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Performance in MOTION...
10 OCT 09- "There was no long-range marketing plan", says Joel Rosen in the new Motorbooks title Motion Performance: Tales of a Muscle Car Builder by Martyn L. Schorr, and like so many legends, things just seemed to take on a life of their own for Motion Performance.

Mr. Schorr brings the Motion Mystique to life with his in-depth, highly entertaining and enjoyable book. This is a book that reads about as fast as the cars Joel "Mr. Motion" Rosen put together. The author begins with a little history lesson about auto racing, going back to 1904, when the cars from Buick Motor Division were cleaning up at the tracks. We are treated to some racing history about the Duesenbergs, Stutz Bearcats and the Hudson Hornets (the Hudsons won 27 of 34 NASCAR Grand Nationals!), and the inspiration that a young Joel Rosen would draw from these cars. Interestingly enough, the exponential growth in speed and power over the years from these early supercars would be mirrored in his own brand of high-powered muscle.

motion corvette

In the mid-1950's, Joel became tired of the lack of hands-on experience offered in his college engineering courses, decided to join the Air Force and hone his talents working on airplanes. Shortly after his discharge, Joel opened his own auto shop and in his spare time competed in gymkhana and hill-climb racing with his wife. They raced a Corvette and did very well, but it was a street Cobra that brought major attention to his tuning talents prior to his alignment with Chevrolets. It was Joel's magic touch in dyno tuning that created a name for his shop, and soon, there was little time for wrenching on the neighborhood grocery getters... It was performance-only from then on.

427 Camaro

Having a keen entrepreneurial spirit, he struck a deal with Baldwin Chevrolet to "built to order" street cars with a money-back guarantee. His success with the big block Camaros found buyers waiting in line across the U.S., Canada, Germany, Iran and Switzerland to mention a few.... and the list of Motion supercars was as impressive. Motion-prepared engines were finding their way into Novas, Chevelles, Vegas, full size Biscaynes and Corvettes. The success of all the Chevrolets brought interest from Pontiac and Oldsmobile as well, and even an Iso Grifo sporting a 427!

Joel Rosen was not a one-trick pony. His love of horsepower led to building super fast boats at Motion Marine, as well as performance street VW's and dune buggies at Motion Mini Car. Overcoming the obstacles placed before him by the oil embargo and the Clean Air Act of 1970, Joel ventured into building Mako Shark Vettes, IROC Grand Ams and Monte Carlos well into the 1980's. In 2005, he debuted an all new Camaro at the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas.

The book documents the vision and keen determination of an automotive genius. We are treated to a bevy of photos which add to the enjoyment of the story. You get the feeling that you are one of Baldwin Motionís satisfied customers... As my father put it, "I know my left foot kept looking for the clutch pedal. For anyone who has ever raced or even dreamed of racing this is one book you should own."

phase 3 camaro

Truly a great addition to any high performance lover's bookshelf, the book is one of those rare works that brings the historical, emotional and factual ingredients together in a slick package. It has some great "repeat" value, meaning you'll find yourself cracking it open again and again... if not just to enjoy the great collection of photos and car features. Truly a wonderful documentation of something uniquely American.


motion performance book

Motion Performance
Tales of a Muscle Car Builder
Martyn L. Schorr
Illustrated. 176 pp.

Grab your copy here, and save almost 35%

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A speedy History of Ingenuity...
04 OCT 09- "The dry lakes racers opened a door of opportunity," writes Barney Navarro in his forward to Paul D. Smith's book Merchants of Speed, and this hits the nail on the head to be certain.

merchants of speed book

For anyone interested in tracing hot rodding's roots, all roads lead back to the dry lakes and the men who were interested in one thing: speed. Early on, the Mohave Desert provided a testing ground for anyone seeking to try their hand at that all-American pastime of tinkering. As fast as Detroit could build them, you just knew there would be some guy out there looking to make his car faster or more unique. Naturally, any display of creativity breeds a sense of competition, and with competition, we often find ingenuity and innovation. Such was the case with hot rods, and following World War II and the return home of servicemen who had been exposed to new technology and training, the industry began a period of exponential growth.

hot rod history

Mr. Smith takes a look at twenty six of the original speed parts manufacturers over twenty-two chapters, giving some personal history on each, and digging up the inspiration behind their contributions to the industry. The book was written using the hundreds of hours of interviews conducted, and the voices of the men behind the history really shine through. From humorous anecdotes to sobering looks at tragic wrecks, we are presented with a living history of this truly American industry. We are treated to an ongoing series of innovations, witnessing the evolution of technology, and ever-changing business and manufacturing standards. The pursuit of quality and craftsmanship reaches ever-higher benchmarks as the stories roll on, and the "inside story" of so many parts we now take for granted seem to fill the little gaps that so often appear when one wonders "how'd they come up with that?".

offenhauser foundry

Being born at the close of the musclecar era, so many of the names in this book were, up to reading this volume, just that... names. I was treated to what felt like a first-hand drive through the living history of the sport and industry I grew up loving, and make my living in. The book is a substantial 240 pages, loaded with over 250 images of the men, the parts, and numerous action shots. Truly a must-have for anyone seeking the "behind the scenes" history, and truly priceless for the artists out there who are looking for rare reference photos of parts and accessories.

More than just a history of the speed parts industry, we are invited to share the memories of the "founding fathers": Lou Senter (Ansen Automotive), Tommy Thickstun, Frank Baron, Bob Tattersfield, Nick Brajevich (Braje Equipment), Harvey Crane Je. (Crane Cams), Vic Edelbrok Sr. (Edelbrock), Jack Engle (Engle Racing Cams), Earle Evans (Evans Speed Equipment), Chet Herbert (Herbert Racing Cams), Stu Hilborn (Hilborn Fuel Injection), Howard Johansen (Howards Racing Cams), Ed "Isky" Iskendarian (Iskendarian Racing Cams), Frank McGurk (McGurk Engineering), Barney Navarro (Navarro Racing Equipment), Fred Offenhauser (Offenhauser), Chuck Potvin (Potvin Racing Cams), Mel Scott (Scott Fuel Injection), Al Sharp (Sharp Speed Equipment), Bill and Tom Spalding (Spalding Racing Cams & Ignitions), Wayne Horning and Harry Warner (Wayne Manufacturing), Harry Weber (Weber Racing Cams), Phil Weiand (Weiand Power & Racing), And Dempsey Wilson (Dempsey Wilson Racing Cams).

It's one of those rare multi-purpose books that will occupy equal time in the Studio being cracked open for research, as well as being brought out for some additional inspiration in those late-night bench race sessions.

Merchants of Speed
The Men Who Built America's Performance Industry
by Paul D. Smith
Illustrated. 240 pp.

Grab your copy here, and save almost 35%

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Five tips for hiring a hot rod designer...
29 SEPT 09- Over the last decade, we’ve seen explosive growth in the hot rod and custom car industry and hobby as a whole. This can be attributed to the popularity of television shows like Overhaulin’, American Hot Rod and others, as well as Powerblock TV, the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Events, and of course, access to great personalities like Chip Foose, Stacey David and others. This brings in new enthusiasts, and naturally, more project cars!

Not since George Barris snapped thousands of photos and wrote hundreds of articles promoting the hobby back in the 1950’s and ’60’s have we seen so much attention on our hobby, and it’s amazing to witness. Yet, while there’s all of this excitement, many of these new fans and participants are feeling lost when starting a project. It can be a daunting task to say the least, but when taking those first steps, having the right footing can make all the difference in the world.

hot rod design

Naturally, any success in a project requires a plan, and building or modifying a car requires very careful thought at this stage. I’ve often heard guys say “I just build as I go… no plan, just what feels right”, and sadly, it certainly doesn’t look like it must feel in many cases. Disjointed design, half-assed “fixes” to make parts fit, and often unsafe “engineering” (”engine-beering”, most likely) have sent many a project to an early grave… and I don’t think we need to dive too deep into this subject to discover why it’s “wrong” from any angle.

The best advice would be to bring on an experienced designer to help guide you along. As a professional hot rod and custom car designer with over twenty years experience in the auto industry (from parts and service to body repair/customization and after-market accessories), as well as training in design and fine art, I’m here to offer some advice on taking those first steps. This isn’t an advertisement for my services, but a primer for anyone going at this for the first time. I share my experience because I love this industry, and want to see anyone new to it have a blast, and keep coming back for more. Over the years, I’ve learned the importance of being an ambassador for my industry. That said… let’s get at this.
interior design
The importance of having a vision on paper, especially when working with shops and others on a team, can’t be overlooked. Often times, you’ll run into an individual who perhaps lacks that key “visualization” ability, and can’t form a mental picture… or worse, they can, but it’s nothing like yours. Communicating these visions can prove difficult, and as they say, “a picture is worth a thousand dollars”… and in many cases, much more… often, they are invaluable.

The end goal of selecting your custom car designer is:

* A vision of the finished product for everyone to work from
* Avoid gaps, mis-communications and errors in describing idea
* Get what you want for your custom car dream!

Certainly, this isn't the "endall, be-all list, and isn't intended to be. It's merely a primer to get you thinking in the right frame of mind when heading into that first project. When it comes time to shop for a designer, keep at least these five primary items in mind:

1. Pick a Designer Who’s Style You Like

Not only are you hiring someone to assist in laying the groundwork for your project, but the designer must also be able to convey your ideas and tastes, as well as create a piece that will inspire your build team. Often times, these drawings will set the one for a build. A bad-ass street or race machine deserves some nasty, double-bad-ass, throw-down art and setting to make everyone involved “feel it”. A surf wagon, naturally, deserves a ore sedate look to the art… Setting this tone early on will bring HUGE returns later on.

You’ll want some “wow” factor, but also be sure that your designer draws with proper scale and proportion! Taking a cartoon-like image or shoddy “Photochop” to an experienced builder will get you laughed out of the shop. The kid you hire in a forum might make that ‘58 Edsel bumper look like it fits your Monza in the drawing, but in reality, would it? And, are you looking to blow your budget on wild changes before the car even hits primer? A cartoony image serves a great purpose in creating some energy, or for getting the juices flowing, but you'll need something a little closer to reality to keep everyone on the same page... unless you're building cartoons... which, come to think of it, would be a blast!!

Look around, and study the artist’s styles and prior work.

Much like you choose a car that excites you, be it for nostalgia reasons, a certain feeling it gives you, or just the fact that you liked it overall, you’ll be miles ahead by selecting a designer in the same way. When the car is torn apart and looking bleak, the artwork will serve as an excitement generator.

2. Find A Designer You Get Along With

Spend some phone and email time talking with designers. Do you, “get along”? Can communicate freely? An open exchange with your designer will pay off in a HUGE way during the project.

Look for a custom car designer who can help guide you if asked, but also take an idea you have and run with it. Simply hiring a “wrist” to make some lines based only on what you say is boring, and will leave your design “flat”. Look for someone with great communication skills (i.e. listens as well as they talk). Nothing can be more disappointing than a guy who doesn’t listen, or worse, who mis-interprets what you’re looking for. Is the designer looking to create a portfolio piece on your dime? You’re looking for a piece that conveys the project vision, not some stand-out eye candy for this guy’s website.

You’re looking for someone who is more than just a talented artist. Look for design sense… balance, ability to make things “work”, to ensure “flow”. You’re also looking for integrity. You want a guy who is creating YOUR art, not re-tracing an old piece, re-coloring in Photoshop or simply re-hashing the same model their last 40 customers got (but with different paint and wheels) because, you’ll get, well, the same car as those other 40 guys!

Beware of the guy who simply cannot follow your budget. This should be made known and understood on the first or second consultation. Make this a clear as possible. At the same time, make sure that you make your shop of choice or build skill known. Make it an open exchange where ideas can flow freely, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how an idea can grow or be refined to mind-blowingly cool in the right hands. If you’re an experienced fabricator and painter, and aren’t afraid to tread new ground, run with it! If your skill level is pushed opening a love box door, be honest, and spare yourself the inevitable let-down of never being able to realize this dream that your designer penned.

3. Understand The Designer’s Terms

Get the terms and details of the design ironed out immediately. How many revisions will you receive? What’s the cost for additional revisions? How will the work be delivered? Hard copies? (one for you, the shop, and maybe for promotional purposes?) Digital copies for magazine ink? (how about sponsorship proposals?) Can you use the artwork to promote the car? Who owns the Copyright?

A professional designer will provide a contract explaining these important terms allowing for worry-free design time. Pay attention from step one, and you’ll avoid starting over when your forum buddy disappears with your PayPal payment. Understand, too, that “you get what you pay for” applies with car designers (even more so for lunch). If you want your designs quickly (or just on time) and at a high quality, be prepared to pay a bit more, and respect the time required to perfect a design. Much as you wouldn’t rush a surgeon reconstructing your body, give your car-body the same consideration for equally functional results!

4. Don’t Be The “I’ll know what I want when I see it” Guy

That guy is the enemy of designers, and it translates to “headache” to any pro. Have an idea at the first consultation, even if it’s vague, and ask for direction/advice if needed (see step 2). Know what you’d like to do with the car. Will it be restored? Modified? A combination of the two? Something wilder? A professional designer will offer examples, and throw ideas around with you, hitting on your likes and dislikes before pencil hits paper. Many great cars develop during these “bench racing” sessions, and you’ll save a ton on revisions. A few bucks and some time consulting will pay off, literally, hundreds of times over.

Communication is your best friend here. Simply jumping from style to style will burn you and your designer out, and close doors on really creative ideas.

Research the hell out of your project and ideas. Go to shows, cruise nights, rod runs… Pick up magazines, books, videos… Look around at what’s been done, and find a style that you like. Ask your designer what he or she is into. Who knows? Perhaps they dig a certain style that isn’t well-known to you… or maybe they have a whole new spin on an old idea? (Scott Sullivan is the master of this approach, and I use that inspiration daily. Trick is to keep a VERY open mind, and use your imagination like a blender, and mix and match until your head spins)

Make a list of things that you enjoy about cars and save pictures that remind you of those features. Perhaps you enjoy good handling, or maybe straightline performance is more your thing. Maybe it’s all about the look of the car, and you’re after a show car that’ll make people stop and drool. It’s during this hugely important stage that you and your designer will determine a “direction” for the project. You should have a list of your dreams for the car, as well as a list that is more realistic, taking into consideration the reality of the car you’ve chosen. Approaching a professional designer with these ideas in place will save time, frustration, and above all, help to nail your “perfect” concept.

5. Don’t Fall Victim To Trends

If you’ve seen a teal green and gray car with a tweed interior and 15-inch billet wheels lately and thought “wow… the 1990’s called, and they want their car back”, imagine what response a car built in a trendy style today will elicit in ten or fifteen years.

Simply shopping from magazine features and completed cars on forums will inevitably breed you a cookie-cutter car. Simply saying “oh man, that car that won Street Machine of the Year had a cool hood, so I want THAT hood, and the same wheels, and the same paint, and then that car that won the year before had those seats... I want THAT interior…” and so-on, will not design or build YOUR dream car. Instead, you’ll assemble an abomination that would make Frankenstein appear slick and suave. The key is working to put everyhing you like together properly. A trained designer can do this... it's what we're paid to do. Much as you may enjoy looking at some supermodel on TV, would you marry her based on a few glances at a few physical attributes? Chances are, you’d be much happier if you sought out someone who fit your life, who matched that often undefinable set of criteria that just “did” something for you. This project car should be no different. It should be a unique reflection of YOUR style, and a talented designer will help you to make that happen. Look around at EVERYHING. Take stock of the things that appeal to you... whether it's furniture design, a style of architecture, an old train... anything at all. “Build to THE CLIENT’S taste, not someone else’s” is my credo in the studio. I always ak my clients a series of questions to discover exactly what they like, what their tastes and interests are. As any professional designer should, I'll help you organize those individual items, and create a cohesive package.

Seek out a designer who understands the style you’re planning to build your car in, and can offer unique approaches to design problems that not only make your eyes pop out, but will prevent your hard earned dollars from doing likewise from your wallet. Approach modifications tastefully, respectfully, and with the thinking “how does this change affect the rest of the car? What purpose does it serve?” If it makes sense, do it. If it’s questionable, question the hell out of it!

That said, head on out and explore… look at work, compare styles, and talk with designers. Your decision should go beyond price, and be the RIGHT FIT for your project. Seek out a designer that can listen, offer ideas, and above all, nail your design. After all, simply setting sail on the ocean might take you SOMEPLACE, but is it where you WANTED to go? Hiring a designer will help chart that course AND reach the end of the journey. When plotted correctly, your designer will have you itching to hoist the sails again, and that’s what this whole car thing is all about anyway... feeding that passion!
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Artists you may have never heard of...
19 SEPT 09- I’ve wanted to launch this series of posts for quite a while now, and have even touched on it before with a look at Op-Art, but wanted to really dig in, and hopefully expose you to some artwork (and the creators of that art) that you may have never seen before. (mind you, these installments are purely to give thanks where due to artists who have inspired my work… I urge you to seek out more information when interested, and enjoy their talents and give support some when you can!) If you know me, you know that my schooling in Fine Art plays a hugely important role in my work, whether automotive, or non car-related, and with that impact, there’s always an influence from an artist I’ve come across or studied. I tend to draw from something in their art, whether it’s a brush stroke or some use of texture, there’s always some little hint in every piece.

As a monster and B-movie fanatic (even more of the artwork on the movie posters and lobby cards!), I’ve always been into the oddities or more “fringe” kinda stuff… the lesser-known works and artists, some of whom a reader or client will pick up on, and shoot me an email that shouts “I know that artist!” or “I’ve seen that before!”. It’s a great response like that which makes my day… Hopefully this installment will be no different. Let’s take a look at monster art, and do this thing by looking at two artists who inspired the hell out of me as a kid, and who recently had their influence muscle its way into some new work, James Bama and Basil Gogos.

James Bama is one of those artists whose work just floors you with technical precision… He’s a realist in the finest sense, and his incredible method of making the subject of his work look REAL, while still managing to throw in such expressive color is a tightrope act with no equal! I chose to cover Mr. Bama’s work first, as his approach is not that different from many of us in the automotive art field. He strives to create a reality… to elicit a response that makes you step back a pace or two and think “wow… it looks real”… and yet somehow, there’s just enough room to make your own interpretation, and get lost in the story each piece tells. Influenced by artists like Alex Raymond (of Flash Gordon fame) and Norman Rockwell, Bama grew up poor in New York, losing his father early and his mother having suffered a stroke. He drew from an early age, and following his service during World War II, enrolled in the Art Students League. While he’s known for his hyper-photo-real commercial illustrations in the Saturday Evening Post and covers for the Doc Savage paperback novel series (and in recent years his paintings of Western themes and subjects), I’d like to keep this installment centered on his work with the Aurora plastic model kits of the Universal Studios movie monsters.

cover art

The series of kits in question were released in response to the popular Universal re-release of many of its monster films as Saturday matinee’s, and struck absolute gold. In 1961, Aurora released its first monster kit, based on Universal’s Frankenstein… followed by twelve more over the next five years (Dracula, Wolf Man, Mummy, Creature, Phantom of the Opera, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Godzilla, King Kong, Mr. Hyde, Salem Witch, Bride of Frankenstein, and Forgotten Prisoner). These kits were an outgrowth of Aurora’s already successful figure models, which centered on historical characters, and were wildly popular (not to mention collectable today… you can learn a LOT more by grabbing a copy of Bill Bruegman’s The Aurora History & Price Guide). While the kits were great, it was Bama’s box art that drew many a kid in for closer inspection, and ultimately ownership of the kits! Aurora understood that he art had to be exciting, yet toe the line so as not to offend parents. They sought out Bama, whose work on the Doc Savage books had gained him a tremendous reputation, and he created the absolutely stunning artwork which, while astoundingly detailed, left enough to the imagination to inspire young builders. I recall seeing many of these kits as a kid when we’d drop by swap meets and flea markets, but unfortunately lacked the funds to grab one… these probably would have funded a first home! Yet it was the artwork that stuck in my mind, and prompted me to draw (along with old movie posters and more).

monster model kits

Bama would later move on to create cover art for paperback releases of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the reprint of King Kong, and many others. He continued to create artwork for movie posters, The Baseball Hall of Fame and clients like NBC. He simply retired from professional illustration while at the peak of his career, selecting to focus on his other passion, painting. Make it a point when browsing used book stores and flea markets to seek out samples of his work, and simply enjoy a master’s vision and skill.

The other artist I’d like to include in this quick look is Basil Gogos. Being an absolutely huge fan of old monster movies, and especially fanboy extraordinaire Forry Ackerman, it was seeing his work on covers of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland that pushed me to work with color in entirely new ways as a young artist. Like Bama, Gogos attended the Art Students League of New York (as well as the School of Visual Arts, Phoenix School of Design and the National School of Design), and began his career as a professional after winning a contest through his school, sponsored by Pocket Books.

Born in Egypt (to Greek parents), he was the artist responsible for over fifty covers for Famous Monsters of Filmland, beginning in 1960 with Issue 9, on which he created an impressionist-style portrait of Vincent Price, using three simple colors: red, yellow and green. Gogos’ use of brilliant, high-contrast color left an impact on me like being hit by a boulder dropped from a skyscraper. I was so blown away by his ability to show such impact that I was often working this inspiration into my early color work in school. To this day, I use a bold palette and try to capture the same visual drama in my work (and like most following a master, I’ll probably never reach his level, but it’s a blast to try!).

famous monsters

Basil’s work is instantly recognizable, and he’s even the man responsible for album covers from The Misfits and Rob Zombie, as well as monster trading cards and covers for Monsterscene Magazine. His work has been featured in other magazine titles as well, ranging from Wildest Westerns to Creepy and even The Spirit. After retiring from commercial illustration, he continued to create work for Universal, working as a photo retoucher in their ad department, and working on the occasional movie poster, and is also the man behind the concept art for those incredible Universal Monsters commemorative postage stamps. While his work spanned a number of genres, like WWII battle scenes, men’s adventure magazines and pin-ups, he’ll probably be best remembered for his monster work.
gogos artwork
I hope that you’ll take some time to not only seek out more information on these tremendous talents, but appreciate their art (and those who have been influenced by them as well!)… It’s always interesting to look at someone’s work and see influences in it, and I hope that you’ll see a little bit more in mine. I’m very interested in hearing about who or what influences you and your work, and hope you’ll continue to look in as this series continues!
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Hot Rod Art Prints...
13 SEPT 09- ...that really "pop".

hot rod illustration

As we were packing up some prints to ship out the other day, a friend stopped by and began to rave about the color and quality of these pieces. Naturally, I was stoked to hear this, and realized that I'd never really given much thought to it. After all, I see them from loose pencil roughs on paper, right though completion in digital, and all of the post-print work that goes into them, and simply want to deliver a piece that looks good. To me, each piece just has to look "right". My pal then gave me an idea: Show some of these pieces as they look on paper, complete... ready to ship. So, I snapped a few pics of some pieces, and wanted to share a few examples with you, just to show what kind of quality you'll receieve when ordering one of our prints:

resto mod rendering
Our renderings for example, are delivered on superior quality, acid-free archival paper, and the work itself is created using an 8-color pigment process (UltraChrome K3 by Epson), and all post-print work (airbrush, etc) is created using Createx and House of Kolor products for the truest color matches and best 'flakes and pearls where needed. I've never really promoted these facts, as I assumed that all renderings and prints were created equal, but after receiving a ton of positive feedback, I thought I'd share it here, and hopefully swing anyone thinking about grabbing a print over to the "yeah, I'll take one" camp!
Just for kicks, here's an example of the detail I like to throw in, these shots coming from a '55 Chevy resto-mod rendering:
interior rendering
...and yes, you can even read the lettering on all gauges:
detail in rendering
That all shown, we're pretty proud of the finished product, and hope that you will be, too! Even the experimental works have been turning out with a great look:
stencil art print
I hope that you like what you see, and that all of the techno-jargon makes sense. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to hit me up, and I'll get you an answer! Thanks for looking in, and thanks to all who have been collecting my work! Look for more new pieces soon!
...and feel free to browse or grab some hot rod art here!
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Watching a Special Feature
3 SEPT 09- A good two-disc set is always a special treat. Consider a new DVD release of a feature film, especially one loaded with extras and behind-the-scenes features… Whether it’s commentary from the director or writer, offering you some insight to the big “why” questions, or a peek at the cast, it’s just cool to be a part of the action. Prior to DVD’s (and their subsequent “special features” menus and full discs), seeking out those behind-the-scenes features required a little more effort. There were magazines, certainly, and the occasional “featurette” on TV, but in the earliest days, looking into the meat and potatoes required some serious digging, if not inside connections. It was much the same for custom cars and hot rods in the early days. Before there was Powerblock TV and Overhaulin’, getting that in-progress glimpse of a build was a rarity, and required a trek to a local shop, or that rare tech article.

Enter two gentlemen who had a profound impact on their respective industries, as well as on me: Forrest J Ackerman and George Barris. These guys virtually refined the whole concept, and in a number of ways invented it for their particular places in the cosmos. Buckle your belts ‘cuz we’re going to mix and mash two seemingly different things once again, and hopefully leave you with some fresh insight… and don’t worry, this one will be quick and painless!

About the time that George Barris was born (in the mid-1920’s), Forrest J Ackerman was reading his first sci-fi tale in a copy of Amazing Stories. While Forry’s interests were writing fiction and celebrating the genre and its writers, George and his bother Sam were customizing cars. Forrest was hanging with friends the likes of Ray Bradbury and Henry Kuttner, starting magazines like Futuria Fantasia (which would be a killer name for a bubble-top custom, mind you), The Barris boys were learning tricks of the trade from masters like Dick Bertolucci, and bolting together a slick ‘36 Ford which was used as a calling card, attracting paying customers. Keeping with our “parallels” theme, at around this same time, George founded a car club named “Kustoms Car Club”, reportedly the first use of “kustoms” with that “K”… Meanwhile, Forry and his friend Myrtle R. Douglas attended the first-ever World Science Fiction Convention, dressed in space suits, setting off a chain-reaction of future comic and Trek convention costumed attendees. Trendsetters indeed! Add to the parallel that all three were in Los Angeles in these times, and, well, it just couldn’t be any cooler had it been written that way. (oddly enough, Sam Barris and Forry Ackerman were both enlisted in WWII… coincidence?)


Throughout the ’40’s and into the ’50’s, Barris continued building custom cars, and making a huge name in the industry, guiding it, in fact. It was during these years that George saw the potential in magazines, and was instrumental in documenting literally thousands of cars, and in the process virtually invented the modern “tech article”. His photo essays in the popular car magazines of the time chronicled trends and techniques for customizers living outside of the California hotbed of activity, and offered that all-important “behind-the-scenes” insight, probably providing countless would-be customizers with some inspiration. Barris is often credited with inspiring many modern day customizers to practice their craft, and his efforts with his unique brand of Public Relations certainly has been a driving force behind the continuation of this industry into the twenty-first century. Consider just how many articles he had published showing metal shaping tips, or paint how-to’s… Then, take a gander at his articles, and compare the layout to today’s tech pages. He literally paved the way, adding another dimension to car features, promoting the hobby and inspiring at the same time. Look through some of these old issues, and you’ll be amazed at what faces pop up, and even more so, who was working in who’s shops, or had a hand in some of your favorite cars.


Meanwhile, Ackerman was acting as a literary agent, representing hundreds of writers, and serving as “agent of record” for many more, ensuring that their work would be published in numerous anthologies, preserving the science fiction genre’s past in not only written form, but providing an entirely new facet for the then-growing motion picture industry. Consider that his magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland exposed many aspiring special effects artists and film makers alike to those “behind-the-scenes” looks, and the parallels just grow stronger. It was these close looks at the men behind the special effects techniques that inspired such talents as Tim Burton, John Landis and Rick Baker, as well as countless other amateur home directors. Forrest truly created an industry that continues strong today, not only from the standpoint of the behind-the-scenes documentary, but for collectors of film memorabilia. He was also one of those rare “hands-on”, approachable figures, leading tours of the “Ackermansion”, his personal home and museum, packed to the rafters with his collection of movie props and memorabilia. He understood the value of preservation, historical record and collecting those odd bits and pieces to maintain some reference point when future generations might want to look back (much as we at Motorburg are striving to do today!). Ackerman had a keen insight and understanding of the magic behind the movies, and always managed to share just enough to get someone interested and thinking about it a whole new way… which, when you stop to think about it, is a common trait in these heroes of ours who forge a new path: They “get” it, and they SHARE it! When you manage to combine enthusiasm with knowledge and a great work ethic, you tend to become a part of the very thing you enjoy, and Forry is surely one of those important cogs in an absolutely huge machine.

In this same way, George is a common figure at car shows and events, as well as still working from his shop. It’s this accessibility that makes it all even more fun; having that opportunity to mix and mingle with the folks who not only “were THERE”, but helped to preserve our hobbies for future generations. While we unfortunately lost Forrest J Ackerman in 2008, the next time you load that movie into your DVD player and pop open the “Special Features” menu, give a quick “thanks” to the ultimate fanboy, and feel free to share your knowledge of where it all began. And while you’re at it, why not give a tip of the hat to George next time you’re browsing those back issues at the swap meet. Chances are, many of the photos in that issue are courtesy of the “King of the Kustomizers”.
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50 Years in Hot Rods, Racing and Film...
26 AUG 09- This new book on Dean Jeffries, written by Tom Cotter (and forwarded by Bruce Meyer) is a fun look at the career of one of the most under-rated builders of all-time.

Dean Jeffries book

As stated right from the beginning, Jeffries was never one to “toot his own horn”, and this may be a large part of the reason that many folks don’t know that much about this incredibly talented man. While he was one of the pioneers of the custom car movement (alongside the more “celebrity” names like Barris, Winfield, Von Dutch and Ed Roth), he’s always been relegated to the footnotes, or seems to play the “behind-the-scenes” role more often than not.

The humble visionary was born in Lynwood, California in 1933, the second of three children, and from an early age took an interest in cars… but preferred metal work to mechanical, as he hated to get his hands dirty. His father being a mechanic and truck driver who wrenched on race cars (midgets, namely), took young Dean to the races, further inspiring him.

Jeffries left school early to join the Army, and served during the Korean War, but was stationed in Germany, where he served duty as a map maker, and began pinstriping. Upon returning home, he worked nights in a machine shop to spend his days as an apprentice under Ken “Von Dutch” Howard. Eventually Jeffries became the “house striper” at Barris Kustom, honing his metalworking skills, and becoming a contractor to Barris, and plied his craft on such cars as the Ala Kart, Clarence Catallo’s ‘32 Ford (the very same from the Beach Boys’ Little Deuce Coupe album cover). Moving from Barris’ shop to Hollywood, Jeffries was in a prime location to serve movie stars, and began building specialty vehicles for the motion picture industry.


The book delves into the well-known Jeffries-Barris rivalry, offering insight to those who may not have been initiated to this historic debate. What’s truly interesting about this small part of the book is that Cotter not only gives Jeffries’ side, but takes time to talk with Barris as well, making for an entertaining aside.

As the book moves forward, we gain extensive insight to Jeffries’ personal life, detailing his long marriage to his late wife Row, underscoring her importance to him in many ways, and being the driving force behind his never-ending creativity. We’re treated to an extensive look at his creations, including some absolutely incredible photos from Jeffries’ personal collection, as well as those collected from sources close to him.


From the aluminum masterpiece “Mantaray” to the Kyote dune buggies, we’re treated to some wildly insightful looks at the creative process, as well as Dean’s great business mind. Moving forward to his work on the Ford Custom Car Caravan (and his ahead-of-its-time Falcon Python), to the supremely well-designed Deano Toronado, we begin to see the scale of his creative genius. There is some tremendous coverage and in-progress photography of his many movie and television cars, including the Green Hornet’s Black Beauty, the Monkeemobile, and the absolutely immense Landmaster for the film Damnation Alley (looking over Jeffries’ designs and engineering thought for this project is almost worth the price of admission alone).  Being a creative, yet practical customizer, Jeffries built a mobile shop from a van to handle on-set repairs for movie cars, and we get a glimpse of what was, at the time a state-of-the-art rolling repair shop. Following some mini-features on many of Dean’s creations over the years, the book hooks a big turn to his involvement in motorsports, painting cars for the Indy 500, and even includes some of his designs for an Indy car from the early 1960’s.

pinstriping a pin-up

If all of that weren’t enough, we learn about Jeffries’ work as a stuntman, performing feats that today would be deemed as too unsafe, and on one notable occasion while jumping a bridge with a truck, he broke his back. Some fantastic photos accompany this part of the book, and they go well beyond the typical studio PR shots, keeping with the book’s “personal” feel. Overall, a very well presented book, loaded with rare photos and insight, and one of those “must-have’s” for any fan of hot rods and custom cars. It has that fabulous, high-quality Motorbooks feel with sharp photos, just the right size text, and thick pages with just enough sheen to look great, but not glare when reading. Truly a great addition to any collection, and it’ll even look bitchin’ on your coffee table!
...grab your copy HERE:

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Ever had that feeling...
15 AUG 09- someone dropped a bomb on your day?

Our good friend Stoney, currently stationed overseas knows that feeling WELL. Imagine sitting there, minding your own, perhaps even reading a book, simply enjoying the few moments peace when suddenly the night erupts with a massive BOOM, and there['s the delightful sound of debris hitting the sides of your plywood Bhut... then comes the lovely scent of Cordite from a 107mm Chinese-made rocket.


This was the evening of our man Brian, and as he explained it, "after a few minutes in the bunker we came out to see what happened. 20ft from the front door of our Bhut, the Rocket hit the ground a skipped into a standby Generator. I thanked GOD last night, that the warhead did not detonate. If it had, we were with 30ft of the impact point and a couple thin layers of plywood between it and me. No one was injured."


Amazing indeed that no one was injured... The damage from the incoming dud is scary enough.

rocket ding

It has to be said: When you're thinking that your day has sucked, and that maybe things just didn't go so well, be thankful you dodged a larger bullet that day, and take a few moments to think about these guys who literally are dodging even more dangerous things each and every day. The hard reality is that these men and women are over there attempting to restore some state of normalcy, and are being attacked like this. Thanks, as always to every one of them, and here's hoping that anyone reading this appreciates them as much as we do here in the Studio. Take a few minutes to give these guys a thought a few times a day, and if you're able, send 'em over a care package... Car magazines, books, t-shirts... anything that reminds them of home.

Sincerest best wishes for your safety and swift return home. Talk at you guys soon. ...
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Hot Rodders and BMX...
12 AUG 09- ...that's a cool combination!

at the gate

Tim and Carrie Strange are not only good friends and clients, but dedicated BMX racers, and when you combine their love for cars and BMX racing, well, things are gonna get a little wild. They organized the Hot Rod Industry BMX Challenge to coincide with this year's Louisville Street Rod Nationals, and hauled Resilience and a few bikes to Virginia for what turned out to be a great time. Guys like Jesse Greening, Dave Tucci, Roger Burman, D.W. from Welder Series (hello, eh!) and our pal Scott from Billet Specialties joined the action with employees from hot rod shops all over the region, as well as top companies like Vintage Air, Art Morrison, Classic Instruments (the guys who built our gauge pod in the Buick!), California Car Cover and more! It was a veritable who's-who of the industry, and the action pitted past Trendsetters against Monster Garage builders, former Hot Rod TV, Overhaulin' and Rides personalities against Ridler and AMBR builders. Simply awesome, and a unique way to not only get everyone back in touch with an activity many of us enjoyed in our youth, but a great exercise in weeding out the not-so-in-shape fellas.

ejection seat

As Tim puts it, "We also ways try to merge our two lives...BMX and hot rods. Thats why we started the BMX team through the shop, to try to help some kids and get them to some races, or have a fun place to hang at the races. I remember how excited I was as a young rider when I got asked to be on a makes ya feel good when we see our riders, even getting Senior year pics taken in our jerseys.! We also are always trying to help the sport of BMX grow, and we thought this was a fun way to possibly get some past riders back into it, and to get some exposure in different markets, and maybe bring in some outside sponsors to BMX. You don't know till ya try, and talking don't do much..."

bmx challenge
That said, it was an honor to whip up some t-shirt and promo art for this, and way cool to see our logo on the number plates!

number plate
Hopefully next year will be even bigger and better (more under the lights action??), and that this will continue to grow, as well as bring two very cool industries together. I'm gonna get on hiding a jet pack on my bike to compete with that speedy Aussie from California Car Cover!

Thanks for looking in, and more soon...
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Sunbathing With the Mistress...
03 AUG 09- ...and red is still her color!
custom javelin

This past weekend, the Mistress enjoyed some time out in the sun in Marlboro, MA, where the stunning custom drew a crowd, and enjoyed a little "mingle time" at a local show. At the urging of some family members, Len Legere Sr. has decided to take the 20 year-old show queen out for some fun, displaying the old girl and just relaxing... If you know me, this is great news, as it's one of my all-time favorite cars, and a tremendous inspiration in my early (and current!) work.

mistress interior

It's just awe-inspiring to see a car hold up so well, and to have the overall design stand the test of time like this. It's such a radical car, yet the flow is deceptively simple, and the lines carry your eye easily from front to back with practically no interruption... Even the color and graphics don't seem dated... It's what a custom car should be: Fun, well thought-out, and built with a serious amount of quality and craftsmanship. Simply cool.

mistress rear

In any event, it was a huge surprie to open my email this morning and see the update from Heather. What a way to start the week... fresh pictures of the car, and more great news about future shows! (if you've never seen the Mistress before, click here for a past post and some video, too!) Thanks again for the update, guys... great to see you having fun again.
Become friends with Leger's Auto Body on Facebook, or check out their website... and be sure to tell 'em we said "hi"...!

The Mistress is FOR SALE. Clear out that worthless 401k and other nonsense, and scoop up this piece of history (hell, if you buy it, I'll even help pick out some modern wheels and lay out an updated interior and watch you dominate AGAIN with this amazing car)...
See the auction HERE.

Thanks for looking in, and more soon...
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Kansas, Kemps... Custom Crown!
28 JUL 09- Resilience storms the midwest!
custom crown award

A HUGE congrats to our team, Tim, Carrie, Erik, Paul, Shawn and Dave on the outstanding showing of the mighty Buick this past weekend at the KKOA Leadsled Spectacular in Salina Kansas! The copper-colored cruiser grabbed the 777 Custom Crown Award, a John D-Agostino Best Contemporary Custom Award, and the revered Eldon Titus Memorial Design Award!

eldon titus award

We're all just stoked to see this project getting recognition like this... We were fortunate to have assembled a truly dynamic team on this car, with visionary owners like Erik and Paul Hansen, a builder like Tim, and talented craftsmen like Dave and Shawn... We all just happened to click, and seeing others appreciate the end result is nothing short of incredible.

tim award

leadsled spectacular

On a personal note, it's been absolutely mind-blowing to be a part of this all... As a kid, I had dreamed of going to a KKOA event, and had watched videos made by family friends, simply awestruck by the cars and the good times. Now, so many years later, seeing a car that I was fortunate to have created some doodles for and worked on such a creative high with an outstanding builder and friend take home such accolades from such an event, I'm speechless. Seeing this car grab the Eldon Titus Memorial Design Award is just amazing... It holds an incredible amount of meaning for us all, as he was an innovator, a gifted designer and builder, and truly a man who led the custom car back to the forefront. Growing up, he was one of my favorite builders, mixing and matching styles to create mind-blowing rides... and having a hand in a car which received the award bearing his name and legacy... well that my friend, is absolutely priceless!

Thanks for looking in, and more soon...
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Sick Seconds update...
26 JUL 09- ...and things are moving now!

camaro shop

...or at least getting closer to moving under its own power. The team at SunCoast Racecars has been busy putting their final touches on the car, and once out of the body shop there, the first gen-bodied missile heads on home to ProRides for the next build phase. Be on the lookout for engine build pics, as the heart of the beast is slated to be completed in about 45 days. We'll keep you posted, and you can see the earlier mill work, if you happened to miss it the first time out HERE. This is promising to be a fun build with some SERIOUS results!

rendering camaro

In the meantime, we're all stoked and looking forward to the car's debut in the GearVendors booth at the SEMA Show (look for precise date and time info soon, as well). Currently, though, the car is available for PRI, and anyone interested in displaying the Camaro in their booth can give us a shout, and we'll make sure you get connected to do so!

Stay tuned for more, and thanks, as always for looking in...
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Cleanin' Up in Columbus...
15 JUL 09- ...with Dave's Shortie!

Our good pal Dave Neal is one of those extremely talented folks you're fortunate to meet once or so in a lifetime... A blast to hang out with, a total car guy, and someone who just "gets" it. I met Dave some time back through our mutual friend Tim, and had the pleasure of wandering the Grand National Roadster Show, benchracing, and just whiling away hours on email and phone calls throwing around ideas and making fun of anything that just didn't seem right in the world.

custom wheels

After working on his truck for about eight years, he made a debut at the Columbus Goodguys Nationals and scored big time. The yellow hauler (OK, granted... with a bed that shallow, this thing can only haul pancakes, pizza, or maybe a skateboard, but still...) grabbed three magazine features and a Classic Trucks "Finest Five" pick! Outstanding indeed, and when you consider that the truck was built by Dave (with help from some familiar faces around here, including Shawn Ray and Tim Strange!) as a weekend and evening project, it just gets sweeter.

shawn paints

The '71 has a unique, high-contrast look, and makes dynamic impact using painted surfaces and stock trim to emphasize the clean design. That slick chop (with the windshield laid back) brings it all into proportion, and then you get a load of those huge rollers, and your senses numb a bit... It looks like some cartoon gone haywire!


A HUGE congrats to Dave and everyone involved in the thrash to get the truck rolling... and here's to Dave's future as a builder... You're certain to see a LOT more of this guy moving forward...
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Gonzo Hot Rod Design
19 JUN 09- Some years ago, I was introduced to the work of a journalist named Hunter S. Thompson. Bear in mind that this "introduction" came at a pivotal point in my creative career, and I was completely drawn to his style of not only writing, but his almost renegade technique of forming a story. Here was a journalist who not only covered the news at hand, but worked in a personal angle, often thrusting himself so deeply into the event he was covering so as to alter its outcome! "Absolute brilliance", I thought! Not mere "coverage" or "reporting", but LIVING it! This was just too much... This guy GOT it! To a student of Fine art, this was the epitome of "creating" anything: the EXPERIENCE... being a PART of what you're creating!

Thompson's style of news came to be known as "Gonzo Journalism", and the name packs the energy rightfully reserved for this all-out, sensory attack, in which the writer himself becomes an integral part of the story. Somewhere between the facts, self-interjection and commentary, the truth lay in wait. This was the sort of writing I had done since I could first form sentences... I had found someone who had paved the way before me, and man, I was digging this. Taking something that has always been deemed as objective, and beating it into something much cooler and entertainingly subjective... showing that a subject or event could have an effect on the writer, and then, at times becoming a part of that story was just simple logic to me... After all, how interesting is just blowing some facts all over a sheet of paper or computer monitor?! Stirring in (or up!) some emotion is key to creating compelling content. Anyone can say "gee, Stan... there was this one guy, and he said this, and the other guy said that. Then they shook hands." Wow. Not sure about you, but I'M drained from that story. What a cathartic experience... or NOT. Thompson would become the center of his work, very often blurring the line between "reporting" facts and "influencing" a story. He interjected opinion, an energy, and most of all, an experience.

That said, I began to look at this field of automotive art that I work in, and feel a bit depressed. It's gone from the fun, energetic industry to a machine full of photo-real, computer-generated imagery lately. The landscape is littered with 3-D models and tracings of the same-old, same-old.

Does anyone just DRAW anymore?!

The creative projects... the REALLY wild customs and out-of-the-box hot rods are the ones that inspire and push the hobby to that next level... they've become fewer and further between. It's become... well, "safe". We're flooded with near stock-looking blah-mobiles drawn with a lack of personality, often with the actual car being just the same bland cookie-cutter crap over and over again. Wow... a photo-real 3D model of a '69 Camaro on aftermarket wheels... just like those other ones! What the hell happened?! It was as though Henry L. Mencken's "bathtub hoax" had brought new life in the car community. As though someone started the rumor that renderings needed to be sterile, lackluster depictions of some uniform style, and by golly, the whole group jumped the bandwagon, eating up the words and carrying it right into the common belief system they'd developed. Worse yet, I saw it start to occur in my own work as well from time to time, and it made me take a step back, and in doing that, I had a moment of absolute clarity.

I took the past couple of months and began heading back to what made this whole automotive illustration gig so appealing to me at the start: The ENERGY!! I pondered just what makes a rendering so valuable to a project, and beyond the financial (sponsor opportunities, press, etc) and communication (illustrating the modifications) value, it all boils down to CREATING EXCITEMENT! Simply looking at a photograph of a car can be cool, sure, but you're seeing something COMPLETE, FINISHED... and it removes the emotional response, the natural impulse to IMAGINE... To look at the idea SUBJECTIVELY!! By leaving just enough to the imagination, just enough room to interpret something, some part as YOUR OWN, you don't just LOOK at the work, you EXPERIENCE it!!

This is why I leave some loose lines among the tightened concepts, some free-form areas to chance... I'm not nailing down parts, bit by bit from some "rule book" ("18's and 19's? Check. Suspension lowered exactly like every other car on that forum? Check. Billet parts here, here and here? Check. Correct valve covers so as to avoid the wrath of the "Traditional Police"? Check, check!"), I'm inventing a concept to be shared, interpreted... EXPERIENCED by not only the owner or builder of the car, but anyone who happens upon it. Anyone (and I repeat ANYONE... you, your kids, your neighbor's Grandmother) with access to a 3D model, or some tracing paper and a few pencils and markers, or worse yet, Photoshop, Google and some time can bash out a lifeless, non-creative turd, and have it celebrated by the easily duped masses... but the ones who can hammer down a concept, and show some life in the lines, some ENERGY... man... those are the pieces that stand up to time, and drop their pants at the lesser crap. Compare a Charlie Smith rendering to some Photohack from a guy in a forum. Name your three favorite Harry Bradley renderings, or Steve Stanford concepts, or Larry Wood designs. Easy, right? Now try to do the same for three photochops or 3D models. That's a pretty tough one, huh? And do you like those pieces you named because the artist kissed your ass on some online forum, or because the work stood out, elicited a RESPONSE in you? Pretty creepy realization, huh?

I'm not about to fall victim to this absolute "dumbing-down" of the hot rod and custom car industry... Rather, I'm adopting the "Gonzo" style, and going at it with the passion that brought me here to begin with. What's great is that I've never really fit in to begin with, so if anyone takes offense or has their feelings hurt by my shift in priorities, I certainly don't have to hear the whining, or fear some drop in the number of cards sent my way over the Holidays. It's just me, my art, and the drive to push it until the son of a bitch breaks from the altitude. I'm not about to fall victim to trends... to having the need to be accepted because I'm doing the same thing fifteen other guys are currently latching onto. Never had a trendy hairstyle or shoes or pants, either. I think I'll manage without being "in".

Our pal Hunter (from the start of this whole mess) stated that "he that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master". Grand advice... and a central theme here in the Studio. Draw inspiration from as many sources as possible! I'm often looking to objects or art forms so removed from cars that even I begin to wonder how they'll apply... and it's a blast! I'll look at a painting and consider the brush strokes, and experiment, seeing how they might work in a current or future piece. Perhaps there's a rhythm in a song that just makes sense when laying down the lines on some graphics... It can come from almost anywhere. The key here, though, is KNOWING YOUR SUBJECT.


Simply hacking a few photos together, or painting some digital model or tracing a picture doesn't grant you any more knowledge of designing a hot rod or custom car than does accidentally bumping a car in the parking lot with your shopping cart. When you take time to know the car, to understand the parts and pieces that make the whole... to look into the designer's mind and grasp where he was going and WHY, well, you're starting to grasp the idea. You're in no position to modify that car until you understand it. Going back to Dr. Thompson for a second (after all, he's the reason we got rolling on this anyway), he once wrote that "Fiction is based on reality unless you're a fairy-tale artist, you have to get your knowledge of life from somewhere. You have to know the material you're writing about before you alter it. " Incredibly wise indeed, and the big "why" that so many of these sterile, cold "renderings" lack that "punch"... the thrill, the excitement of a GREAT piece... the ones that make you take a step backward and yell "BITCHIN', MAN"!!

I want MY work to be like that!

With all of that strewn on the table, I'm going to go back into the Studio and tear the next project a new one. I challenge you to go and do the same in the shop, and wow the snot out of everyone who experiences your Gonzo build.
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Big in Japan...
13 JUN 09- ...and how freakin' cool is THAT??!

Resilience scored a six page feature in the latest issue of Cruisin' Magazine over in Japan, and we're just stoked about the whole thing! If you've been under a rock for the last fifteen or so years, you're most likely unaware of the HUGE car culture there, and the amazing cars and people that make it all happen... It's unbelievable, and their shows and magazines are absolutely LOADED with energy and top-quality, creative custom cars.

buick sacto

Needless to say, when the mighty Buick was in Sacto and the feature was shot, the whole crew went nuts, and the results of the shoot were nothing less than spectacular. As for the title itself, I can't begin to say enough good things about it... It's an unbelievably high-quality book (I say "book", because that's really what it compares to!), and really has a feel that is more like a Japanese version of the Rodder's Journal, quality and content-wise. Loaded with custom and hot rod features, they have, naturally, some Japanese cars customized with an American bent, and the event coverage rocks. It's a bit pricey, car magazine-wise at $18.00, but worth it in my opinion! (you can grab Cruisin' Magazine at Mooneyes, or on Barracuda Magazine's newsstand.)


In any event, we're all pretty stoked about the international coverage of the car, and it'll be hitting our shores in both that magazine, as well as Rod & Custom very soon, too, so keep an eye out for it!
...and thanks for the support a always
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12 JUN 09- ...about art, cars, and hang on... how about a FREE set of wheels?!

Yup... a free set of Real Rodders Wheels can be yours just for signing up for a free (that's a lot of free stuff there, fella) subscription to Benchrace E-Zine!

benchrace ezine cover

And while you're there, take some time to check out the killer content that Robert and his crew push online every month! This time around, I'm stoked to be featured in the little (OK, almost 50 pages!) 'zine , with an artist's feature, highlighting some of my work, and a little insight to why I do what it is that I do! You can also register to win a print of mine, all signed and numbered for your collecting pleasure, of the Mahi Mah-T. Good times indeed.

hot rod art print

That said, get on over to Benchrace E-Zine, and enjoy some reading material! (dig on the back-issues as well... It's like a magazine collection without having to buy another bookshelf or toilet!)

...and tell 'em we siad hi
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Meet the Mistress...
10 JUN 09- ...and take a little step back in time with me.

Back in 1980, Len Legere Sr. bought the remains of a '71 Javelin from a wrecking yard, and took it from a forgotten mess to the ISCA National Championship. The car had a HUGE impact on me almost twenty years ago, and still brings forth that teenage awe that it did when I first laid eyes on it at the Clutch Artists AutoRama in Buffalo, NY. Before we get too deep into it, dig on some video caught by my father those many moons ago (pardon the low quality-- time has been harsh to the old VHS tapes, and his transfer was decent, but moving it online has degraded it a bit more...).

The car absolutely jumped off of its turntable that March day, and drove deep into my psyche. Here was a modern custom car... a contemporary take on the radical customs I was already obsessed over as a kid, but oh, so much more! That stance was aggressive, and not typical at all of a custom car, it had billet rollers, and those proportions, man!! Chopped and sectioned, and channeled just right over that custom frame... This was a 1:1 version of the models I was building! I can't begin to count the hours I spent studying the car as it went 'round and 'round that weekend, but know this much: I was taking notes.


As a junkyard-trolling individual, I recognized the (then)late-model Monte Carlo headlamps, the Fairmont tail lights... but the specifications were branded into my brain: roof chopped 2.5-inches, body sectioned 3-inches, floors channeled 5-inches. I stood there, imagining the car sitting on the ground... how it would have looked, a whole, what... 40 or so inches tall? Awesome.

custom javelin

Anyway, I bring this car up following a week of finishing off a couple of pro-touring style car renderings, and a late night of pondering where that whole movement will go next. After all, custom cars grew to become milder versions of their former selves, save for a few notable examples like we have here, and pro-street became, well, pro-touring... Yet, almost 20 years ago, Len Legere created a car that would easily meld the custom and pro-touring camps, and left an indelible mark on my design sense. Since that day in the Buffalo Convention Center, I've worked to add styling cues to my designs that honor that pivotal moment, and have enjoyed the hell out of it all. Here's hoping you'll do the same, and thanks, as always, for peeking in
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Doozy's and donuts...
2 JUN 09- ...and history lost to politics.

Got into a great conversation with a friend recently over a few donuts and some coffee, and talk turned to historical cars that offer inspiration from a variety of standpoints.... and it tied in perfectly with what's going on in the automotive industry... especially with American companies folding. This kills me, as there seems to be absolutely NO RESPECT for the advances made by American car companies, or their impact on technology and the economy at large.

As you may already know, I have a deep fascination with all things Ferrari... A company that also shared a purpose-built history. The sheer elegance of design, combined with the amazing heritage and utter lust for performance that these machines elicit in one's mind... hell, one's soul, even, is the stuff of legend. Yet, surprisingly, for a guy who talks a lot, I've never touched on another great car to come from not Italy (although we'll touch on that later), but from right here in the US, the mighty Duesenberg.

How can one deny the sheer excitement of any of the company's offerings? Hell, even the history of the marque is filled with the stuff of legend. Two brothers, both self-taught engineers (think about it, isn't every hot rodder somewhat of a self-taught engineer?) set out to build sports cars. August and Fred built cars in the '20's that had features you might find on today's cars: four valves per cylinder, dual overhead cams, and even juice brakes!

Anyway, the history of the marque is readily available with some minimal research skills, so we won't waste time on chronology here. What interested me most about the Brothers Duesenberg, was their use of superchargers and other go-fast goodies that seems, well, kind of strange, given the years in question. We're talking cars in the late '20's that had 140 MPH capability! An American, coach-built car (hell, by the time a wealthy owner got done, these things weighed tons!) that could run 0-60 times in roughly eight seconds! Again, that's PRE-1930! If that's not engineering and hot rodding at its finest, well, grab some stronger coffee, sir, and wake up.

Moving along, an interesting point was brought up regarding the partnership of one Virgil Exner and Fritz Duesenberg (son of August) on the Stutz Bearcat.... here was the prime example of Chrysler design, working with the heir of the genius that was Duesenberg. Sadly, this was a doomed marque (but sure made creative use of domestic offerings from Delta 88's to Grand Prix's!) One begins to wonder what may have been, had this partnership been at a more opportune time. In a way, there's a lot of inspiration to be found in there.... the use of existing, perhaps not-so-inspirational cars to begin with, to create a coach-built car with performance, all while giving a nod to this golden age.

Sadly, we're at a point where the political agendas and underlying turmoil have destroyed the industry, and are stripping the historical significance of our storied past, and leaving with it a revised version, loaded with controversy. At it's most basic level, this is an industry that is dynamic, exciting and loaded with great stories of great men and innovation, and to not be inspired by any of it leaves one to consider anyone's dedication to it under a very tight focus.

We're in an age now (in the hot rodding hobby) where we have talented builders following on this original path, and creating incredible cars from almost nothing. While it's exciting to witness, it just seems altogether more interesting when compared to a historical reference point, and one draws out some inspiration from two brothers who simply wanted to build fast cars... Ahh, the good old days....
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"The forbidden-ness of the place..."
19 MAY 09- what made it "so compelling", Greg Noll once said of his decision to surf Waimea Bay, which, in November of '57 he conquered.

Surfing there was considered a no-no of sorts, stemming from the death of Dickie Cross there in 1943, as well as the sacred ruins in Waimea Canyon, and a house that the locals presumed haunted... All signs of surfing the almost unexplored (at the time) North Shore seemed to have a big red slash through them. But on that fifth day of November, a drive was so great in the mind of one man, that he cast all superstition and fear aside, and rode some waves. He was quickly joined by Harry Church, Bing Copeland, Pat Curren, Mickey Munoz, and Mike Strange... six guys who spent three years trying to draw enough courage to surf there... And once they did, they became legends.

What's any of this have to do with building or designing hot rods?


I get inspiration from a wide range of sources, and always seek to implement the ideas I get from those sources into a design, or piece of art. Mr. Noll is one of the people on my list of great inspirations, as he was a true pioneer in his craft, whether riding waves, or creating the boards to do so. While I could go on for days about his contributions to the surf industry, I'd rather concentrate on those few opening words from this entry...

"The forbidden-ness of the place is what made it so compelling."

Has there ever been a better way to describe the feeling of taking a torch to a car with the intent of creating something unique?! I imagine the late Sam Barris, contemplating the first cuts on his Merc, or his Buick, for that matter... It was a visionary, bold move to drop the lid on either car, and yet, his decisions to do so spawned legend... and countless chopped tops to follow. Decades later, some in the hobby/industry still embrace this pioneering spirit with the battle cry of "dare to be different!", pushing the creative envelope just a bit further each time. It takes a big ol' pair of stones to carve into something different, something not considered mainstream, and really have at it. Of course, it also takes "doing it well" to be successful.

About a year ago, I penned a design for Popular Hot Rodding that embodies this approach, taking a relatively forgotten and over-looked car, and just "having at it", bringing in influences from all over the place...

road runner
...and an alternate version with a more track-ready look:
pro-touring road runner

...and it was cathartic, man. "You don't do one of THOSE..." I was told... Which only fueled the fire, as such challenges often will in those with a creative bent. I finished the roughs for the car, and began to think of even more rides off of the beaten path. I'm not saying that drawing this car even compared to riding Wiamea for the first time, but the excitement of taking a direction with it (that I've sat on for years) that is fresh sure packed, metaphorically, anyway, the anticipation of paddling out.

I guess that it all just comes down to finding inspiration in unique places, and then summoning the courage to apply it properly. Not to mention boldly crashing though some previosuly closed doors along the way...
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Rubik has nothing on this Cube...
05 MAY 09- ...and I want one.

nissan cube


This past Saturday, our good friend Pike had organized a pre-release cruise featuring 10 (yes, ten) of the new Nissan Cube's, and it was a blast. We hit a couple of area dealerships, then hit the road to the Pavillions in Scottsdale (great Saturday cruise spot for those of you planning to hit Goodguys Southwest Nationals in November), where the impressive lineup of geometric people movers grabbed a ton of attention on the freeways. Suffice to say, the lineup was a smash at the cruise, and Pike even brought along a GT-R (more on Godzilla later... words fail me yet) and an Infinity G37 convertible just to round out the playing field.

My first reaction when seeing a Cube a couple of years back (don't forget, these have been around overseas since '98) was "not too sure about that". Don't get me wrong, I was impressed as all get-out that anyone could pack that much room into such a small-looking package, but the look was odd to me.

Fast-forward ten years, and my how things have changed. My first moment sitting in the Cube was a wild time... Headroom galore, great sight lines, and just enough legroom for even my lanky appendages. The dash is minimalist, but laid out in a tremendously intuitive way, and all controls are easily understandable and useful. Too cool indeed.

The ride was incredibly comfortable, stable, responsive and above all, QUIET. It was that last fact that kept me stunned. The Cube is damn quiet on both highway and city pavement, and just felt "right" somehow. Aside from the constant stares from other drivers (which, as a hot rodder is alright by me any day), I have to say, I'm giving this little machine SERIOUS thought from both the modification potential as well as daily-driver mule standpoint.

Design-wise, I have to say it has me hooked. If you know me, then you know my love for asymmetrical design, and that rear window treatment NAILS it. A wrap-around side glass on the passenger side meets a thick pillar on the left, and it (again) just feels "right". Couple this with tall slab-like side panels, rounded corners all over, and a very trick windshield shape (oh, you'll be seeing this on a few designs of mine to come), and we're getting someplace. But oh that tail light... It was an instant love-fest for me. I have about thirty cars I want to use that in, and it's not coincidental that I like it so much when it shares a similarity to a certain Thunderbird production run. It just says "custom car" all over (hell, even the headliner is sculpted already!)... and I dig the Cube for that immensely. It's light years beyond my first thoughts on the Scion xB, and flat-out makes me WANT it. Where the xB looked initially like some ice cream truck's genetically-deprived third cousin on its first trek into the big city, the Cube looks tremendously comfortable and confident in its skin, and the seating position keeps it all looking like a personal vehicle, and not the aforementioned treat delivery vessel.

Naturally, I began sketching ideas for these Cube's as soon as I laid eyes on them, and one idea kept knocking on my brain...
pck surfite cube
The "Surfite" of one Ed Roth has always ranked as a top ten custom car in my book, not only because it's so damn original, but it's also surf-oriented, and as you know, I love me some surf ANYTHING. And man... the little Cube not only calls out for a "lifestyle vehicle" treatment, but as a surf wagon??! Oh YES! Taking cues from Mr. Roth's lilliputian land rover,

roth's surfite
I plugged in classic hot rod and So-Cal VW styling cues, and attempted to honor the master "hisself" (as he'd say) with a modern take on the little Surfite. Pop-out side glass? Check. Asymmetrical tail light treatment? Check. Aggressive stance? Checkity-check. Custom trim and mild re-work all over? Double checkity-check. Take a very unusual car and make it even more personal/unique? Check, check, checkity-check check! It's useful, like the swing-out rear glass and flip-up side windows, to the small step built into the rear fascia, and, well... it just looks COOL. I dig it, and hope you do, too... And if so, holler at me, and I'll continue finishing what I've started in the sketch book, and show off an entire series, perhaps.

In the meantime, for all you hard-core Cube fabatics out there, I've made prints available at the request of the folks who have already seen the rendering HERE!

As an Alexander Brothers fan, I've always enjoyed a certain "quirky/futuristic" aesthetic when it comes to a kustom, and that taste is finding it's way into the artwork in a huge way. Think "Deora meets the modern day", and you're getting warm. Throw in some healthy Ed Roth influence, and by golly, we're getting there. Top it with some Winfield and Cushenbury asymmetrical appeal, and man, it just gets wilder by the second! It's been literally years since any new car has trapped my attention like this, and I'm stoked about it... Hope you are, too. and that you'll stay tuned as I play with a bunch of combinations and styles on this cool ride from Nissan...

You know, maybe that Rubik guy was on to something after all...
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Bargain travel at an even bigger discount...
05 MAY 09- ...think of it like Mardi Gras or Carnival, but like way more fun:
engine block
I wanted to draw your attention to a car we're featuring here on the site, and if you're interested, give a shout to Tim, and get rolling on completing the baddest pro-touring Falcon on the planet... for literally a fraction of the build cost.
I'd like to repeat that: A fraction of the build cost.
In a time of shaky investments, this is one of those great deals of a lifetime, and I'm not talking some bargain-basement, cobbled-together pile of third-rate parts... No, this is the real deal, loaded with prime goodies.
Pro-charged 4.6L Mustang Cobra engine by the tuning gurus at Ford Motorsport, Bowler's transmission, a kick-ass quick-change rear end, and to top it all off... a full-custom tube chassis:


Suffice to say, you couldn't build it for the asking price, and to top it all off, you'll even get support in showing/promoting the car. Hell, it's even got a full interior and sound system. Think of it as a boarding pass to stardom, and one hell of a deal on a great ride destined to raise a few goosebumps.
Click HERE for the details and contact info...
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A (40lb.) chip off the new block...
23 APR 09- ...literally ANYTHING to lose weight:
engine block
Project "Sick Seconds" is racing toward its debut at the SEMA Show (see it live in the Gear Vendors booth!), and a big part of the assembly process has been removing things... namely any pesky poundage. As a testimony to the serious approach being taken in this respect, imagine looking at the engine block and thinking "yeah, we can lose a few pounds there, too", and then milling 40 lbs. from the brand new piece? That's just what the gang at LSM Systems Engineering did, chiseling with fine precision at the outside of the block, working toward the valley tray:


As KMP Performance and Machine (the engine builder) said, "It's almost too nice to use!", and I think you'll agree with the photos here!

You can read more in the June 2009 Popular Hot Rodding Magazine, and be on the lookout for this monster on the show floor, the track... and even the street! The Camaro will be running 1,200 miles between tracks as part of Drag Week, so you'll have plenty of time to check it out in full race set-up, as well as street guise, wearing a set of absolutely killer Bilet Specialties wheels (16x16-inch beadlocks on the strip, and massive 20-inch rollers for street use) on Mickey Thompson rubber! More updates coming soon...
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Hung like...
2 APR 09- ...artwork:
pro-touring amc
Spent a few extra hours each night in the Studio getting some artwork ready to ship out to sunny California for a show this weekend. Beyond being all kinds of impressed with the 3-D glasses we ordered to go with our groovy new anaglyph prints, the reality of being in a gallery show with friends and heroes alike really began to set in, and to say it again, I'm pretty freakin' stoked...

gallery show

Anyway, all of this is a part of The Hot Rod Art Book Art Show and Book Signing at GINAC gallery, Santa Ana Art Walk this Saturday April 4, from 7PM – 10PM.

The Hot Rod Art Book: Masters of Chicken Scratch, launch party, which will include an art show of over a dozen of the original art works from the book and a book signing. As the press has said, "No hot rod art book has ever had such a long list of artists ranging from seasoned veterans to the newest up and coming artists. Not only does The Hot Rod Art Book contain over a 100 pages of beautiful hot rod art from a variety of artists, but also it includes tutorials from a past Hot Wheels designer, Dwayne Vance. It includes an instructional CD that shows the complete process from sketch to rendering plus a few extras. The book contains amazing artwork lifted from the sketchbooks of the hot rod industry's rising stars and established masters". And it's really THAT good, my bias aside.

Artists inside book include Dwayne Vance, Brian Stupski (hey, that's me!), Randy Ricklefs, John Bell, Eric Brockmeyer, Michael Miernik, Max Grundy, Jimmy Smith, James Owens, Justin Chin, Thom Taylor, Larry Wood, Steve Stanford.

I sent along four pieces for the show, and couldn't be happier with the way they came together. The frames are killer, and as my wife says "your stuff cleans up pretty well!" Uh... thanks...

automotive art

The dragster print came out incredibly well. I had finally found the time to complete the original art about a year ago, and this week marks its official public debut. The reaction has been overwhelming, and here's hoping it does justice hanging with the incredible talent that Dwayne assembled for the event. If you haven't grabbed a copy yet, check out the book, and if you happen to be in the area, check out the show and grab some art...
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Let them eat cheese...
24 MAR 09- ...or at least the dust left behind by this monster:
pro-touring amc
When the AMC Hornets were new, the ads read with slogans like "If you think it looks good, wait'll you feel it perform!", "It's not our strong guarantee that makes our Hornet a tough little car", and "It's beautiful when you fill it up"... Taking those sales pitches waaaaayyyy out of context bred the bright yellow beast above.

Right out of the box, I wanted to play up the automaker's legacy, by using some references to Wisconsin, naturally, and then just say "screw convention", and mess aound with a largely forgotten car... Thus, we have an AMC, some Green Bay colors, and, uh, well... that's about it, aside from the crappy "cheese" line at the start.

Moving along, I've had this sick road racing-inspired ride "buzzing" in my head for about two years, and have played with the drawing on and off over that time span. I had watched The Man With the Golden Gun some time back, and it re-kindled a love affair with all things AMC (even if it would have been better had they used Alice Cooper's song of the same name... but that's another story for another time). When the master, Steve Stanford played with some AMC concepts last year, it re-kindled my interest in the idea, and after seeing just how dedicated the AMC guys are, I finally got all of the sketches into one place.

The concept: A '74 Hornet built with a nod to the Mulholland road-race crowd of the '70's. A tube chassis with a 9-inch center section IRS and Corvette-based front suspension allows the car to sit right on the ground, and the full 'cage helps everyone insode feel safe as the world rushes by in a blur.
Speaking of "rushing by", motivational power would be via a twin turbo 360, backed by a six speed... no LS-motors or otherwise... this baby would be an AMC through-and-through.

Body-wise, a late-model Challenger hood would donate its center, while retaining the stock Hornet hood peak and emblem recess, as it looks almost natural that way. The factory parking lamps would hit the swap meet, and air inlets installed to feed the mighty engine. While we're up front, let's drill out the heavy front bumper, add some driving lights, and then lightly tuck it to the body, and rework the fenders for a flush-fit look. A chin spoiler and splitters further play up the idea, and help to cut through the night air.

Side-exit exhaust just looked so damn cool, and sitting as low as this thing does, it made sense, too. Out back, I'm seeing a pair of '89 Mustang LX tail lights (nothing personal, just never liked the stock units), and a notched rear bumper to show off the rear belly pan.

Just wanted to share one of the little "side" projects that always seem to be floating around the Studio, and show a little love to the hard-core AMC crowd. Hope you dig it...
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"Lost between tomorrrow and yesterday..."
18 MAR 09- ..."between now and then," sang Ray Davies...

And you know, that song has been stuck in my head for weeks. It's been years since I first heard the Kinks' song "Do It Again", and it kind of slid its way into the soundtrack of my life... What made me bring this up is the recent train of thought I've been on, with respect to my work, art and life in general. It seems that as things drift closer and closer to the absurd, I'm finding my inspiration in the very stuff that got me into this in the first place, which, as it turns out, is just absolutely beautiful.

Consider a few things, if you'll humor me (on what has become a long-ass post):

Like anything you find an interest in, eventually you move forward from that original starting point, and hopefully improve upon it, build your skills, and in some instances, find new inspiration someplace else. For me, my interest in art started with comic books, the MAD Magazine and CARtoons Magazine, finally leaping to fine art, namely surrealist paintings and Op-Art. While attending college, I majored in Fine Art, painting and drawing, and was thankfully exposed to a number of different styles, techniques, approaches... and I'd say that just about 90% of it was shit. Somewhere, it seems, craftsmanship was replaced by some rote technique, and "trendy" found a home in the one place it should have never been allowed.

My answer to that? I drew cars again. With the art world pandering to any two-bit hack with a brush, there was a certain peace in sketching hot rods and customs. I moved along with the times, bringing the digital tools into my work, and have continued to push the combinations of organic and electric. But every now and then, I slip into a comfortable routine, and just hit "auto pilot" for a bit... Yeah, I feel kind of guilty about that. I become the very thing that makes me rebel in the first place... And you know what? It's good. It brings about some good, I should say!

What's truly unique about this particular moment is that I have, for the first time, combined a lot of those early influences into my work at the same time. It's been amazing, and only getting better! The point here, though, isn't so much about what has BEEN inspired, but more WHAT has inspired.

I looked back at my more artsy roots, and recall the first time I saw Victor Vasarely's work "Vega-Nor", an Op-Art ("optical art") piece at the Albright-Knox.


This painting warped my young brain... not surprising, as that was its intent... After all, the point of Op-Art is to toy with one's perception, using color and line. I really learned more about using line quality from that piece than anywhere else! It was later in life, while working on a rendering that I stopped to consider just how much depth you could create on paper just with line pressure... up until then, I had a pretty good idea, but the process and idea just seemed, well, natural. Vasarely, mind you, was well ahead of his time. Granted, this whole Op-Art movement was set in motion by the German mathematician (and artist!) Josef Albers, who experimented in the '30's with color, working to create spatial effects, but Vasarely moved it forward, working to create work that all could enjoy and take part in... kind of an anti-agenda, if you will... and as for being ahead of his time? Consider that in 1953, the man stated that "In the future, we will attend projected exhibits by contemporary artists. Two days will suffice to send a large show by envelope to any point in the globe. And in the attached letter, as in some sort of partition, in cyphers and terminology, the artist will present the initial and true conditions of his creation."

Holy (expletive) premonition!!

Continuing this thought, he added that "from now on, the new technologies are here to diffuse art instantaneously to the masses." Ponder this.... the man essentially predicted email, and the use of a means to reach millions in moments, using art coupled with technology. Thinking about this over the past few weeks, it hit me that truly, I was, like the Kinks song mentioned earlier, getting back to where I started! (definitely "lost between tomorrow and yesterday, between now and then"!) Here I am, playing with technology, and bringing in the old techniques. How cool is THAT??! (of course, to keep my cred with the artsy camp, I could point out the irony of using a pop band to illustrate an awakening based in art itself... that should buy some time and sound deep, too)

Over on the opposite side of this note, we have the unseen forces that make it all happen... Beyond the lines and colors and techniques, we have the almost intangible combinations of things that inspire a work to begin with. It's that collection of inspirations that bring us to grab a pencil to begin with... all of those thoughts and items that begin to form a mental image. Each piece, no matter how insignificant on its own adds to the total. By concentrating on these smallest parts, a bigger picture forms... On that thought, I suppose that this is why I've always held a certain disdain for the Nihilistic approach, as it makes no sense at all. To simply start with nothing, and build upon nothing to acheive, well... nothing... is completely illogical. Every little spark springs forth something bigger than itself, and if you've been fortunate to surround yourself with positive, creative influences, then you're going to boldly go where no man has gone before, to to blatantly lift a phrase. Everything has some value, it has to by its very nature... Your job, then, is to not only recognize what is there, but determine its value, and find the right place for it in your work (or life!). Victor Hugo made the point that "There is no such thing as nothingness, and zero does not exist. Everything is something. Nothing is nothing."

So, I suppose, it's remotely odd that I'd look fondly upon Op-Art and Surrealism so fondly, when either could, at any moment fall over the edge into Nihilism, and eat itself. Perhaps that is what makes it so damn fascinating to me in the first place. Walking that very fine line, and doing its own thing for shits and giggles. It's the same reason that I enjoy the whole "Theater of the Absurd" movement (and its relevance to modern life)... it takes something so necessary for communication (language), and places complete distrust in it, opting for an alternative to illustrate a point... Combvine that with the paragraph above, and you'll gain insight to my values system, and just why I work as hard as I do: If you consistently think, walk and work outside of the box, you're going to find some truly unique ways to approach a creative project or problem, and the end result will be something loaded with fresh meaning.

It's no different than customizing a car, really. You simply have to look beyond what was placed in front of you (the stock car), and find a new way to express an alternate form from it. Consider that, in linguistic terms, having the same car as everyone else would be, by nature, a cliche'. While the Theater of the Absurd attempted to show an audience through an onslaught of cliche's, overly-technical jargon and essentially unconventional speech that they could elevate their communication by seeking more authentic means, and thus communication more clearly, customizing a car communicates non-verbally, and far more effectively that we are all individuals. It goes light years beyond the spoken or written word (which is why, most likely, that the photos in car magazines are so big compared to the text!) And perhaps that's a scientific explanation of why a mild custom works so well... there is beauty in simplicity, and by golly, when applied to a car, it transcends art.

What's also neat about this whole Theater of the Absurd/Op-Art/Brian's listening to the Kinks again deal is how there really is no conflict when done right... much like designing a kick-ass custom. Flow is everything! Consider this video (a visual version of "Bulbous Bouffant" by the Vestibules, a long-time favorite of mine)... Consider the communication... odd, not a lot of sense, but it entertains, and finds a rhythm:

Like any good design, it drags you along for the ride, enjoying the flow, and really not asking for a hell of a lot in return. And that, my friend, is a magical thing... When you can combine a couple of things, and just make it "happen", it's icing on the cake. Here's hoping you'll stay tuned and enjoy the ride! To say the least, I'm pretty stoked about where its all heading now, and the clients I've been fortunate enough to have are right along on this ride, making it even more fun. Like the song at the start of this entry says, "day after day I get up and I say I better do it again", and that takes us, literally, back to where we started...
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I received an incredible honor...
19 FEB 09- ...and I'm just about speechless.

I have had the incredible fortune of making some fantastic friends while doing what I love for a living. No doubt about it, I'm blessed to stumble across some great people, and able to make friends, thanks to my ability to sketch a car... Anyway, I had started to sketch up some ideas for another client-turned-friend and his '33 Ford project a while back, and we've been approaching the car at a leisurely pace while he finishes his latest tour of duty in Afghanistan.

As friends of the Studio know, I hold the utmost respect for our men and women serving this country, and am always eager to assist with their projects... There's a great tie between hot rodding and the armed forces, and these are the folks who make it possible for me to do what I love for a living. In any event, my friend Brian (what a coincidence!) flies helicopters in search of the bad guys, and is just a great guy to converse with... and is plotting one hell of a clean street rod project, and I jumped into this with a serious amount of energy. After all, creating something to stir this guy's sense of excitement will be a challenge and a half. Suffice to say, it's another of those grand moments in the Studio when friendship springs from talking cars. Again, good fortune in finding some great people.

To make a long story short, Brian and the brave souls of the 159th CAB Task Force Tunder flew a flag in my (and the Studio's!) honor in a combat mission on December 21, 2008.

I opened a box we received last week to find this:

blackie and mary

Words, quite honestly, fail to describe the the thanks, pride and absolute shock we all share here for this... Truly, this is beyond anything I've been lucky enough to be granted before, and will definitely share an honored space in the Studio for generations to come...

I hope that you'll take a moment to think a good thought, say a prayer, or find some way to thank the people serving and protecting our country, rights and freedoms. In an age of apathy, non-patriotic attitudes, and flat-out belligerence and greed, it's inspiring to know that there are truly some outstanding individuals working together to retain all that our forefathers fought to gain for us... Thank you, all who currently serve, or have in the past, and thank you, my friend for this amazing honor.

Thanks for indulging me in this amazing moment...
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GNRS Hall of Fame Luncheon...
5 FEB 09- ...was a blast.
I was fortunate to have been invited to the Hall of Fame Luncheon at the 60th Grand National Roadster Show, thanks to my friends and clients Paul and his son Erik Hansen (for whom I designed their '52 Buick "Resilience").
blackie and mary
What's incredible about this event, beyond the amazing group of hot rodding and custom car legends that attend, is the history that these people share, and the many stories they tell. It's this insight to the history of our industry, the GNRS and the cars that makes this a must-see-at-least-once-in-your-lifetime event (and well worth all of those hyphens!).

Check out Dave Bell's artwork, created in honor of this momentous occasion:

I shot a few videos between conversation at our table, feasting on some chow, and just generally looking around the room for cool autograph opportunities, and wanted to share a few of them here.

The legendary Blackie Gejeian is well-known for his marathon speeches, and this day was no exception! It was amazing to hear him relay tales of the earliest days of the show, and to compare those times with the current state of the GNRS. He told a heart-wrenching story about Al Slonaker (founder of the show), and shared the podium with the late Al's wife, Mary, who was honored during the luncheon. Blackie also shared a great tale of the first show car to use a mirror in its display (and insight as to WHERE that mirror came from...).

Custom car legend Dick Bertolucci took the podium, and shared some stories, as well.... Most notably about the master of metalwork, Harry Westergard. (I was fortunate to share a distant connection with this legend, having been commissioned to draw a Westergard-customized Cadillac, when Kurt McCormick restored the car a couple of years back) It was an absolutely fantastic time listening to these stories, and just sitting in a room with legends... hell, with the very heroes I grew up reading about. I can't say "thanks" enough to have had this opportunity, and to have been able to make a living doing what I love, sharing the same passion as these greats. On that note, it was truly an honor to witness Thom Taylor's induction to the GNRS Hall of Fame (in the same weekend that The Hot Rod Art Book debuted, in which I am fortunate to share some pages with him!), as his work was instrumental in my decision to pursue hot rod and custom car design as a career. A very cool moment indeed.

I hope you enjoy the videos...
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Resilience on display...
23 JAN 09- ...after months of long days, longer nights, and nothing short of extreme dedication from some absolutely remarkable, talented and great friends, Resilience hit the floor of building 5 of the 60th Annual Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona! Erik and Paul Hansen's "Strange Buick" more than lived up to its name, and stuck it out through what looked to be some bleak times in the past few weeks, and pulled off a strong finish! I'll spare the heavy details for after the show, but wanted to put up a few words and photos to share he excitement with you. If you can, grab a copy of the new Rod and Custom Magazine, and check out the original rendering for the car.
art book
Here's a couple more shots of the car... can you tell that we're proud? If you get a chance, we hope you'll stop by to check it out and say "hi" to everyone!

front end

More soon...
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The heart of Resilience...
6 JAN 09- strong!
About a year ago at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, I met with Tim Strange and the Hansens, Erik and Paul, to discuss a project that we had been kicking around. I was absolutely floored by the way we all just meshed with ideas… the creativity that morning just flowed, and there was an incredible amount of collaboration. It foreshadowed the great time we’ve all had on the project…

Tim’s incredibly long days and nights notwithstanding. In any event, the big Buick project began moving forward, and true to its name, “Resilience”, it’s shaping up to be one amazing custom car, with a ton of classic and modern touches that reflect not only the golden age of the craft, but the personalities of everyone involved. I’m stoked about this car like none before it, and can’t say enough good about the way it has progressed from paper to steel, and hope you’ll enjoy it, too when it hits the floor at the Grand National Roadster Show. You may recognize Tim’s name from, well, everywhere… and the Hansens from their 2005 AMBR-winning “Sedeuced”. While I can’t give away too much here, I did want to thank some of the great and talented folks involved so far in making the car come to reality, and share a sneak peek at the killer induction….
art book
Thanks to Carrie Strange (keep sneaking the Rockstars in Tim’s soup!), Dave Neal, Shawn Ray, Jim Decrane, Chuck Heerde, Dan & Betty Strange, Jesse Greening (and his crew at Greening Auto Works), Mark Rolen, John Loveridge, Tucci Hot Rods, AutoRon’s, Classic Instruments, Air Ride Technologies, BF Goodrich, Dynamat, Flowmaster, Hot Hues by DuPont, Iwata Spray Guns, Kicker Car Audio, Motorhead Design House, Pearlcraft, Advanced Plating, and supportive families, significant others, and energy drink and coffee suppliers from IL to AZ to CA.. and look for more sneak peeks soon.
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In the company of heroes...
12 DEC 08- ...surrounded by some great friends in the process!
art book
As a wide-eyed kid, I'd flip open the latest car magazines and drool over the works of my hot rod design heroes... Guys like Charlie Smith, Thom Taylor and Steve Stanford were (and still are!) the guys I looked up to, hoping to one day at least meet these giants among men. They, and other artists like them were my inspiration to head out and do what I love. Never did I dream that I'd be able to make a career of it, but the world works in an odd way... That, along with long days and longer nights paid off in allowing me to do something I love for a living.
Along the way, I have been beyond fortunate to have made great friends, and meet guys I read about in books as a kid, and all have played a great role in making those Math class dreams a reality. One such friend has been the immensely talented Dwayne Vance, a guy who cranks out work that continually makes my head spin, and who has contributed hours of enlightening and entertaining conversation over the years. When Dwayne called and asked for some samples of my work for a book project, I was floored... When he mentioned the names to appear in it, I was speechless... He rounded up Randy Ricklefs, John Bell, James Owens, Eric Brockmeyer, Michael Miernik, Max Grundy, Jimmy Smith, Justin Chin, Thom Taylor, Larry Wood and Steve Stanford! A veritable Who's Who in our industry... and he had asked me to be a part of this... Amazing. Just amazing! To walk amongst giants like this, well... I still have no idea what to say, except "thank you, man". Thanks for the friendship, the support, the laughs, and the honest critiques, which undoubtedly have pushed me harder and further in my craft when it was most needed. Absolutely priceless.
book sample
...and speaking of priceless, the book will be packaged with an instructional CD by Dwayne to accompany the outstanding look into how Dwayne does what he does! Quite possibly, this may be one of the premier Hot Rod art books of our generation, and hopefully it finds a spot on bookshelves all over the world, and becomes just what it should be: A valuable resource for countless wide-eyed kids drawing hot rods on folders in classrooms everywhere, gearing up for the day when we "old timers" can read THEIR incredible books.
The book is available for pre-order HERE, and after the official release, you may also order it here on my site, as well as a number of other retail sites and stores.
Thanks again, my friend... and congratulations on not only living your dream, but for aiding in mine as well...
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"Sick Seconds"...
05 DEC 08- ...go ahead... say it out loud a few times... faster now. It just sorta rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?
I was beyond stoked to get the phone call from Denny Terzich regarding the latest bad-boy project getting underway at ProRides... It was an honor to talk with him and make a new friend to begin with, but even sweeter was that his call was the result of another referral... Nothing makes my day like knowing that a client thought enough of me to "tell a friend"! Suffice to say, it's another drag car, and shares that killer stance and blistering performance we've come to expect after their 2007 Drag Week harbinger of speed '67 Camaro. Dig the rendering...
After accomplishing a major record in Hot Rod Magazine's Drag Week 2007, ProRides is about to embark on a new level of performance never seen before.
Not only did ProRides head to Drag Week with the intention of beating the old record (think mid-low 8 second 1/4 mile times!), but to finish the event, driving 1,000 miles while pulling a trailer. While the bets were being placed that the clean black Camaro wouldn't even finish the week, the car shook the hot rod and race world by posting a first pass E.T. of 7.64. Truly the pass heard 'round the world! Granted, the ProRides team was as surprised as anyone, and the venture served to underscore the positive results that come from combining great companies and partnerships with a thorough process.

After talking to Rob Kinnan of Hot Rod Magazine at this year's Drag Week, the ProRides crew had the idea of building a 6-second ET capable car to drive the grueling 1,000 mile Drag Week course. Imagine.... a 6 second ET vehicle driving 200-300 miles per day while pulling a trailer!!! Unheard of, and a true torture test for the components involved... While many have claimed they have a street car that is very fast and even some that state in the 6 second E.T. range, it's obvious that anyone can idle around at a local car cruise or show. The true test is actually driving the car on the street. This is the reason why the "Fastest Street Car in America" can only be crowned at this event.
Coverage of the build will be inside of Hot Rod Magazine's "Project Garage" section and on their website. ProRides is also working with Scott Killeen of the BuildBook series to document the entire build... and if you'll be at the show, check out the rolling chassis at PRI, in the SunCoast Racecars Booth, # 363 South Hall. And of course, look for more updates, as well as that crazy grin plastered to my face...
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