Tuesday, May 7, 2013


This is your full access ticket to a once-in-a-lifetime car show experience. And get this: You can come and go as you please, without a hand stamp!

Walk through the turnstiles and find yourself at the world's greatest car show. Every one of your favorite show rods are on display. You seem to be the only one there. Then you notice the herd of older gents shuffling down the aisle ahead of you. Key words in the muffled shards of their conversation trigger a high alert to your consciousness and suddenly you realize these are the very men who designed, built and owned these cars! Close the gap a bit and now you can hear them busting each other's chops with ribald tales of building and showing these abstract rolling sculptures. An animated discussion of the show rods' humble origins breaks out and you receive an intimate radical-custom history lesson from the people who lived it. Now you're an accepted member of the herd, surrounded by these icons of custom history, as the group gives each car a thorough good natured critique - before moving on to the next one. Then the next. And the next...

That's the pretense of America's Wildest Show Rods. We gathered the custom elite, rifled through their tattered photo albums, and turned them loose on each other to debate the history, present and future of no-limits customizing. Just exactly who are these guys?

George Barris, Joe Bailon, Darryl Starbird, Tom Daniel, Carl Casper, Ed Newton, Gene Winfield, Dan Woods, Chuck Miller, Dave Shuten, Steve Stanford, Mark Moriarity, Fritz Schenck, and Aaron Grote. And a few surprise guest stars drop by, as well. It's a pretty fun group to follow around a car show.

Off to one side, a section of the show is devoted to scale model cars - some of which you built as a kid, and some that you had no idea were ever produced. There's an area dedicated to film and television cars. And just when you think you've seen it all, you discover an opening into a room that you didn't even realize was in the building. Once inside, the discussion pivots from history to the secret society of underground builders who are presently pulling show rods into a surreal funhouse retro future - a foreign dimension, at once startling, wondrous, and reassuring.

Though I'm not at liberty to post actual images from the book here, I don't see any harm in sharing some photographic out takes. Consider them appetizers for the smorgasbord of way out customs packed like sardines into America's Wildest Show Rods. Available everywhere money is accepted, this June!

(Thank God that's over with! Promotion gives me the creeps. If I live to be a thousand years old, I'll never be comfortable with hawking my wares... Is there a starving advertising executive in the house?)

5-8-2013 UPDATE: I just received word that Dean Jeffries has passed away (his Manta Ray is pictured). We never met, but did have some rollicking phone conversations, despite a horrible connection that kept us both off balance. Dean had been caring for his ailing wife when he fell off a ladder and sustained a head injury that worsened. I don't know if that led to his death. I just know he was a very talented gentleman - a rare and welcome combination in any world. To say Jeffries will be missed is beyond cliche, but is the best I can do at this moment.

Stay tuned - I have some great behind-the-scenes photos that were too small to print, but should look fine on this blog... Next week!

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