FLAG MAN

Hot Rod Deluxe - - Contents - —DREW HARDIN

Com­plaints, yours and mine.

The in­box lately has been full of the usual in­ter­est­ing mix of old-timey pho­tos and fond mem­o­ries, leav­ened with folks call­ing us out for the mis­takes that creep into our copy, whether by over­sight or lack of knowl­edge. Two stand out, though, com­plain­ing that I’ve run too many early 1930s Fords in the mag­a­zine.

Wait, what?

Yes, two sim­i­lar cars ran on back-to­back cov­ers re­cently, Tom Mor­ris’s red Model A road­ster in Nov. 2018 and Austin Grabowski’s ma­roon ’32 road­ster in Jan. 2019. Yet they told such dif­fer­ent sto­ries. One was a survivor from the late 1940s, teach­ing us lessons of how hot rods were built 60 years ago. The other was crafted by a 21st cen­tury col­lege stu­dent who took those decades-old lessons and made them his own.

Look at it an­other way: If you haven’t al­ready, turn to the col­lec­tion of dry-lakes racing pho­tos from 1948 that make up our cover story (p. 34). What kinds of cars do you see? Aside from a cou­ple of belly tanks, the vast ma­jor­ity are Fords—model Ts, Model As, ’32 road­sters. Much like our ed­i­to­rial plan.

When I took over this mag­a­zine from Dave Wal­lace five years ago, I came here with none of his drag racing ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise. So I nudged the mag­a­zine to­wards its name­sake, hot rods, with an eye to­wards those cars that dis­till the essence of tra­di­tional rodding, be they his­toric cars or those built in their like­ness decades later. Dave elected to stay on with us in a con­tribut­ing role, bring­ing his life on the dragstrip to bear in a num­ber of ways. It’s most ob­vi­ous in his cov­er­age of the vin­tage meets at Famoso, and the oc­ca­sional drag car fea­tures he writes. But he has branched out, too, with his much-praised his­tor­i­cal es­says that mine the Petersen pho­to­graphic ar­chives for un­seen, un­pub­lished gems.

Hon­estly (and maybe de­fen­sively), I think that com­plain­ing that we run too many old Fords is like telling the ed­i­tor of Su­per Chevy mag­a­zine that he runs too many Chevys. The terms hot rod and old Ford are nearly syn­ony­mous, I fig­ure. Nearly.

Ob­vi­ously there’s room for other kinds of cars. And with these com­plaints in mind, I’ll take a fresh look at my 2019 ed­i­to­rial cal­en­dar. The Gasser is­sue will be in pro­duc­tion soon, and if plans come to­gether, there will be an his­toric Willys on that cover. Maybe I can put off the Model A spe­cial for a few more is­sues, and re­place it with … what? That’s my job to fig­ure out, but I’m open to sug­ges­tions.

Art for Art’s Sake

When the Los An­ge­les Times re­viewed the “Auto-di­dac­tic” ex­hibit at the Petersen Au­to­mo­tive Mu­seum re­cently (see Roddin’ @ Ran­dom, page 12), art critic Christo­pher Knight took the mu­seum to task for “white­wash­ing” Ken­neth Howard, aka Von Dutch, whose works ap­peared in the gallery. Knight’s is­sue was that none of the ma­te­rial about or in the ex­hibit men­tioned Howard’s anti-semitism and Nazi sym­pa­thies.

As ev­i­dence of those be­liefs, Knight cited a graph­i­cally racist let­ter Howard wrote shortly be­fore his death, a let­ter that was printed in a Los An­ge­les Mag­a­zine pro­file about the artist/pin­striper/ma­chin­ist.

Knight also saw in Von Dutch’s trade­mark fly­ing eye­ball “an ado­les­cent’s ma­li­cious car­toon riff on the wreathed swastika sur­mounted by a winged ea­gle . . . that was an em­blem of . . . Nazi Ger­many. Sent aloft on flap­ping wings, the artist’s all-see­ing eye, blood­shot from booze, re­places the Nazi hooked cross nes­tled in­side the cir­cle of a vic­to­ri­ous lau­rel wreath.”

Now, big­otry of any kind is ab­hor­rent and should not be tol­er­ated. Pe­riod. End of dis­cus­sion. But . . . is this con­text al­ways nec­es­sary? Are we ob­li­gated to de­scribe Von Dutch’s ad­mit­tedly ugly personal views ev­ery time we print a photo of a car he striped? By the same to­ken, do we need to men­tion Henry Ford’s anti-semitic be­liefs with ev­ery Deuce road­ster car fea­ture we print? Can’t the car, or art, stand on its own mer­its? Or am I be­ing naïve?

The ’57 Fords of Chuck Stevensen (on the pole) and Troy Ruttman shared the front row at this April 1957 USAC race held at Para­mount Ranch Race­track in Agoura Hills, Cal­i­for­nia. Ruttman would go on to win, lead­ing 48 of the race’s 50 laps. Dur­ing the two years it op­er­ated, the un­du­lat­ing, 2-mile course was most of­ten used by the Cal­i­for­nia Sports Car Club, but two Stock Car races were held there too, in Novem­ber 1956 and this one, the track’s penul­ti­mate race. A se­ries of racing-re­lated fa­tal­i­ties caused the track to close, though it led a sec­ond life as a film­ing lo­ca­tion. The ranch, which Para­mount Pic­tures bought it in 1927, has been the set­ting for movies and TV shows. In Novem­ber, most of the ranch was de­stroyed by the fast-mov­ing Woolsey Fire that de­nuded so much of the Mal­ibu area, though, re­mark­ably, the white Chapel and rail­road sta­tion sets used in HBO’S West­world were un­dam­aged.

• PIC: RAY BROCK

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