Tuesday, October 8, 2013


The current (November 2013) issue of Hot Rod Deluxe is an instant collectible. Dave Wallace Jr.'s bittersweet farewell editorial ("Flag Man") details the what, when, where and why. Dave turns this issue over to the readers in a gracious salute to the people who make magazines matter. There's an extensive two-part interview with Dave on this blog (4-30-2011 and 5-17-2011) that's worth seeking out, thanks to his words, not mine.

Selling programs at the pit gate is one way into hot rod photojournalism. It worked for this guy in 1962. (Photo courtesy of DW Jr.)

The same kid (Dave Wallace Jr.), shot at Lake Famoso in 2006 by Bill Pratt. Still following in his dad's footsteps.

The new kid at HRD. Yep, it's Drew Hardin - says so right on his chest. The name tag is for posthumous ID purposes - Drew is about to be clobbered by an out-of-control Goodyear blimp. What a way to go!

Drew has been at it for over 30 years now. The former Editor of Hot Rod, Sport Truck, Hop Up, 4-Wheel & Off-Road is well qualified to drive the HRD machine. He's stoked. You should be, too.

Drew at the office. He's obviously willing to do whatever it takes. (Drew pix courtesy of SourceInterlink)

The days of ink-fueled print periodicals may be numbered (squids rejoice!), but they're definitely going out in style. No matter your preferred niche-within-a-niche, from Hungarian translations of Farmers Almanac reprints to the Extreme Knitting swimsuit issue, there's a magazine custom designed just for you on the shelf these days. And while content quality still varies, layouts and photos have never had it so good, across the board.

Exhaustive research by the SGE staff finds Hot Rod Deluxe magazine to be the tastiest dish on the periodical table. No surprise there. Though easily pacing its older sister in sales, a couple of lingering mysteries threaten to restrain young HRD from its potential greatness:

A. People often make reference to feature stories that "I saw in Hot Rod", but in fact originated at HRD. The confusion works both ways, as HRD has sometimes been credited for pieces from HRM. There is a difference: Hot Rod deals mostly in current events, while Hot Rod Deluxe focuses primarily on rodding's history. Yet, confusion lingers. Marketing two such similar titles and logos may have seemed pragmatic at launch time, but could be backfiring now.

2. "I can't find HRD at the store." I get this a lot. The publisher, SourceInterlink, boasts a world-class distribution network. HRD is considered a "Specialty Title" - that's understood. But why such titles don't receive the same distribution as the company's other products strikes me as bizarre. I'm not privy to how these decisions are made. Luckily, subscriptions are available at www.circsource.com. Problem solved - except for a stubborn few who still insist on driving their heaps to the store to make their purchase. That's how I did it for most of my life. I enjoyed the ritual. But subscriptions have spoiled me - I never miss an issue now.

There is no logical explanation for how I came to be an HRD regular. It was purely cosmic. All I know is, I'm way beyond lucky to have worked with my hero Dave Wallace Jr. for the last three years. Dave has provided me crash course instruction on Photography for Dumbasses, Gonzo Event Coverage, Interview Finesse, and Dodging Mountain-sized Egos. He's also gracefully introduced me to every legend I've ever heard of in hot rodding - they all know and love Dave, for good reason: He knows his stuff and is a total funster, 24/7. His exhaustive passion for documenting hot rodding's history has nearly killed him more than once (Dave was born without an OFF switch), so we're all lucky that he has now traded his frayed Editor's cap for a freelancer's crash helmet and a quieter, safer life of dodging errant race cars at trackside. That's right - another former boss is now my competition. Dave's replacement, Drew Hardin, is already proving steady and true. Amazingly, Drew is doing this in Freiburgeresque fashion, editing HRD and Muscle Car Review, simultaneously. Place your bets now on the average life expectancy of the North American SourceInterlink editor.

I find the current HRM status quo to be pretty damn entertaining. Here's three guys who haven't slept in years, yet never stop talking to us. The Freiburger and Finnegan show has found a hot groove and settled into prime time. But all is temporary... (Photo courtesy of Hotrod.com)

The future of print media? It could go that way...

 Just a few short years later, our man seems ready for anything. Kleet Norris is a giant among HRD contributors.

Kleet may be too giant to fit all the way into an Anglia, but he's in there anyway, banging away. He's also currently hammering out his first book for CarTech Inc. (Photos courtesy of Kleet Norris)


The speedshift from magazine writing to book authoring a few years ago was quite a growth opportunity/reality slap. Working for an established publishing house like CarTech made things much easier than they would have otherwise been - just write it up and hand it over to their production staff. Self publishing the Gosson Bros. Racing Library books has been a humbling experience, so far. The good news is, every day I learn something valuable. The other news is, I wish I had a production staff and a budget. Most humbling lesson to date: Don't promote the product until it's ready to ship. Duh.
The brand America trusts for cheap hot rod non-fiction. Just look for the filthy hand print. The grease stains indicate content is fresh off the workbench. 

Until the GBRL books actually print, here's some that you can enjoy right now. They're finished and everything:

Thanks to the experienced professionals at Cartech Inc., these titles are available worldwide.

Thanks to the loose nut behind the wheel at the Gosson Bros. Racing Library, these products have been growing mold in literary purgatory:

The unborn. A haunting that only money can tame. Some wonderful people have tried to assist, but it wasn't meant to be - yet. 


My advice to aspiring automotive photojournalists? I got nuthin'. Just my experience. And I arrived very late to the party, with no education or experience. I tend to romanticize the "golden era" (50s to 70s), when automotive writers were gods cooking up typewritten feasts, served to us ravenous readers on a paper platter. I can only pass along the following, suggested to me by my heroes: Go where the action is and stick your hand out. If you're old (like me), take computer and digital camera classes. I wish I would have done those things. As it is, I'm isolated from the southern California vortex of hot rodding, uneducated, and utterly overwhelmed by electrons - I can handle a keyboard, but the rest of the computer terrifies me. I point-and-shoot a camera (deemed obsolete overnight) that I don't understand, and even my telephone seems to have come from another galaxy.

I've probably come this far this fast, due to a life lived at wrecking yards, dingy shops, wildcat race tracks, and a million miles of perilous back streets. Credibility still counts for something. I've been existing on cut-rate bachelor chow my whole life and spent a good deal of it living in my car. It's a life I wouldn't trade for anything. The only one I've ever known. My pay is scant and sporadic at best, but I'm eternally grateful to be paid anything to do what I love (Jim McCraw reminds us in Dave Wallace Jr.'s last editorial that writers make great "psychic pay"). Publishers seem to like my work and praise me for making deadlines - a juicy carrot on my stick, as daddy didn't love me (A penchant for turning negatives into positives comes in handy in this business). And finally, the best advice ever came from a (thankfully rare) negative review of the Show Rods book, written by "Midwest Consumer": "Sadly, this books also has a big overtone of the author's presence, which should be felt only in the detail, accuracy, and extent of topic coverage. Writing about famous people and topics doesn't raise you to their level as an author, nor is your personal opinion on the same level, journalism 101. Instead of detail there is a lot of wasted space dedicated to the author's flights of fancy for labeling, chapter titles and creating hipster structures to fill the book vs meaningful content." 

Mr. or Ms. Consumer is dead nuts on the money. Guilty as charged, on all counts. I know these basic tenets of journalism, but forgot them in the midst of the thrash. I'll be paying for this jangle for the rest of my life. Overbearing presence, opinions, and flights of fancy are fine for talk shows and blogs, but not the printed page someone paid admission to read.

So there's the past and present of it. Is there a future? You're looking at it, brothers and sisters. Binary codes will likely deliver the news until we all refine our psychic abilities to their potential. As for my personal literary future, I'm trying to envision it (as mentioned previously on this blog). Intuition suggests a more emotion-based approach to my writing, which may or may not remain strictly automotive. Time will tell and more will be revealed. After the zombie apocalypse, I'll be writing and drawing on cave walls until I vaporize. At that point, the chances for fame and fortune increase dramatically. My hope is that any posthumous bucks earned in my name find their way into the pockets of the people who have loved and supported me. Send the first check to Saint Shellski. Perhaps she, Motormouth Ray and CC will keep the blog on life support? Worst case scenario: The Von Dutch syndrome repeats itself. Just remember, Kenneth Howard hates you.

Foremost, I thank the readers of this blog for your gracious patience as I conduct dubious experiments with bastardizations of language and meter, in search of my voice. You are the grandest guinea pigs any laboratory could ever hope to host. This free range improvisation is a two-way street: We never know what to expect or where it's going to take us (if anywhere), but it's always an adventure that we experience together. I suspect I benefit from these proceedings more than you.


 Street gangs just ain't what they used to be. Has the whole damn country gone soft?

SGE regulars are familiar with my photoshoot location fetish. An entire post was dedicated to this subject last spring. I recently visited some of my favorite spots here in the neighborhood to shoot backgrounds for an upcoming project. Besides providing a clean backdrop, these locations must be legit - no fakery is tolerated.

These back alley structures passed my litmus test. I found them fitting for the subject matter I had in mind.

An out take from the ensuing shoot. The "keepers" came out pretty cool. The day after this session, the graffiti was painted over!


Thanks to the firestorm of publicity sparked by a recent brief mention of her on SGE, Motor Dolls author and all-around cyborg queen Lori Bentley Law is now scheduled as a featured guest on Motor Mouth Radio's October 20th show. Yes, the SGE bump is for real, and has now launched more careers than Ed Sullivan and Ted Mack, combined. Go to www.motormouthradio.com and/or stay tuned to SGE for confirmation of that dream date with Lori.

Motor Dolls came out last week and is already climbing Best Seller lists. Better get yours now! 

When not penning hot rod novels, Lori unwinds by thrashing on her F-1 truck, "Bondorella". She's getting an assist here from some fellow Gasoline Girls club members.

 Lori spends a lot of time on the road. So watch out for her when you crest that hill. (Photos courtesy of Lori Bentley Law)




When you've been at it as long as the Pacers team in New York, you don't need a forty foot trailer full of tools and machinery to maintain your race car. These days, the Pacers can fit most everything they need into a five gallon bucket. The AA/FA Model T held NHRA records in '63, '64, and '66. And they didn't carry many more tools than this while busting records. Experience makes the difference. (Photo courtesy of Motormouth Ray)