Kustom Kars- an American art form

  First off, you may be asking, why spell Kustom with a K?  Because George Barris does, that's why.  He started it around 1950, and it sort of stuck; his shop is House of Kustoms, where he shoots Kustom Kandy Kolors onto Kool Kars!  It's a little more culturally-rooted than you might think.
   Kustomizing is the quintessential American layman's art.  Post-WWII teenagers and young GIs found themselves with a little time & money to burn, and the rest is history.  You don't need  a degree or an apprenticeship, or even good taste, to build your own Kustom.  Just learn to use some shop tools like an arcwelder and a chopsaw, and dig right in.  Put 'car' where you want 'car', and cut it away where you don't want it.  Suffice to say, this approach has often led to cars that were hideous, dangerous, or both.  Hey, every slab of marble can't be the next Venus de Milo- the point is, everybody has access to this creative outlet.  That's what makes Kustoms so Kool.  It is our century's artform for everyman. Kustomizers are the beatnik-next-door!
   Before I get too far into this, I want to talk shit about some people.  You see a lot of cars in magazines that must've cost $100,000 to build.  They were contract-built by shops and paid for by a rich person who wanted to have the coolest car in town.  They trailer their cars from show to show, and everyone ooohs and aaahs at the fine piece of work before them.  I've really got nothing against these guys and their cars, but let's be realistic.  At best they are patrons of the art.  They are certainly not artists themselves.  The only benefit we reap from their extravagance is that they help pay the bills at some fine garages around the country.  The chassis shop charges me $40 an hour, and charges Richie Rich $150 an hour.  It all evens out and everybody walks away happy... catch my drift?  And ocasionally, something new and interesting may show up on one of these trailer-queens, but don't hold your breath.  They are generally to rodding what Bloomingdale's is to fashion: clean, well-made merchandise but nothing too ground-breaking.
   The early days of hotrodding and customizing were tough, and only for the truly perseverant.  Parts that we can buy off the shelf at Hod Rod Hut, those guys had to make.  How do you think guys like Dean Moon, Vic Edelbrock, and Carroll Shelby got to be household names (at least in my household)?  They MADE cool stuff for their own cars, then other people wanted one, and so on.  True pioneers in the infant stages of what is now a multibillion dollar industry.
   Despite the obstacles, guys swapped motors into places they couldn't really fit, shaved their door handles off, frenched in their headlights, made up whacked paint schemes, all kinds of hard work, in garages and backyards nationwide. They poured sweat, blood, and money into their toys, trying to get their vision of perfection hammered into reality.  Tough guys went fast, and cool guys looked cool, but there was (and still is) a lot of overlap between a 'Kustom' and a 'Hot Rod'.  The Rodders are a little more high-speed, and the Kustomizers a  little more esthetic, that's all.
  I can't think of anything alse to write; I think maybe it's all been written before.  Below are a few links to introduce you to the outrageous art of Kustom Kars. Also, check out my encounter with Big Daddy Ed Roth himself!

George Barris- House of Kustoms
Big Daddy Ed Roth
Rumpsville Rod Shop
Kustoms of America
Road Zombies


Car Culture in L.A.
My Next Garage Project

Fred's FreakMobile


Front Door
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