off. The patina look summarizes the essence of classic automobile history; it shows age and elegance akin to the graying of the hair. It’s scaring is a badge of pride; the vehicle's history etched into its skin. Patina essentially is the greenish brown looking oxidation that develops with age over the surface of the metal surface. Essentially, it is neglect.
To each their own; some people like it, some people hate it. Proponents of the patina look will assert that car show attendees on a regular basis will walk past pristinely finished cars to take a look at their beater.
I can attest to this as having done it myself in Pomona. There was a really cool looking old bug that had the raddest patina you’ve ever seen. It was sealed and finished with the patina preserved underneath a clear coat. It was a really awesome looking bug, no doubt. My problem with the patina advocates is the overt assertion that this is somehow a bargaining chip to lobby a higher asking price. Bottom line folks, the car has patina due to neglect; end of story. You did nothing to justify asking a “patina premium”! You literally sat on your ass and watched it rot.
3 Lambo Doors On Everything: STOP IT!
Here’s another fun one; the Lamborghini door craze. It has subsided a lot since it became big a decade or so ago. Not necessarily my style per say, but when you saw the occasional tricked out Firebird pull up and slide the door out and upward, it did give him an extra cool point or so, provided the rest of his presentation was solid (10 years ago mind you). That was precisely one of the issues; installed tastefully on an already good looking ride, one that was appropriate for lambo doors, it was marginally acceptable. The problem lies therein where, all of a sudden, everybody had a lambo-door worthy ride; people ate those things up like hotcakes. You can find lambo doors on garbage piles so beat you wonder where the money came from. Secondly, what was he trying to save? Dad always told me you don’t polish the railing on a sinking ship.
The second issue lies in the operation of the lambo door system after some wear and tear when it began to fail to function fluidly. Inherently more complex than a regular hinged door, it became very amusing to see owners fumble with them to get them to open or close properly. You’d see them try two or three times to slam it; the latch failing to engage every time. Sometimes it got so bad you almost felt embarrassed just watching the spectacle. I’ll just stick with regular hinges, thanks.
2 Excessive Overcompensation: STOP IT!
Ok, let me breathe a moment before firing away at this one. If you haven’t noticed a trend yet, a lot of my pet peeves come from feeble overcompensation attempts that seem to lack any logical thought process. It’s almost like a canned response, lacking ingenuity and originality. Bigger, better, taller, faster…A desire to propel one's status ahead by simply outdoing the competition. Having the tallest truck in oblivion means what? You have the tallest truck. BFD. The whole purpose of a lift kit on a truck is to provide ground clearance for the overtaking of adverse obstacles or rough terrain. As you know, I am a truck guy; always have been. My first truck was an ’86 Ford F-150 with a 4.9L and a four-speed. I chopped the exhaust off before the cat, lifted it 6-inches, slapped some terrain tires on it and had a blast in that thing.
This bohemian, although impressive to gander at, is just about as useless as a bucket of sand at the beach. You can’t tow with it; can’t load things in the bed unless you pass it through a second story window; can’t go fast in it; can’t maneuver it without spotters or a plethora of onboard cameras; can’t detail it easily; hell I don’t even see how you get into it without a scissor lift. My question is simple: What CAN you do with this thing besides tangibly touch an irrecoverable $200,000 investment?
1 Ridiculous Suspension Geometry: STOP IT!
Here’s a world class winning way to destroy everything your car was designed to do. Dump it so ridiculously low that you can park it underneath a Silverado if you can’t find any parking spots. For the life of me, I have no idea what the big idea is, and why there is even a following for this trend. It makes no sense to me to diminish a car’s handling capability so severely that it can’t possibly be an acceptable daily driver, let alone a performance machine in any regard. It looks like a toy that had been stepped on by a bigger toy in a cartoon.
I mean, at least with bags you can bump it up and even out the suspension geometry when you cruise. I know this opinion will only work to separate me from any practicing members of this following, but really guys?
What’s wrong with a set of tires lasting longer than 500 miles? What’s wrong with letting that little Mazda tear around corners and weave in and out of lanes like it was supposed to? I don’t even want to imagine what rainy weather driving would be like. Maybe I wouldn’t feel so adverse to this style if I didn’t have to slow to a standstill to watch this garbage creep up a drive away at a 45° angle at space shuttle crawler speed.
Sources: motortrend.com, speedhunters.com, mensjournal.com, forbes.com, autoweek.com, rodauthority.com.