Hot rodding and customizing were born and still thrive in Southern California
The hobbies, then the businesses, of hot rodding and car customizing were born and nurtured in Southern California. Now they've become an integral part of a car culture so distinct that most major automakers have established design centres in the area just to keep on top of current trends. But the individual's need to be different from even those cars designed in and for California is as strong as ever.
It's just the subjects of their ardour that has changed, resulting in a plethora of unique vehicles ranging from one-off Bentleys and McLarens with monster aftermarket wheels and wild paint jobs to a wide array of hot rods, off-road vehicles and other interesting mechanized art work. Here are some examples that found their way to a basement level display at the 2015 Los Angeles International Auto Show.
Zelectric Motors will bring your air-cooled Volkswagen into the 21st century or locate and customize one for you. Porsches, Karmann Ghias, Things, and Buses, all are candidates. The result is an electric VW with a 22 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, 65 kWh electric motor supplying 120 lb. ft. of torque and a 130-km. There is a built-in charge port for Level 1 or 2 home or public charging.
Zelectric Motors says no metal is cut or welding on during the conversion from air-cooled internal combustion to electrification. The electric power train is coupled to a rebuilt four-speed manual transmission through as heavy duty clutch and lightened flywheel. The vehicle is lowered and custom sway bars, shocks and disc brakes utilized.
The Galpin GTR1 is the first coach built supercar from Galpin, a California Ford dealer with 60-year legacy of customizing vehicles. The GTR1 is based on the 2005-6 Ford GT and shows what it may have looked and performed like had it continued its evolution. The GTR1 has a hand crafted all-aluminum body and a twin-turbo 5.4-litre V-8 engine producing an estimated 1024 hp and 739 lb-ft of torque.
That’s not chrome, it’s paint! First unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show last year, the Kuhl Racing GT-R’s stunning metallic finish is dubbed “3D Ultimate Engraving Metal Paint”. Patterned with scales, crisscrosses, stripes, and even a floral design it is neither paint nor carving, but a bit of both called Artic 3D, a process where a material shaped to the curvature of the car’s panels is “engraved” by hand as it is pressed on the car much like fancy business cards with embossed print, on a much smaller scale.
The Iron Orchid is a one-off, period-correct ’34 Ford 5-window coupe, built by Dave Shuten of GAS using innovative materials and finishes. Clear blue acrylic panels were used for the windshield, windows and in select spaces, allowing the driver to see the working mechanicals of the car, including the chromed transmission internals. The 1964 Ford 427 side-oiler V-8 engine is mated to a 1965 Ford top-loader 4-speed transmission
The Galpin folks have lovingly recreated the famous Grasshopper Roadster from the late '50s, a ‘23 T-Bucket body shell and hot rod chassis painted in “Crème de Mint” with lots of chrome and a ’57 Oldsmobile V-8 bored and stroked to 480 cubic inches. The big Enderle blower provides 18 pounds of boost. The frame, chrome bell housing and even the brake backing plates were drilled to reduce weight.
The Zinger VW is a quarter-scale Beetle with a full-sized supercharged engine blasting out of the hood - er, roof! It started as a clay model and finished in fiberglass. End-to-end, side-to-side and top-to-bottom, two Volkswagen Zingers fit in the space of a full-scale Volkswagen. This is just one of many Zingers, a collection of cars built solely for promotional purposes by a custom car builder not long out of his teens.
California’s unique car culture is heavily populated with low-riders, vehicles that have been modified so that ground clearance is minimal. This is accomplished in part by the use of small tires, but mostly by extensive suspension changes including lowering blocks, dropped spindles and cut springs.
The suspensions of many low-riders incorporate hydraulic lift systems with pumps and valves that can alter the ride height at each corner, individually. Among the more popular cars for this treatment are late-50s Chevrolets such as the 1958 Impala.
The low riders also receive extensive attention to detail inside and under the hood with incredibly intricate work on everything from paint to trim and, of course, lot of chrome and often, wire wheels.
Wheels are one of the easiest ways to personalize a vehicle. There are more choices than you could possibly imagine with every size, shape and colour under the sun including these furry 30-inchers.
In California where the roads are smooth and free of frost heaves and other nasty surface acne, big wheels and ultra-low-profile tires are a mainstay, such as these Asanti wheels on a Maybach, wrapped in 275/25/24 tires.
Even Fiats get the treatment, both old...
... and new!
This original Mini is fitted with a Honda S2000 engine.
Off-roaders, too, are ripe for the California treatment. Nothing is exempt!
The MKZ, introduced just last year, has been heavily revised for 2017
Foresters have a lot to recommend them but can develop a thirst for oil
Exciting driving dynamics back up contemporary attractiveness