I was a punk kid living in Modesto, California, during the early '60s-the same time frame that the legendary hot rod movie American Graffiti took place. In fact, the movie was filmed in nearby San Rafael, and Petaluma, California. Seeing the movie when it was released in 1973, I could really relate to the plot and storyline. Hot rods and leadsleds ruled the boulevards and country roads of that central San Joaquin Valley town where I grew up.
Me and my group of mischievous buddies were your typical small-town male adolescents, annoying everyone over 18. Our only means of transportation were cool, Sting Ray two-wheelers with ape hangers, a lowrider banana seat, and Springer frontend. A couple of guys had a Schwinn Orange Krate and Apple Krate, with a slick, rear 20-inch wheel/tire and a front 16-inch wheel/tire, as well as Springer front suspension and a two-speed shifter mounted on the nut-buster bar. Those were our hot rods. One of my buddies, K.C., had an older brother, Gary. Gary was a BMOC (Big Man On Campus), since he was captain of the football and baseball teams, and was also known for his cool cars. We would pedal to wherever he was just to watch him turn wrenches and bust knuckles on his bad '56 Chevy. One day, he gave us a ride to a local custom shop, which belonged to leadsled-builder Gene Winfield. I was mesmerized by what I saw: Guys were cutting and grinding on American iron, transforming them into chopped, leaded, and slammed boulevard cruisers. That day changed my life; I went from punk kid in Modesto to punk kid living in Modesto with a huge love and passion for custom cars and trucks. I couldn't get my hands on enough magazines. Our sources were limited to Hot Rod and Rod & Custom.
They say things happen for a reason. My childhood hot rod dreams parlayed into being blessed with the greatest job on the planet, which allows me to sit in front of this computer, letting my mind link up with my fingers and tap dance on the keyboard, developing stories of tech adventure, features, and show coverage.
During my many travels covering shows across the country, I am always curious about the future of the early model custom truck hobby. Once the baby boomers and old farts are gone, and it's dust to dust, ashes to ashes, will the love and passion we had for hot rods and trucks be carried on or forgotten? Hopefully, the younger generations will continue the old iron legacy throughout their life's roddin' journey.
How do we capture the interest, love, and passion of the younger generations? Involvement. Let them hang out while you are turnin' wrenches on your ride. Answer questions; let them interact. Invest in a basic toolset. Kids love to mimic adults, and hands-on experiences will get them more involved. Take them to show 'n' shines and races or a rod run. The sights, sounds, and feel may ignite a spark. I have noticed the passing of the torch to the young guns, since they are becoming more prevalent at shows. Some of the trophy winners are under 25 years old, and their custom trucks are immaculate. Young blood is great for the hobby. One of the major attractions too is the low cost of an early model truck compared to a street rod musclecar or late-model truck: cha-ching $$. Now there are plenty of aftermarket companies that specialize in early model trucks, making the buildup easier.
So, next time you are bent over a fender, spinnin' wrenches, or cruisin' to a show, invite that young gun to ride shotgun.