Monday, October 12, 2009

High Desert Swap Meet Redmond Oregon part 4: Rat Rods and the Pendulum of Style

The beginning of hot rods, 1950: make it faster. The next step: make it original.

If you were in the first group, you spent your time under the hood. In those days, if you were dealing with an inline 6, you could actually stand on the garage floor, butt against the inside of a front fender, and be up close and personal with valves, carburetion and the conducting of high amperage spurts of electrical energy.

Second group? You know sandpaper, you know mallets and dollies, Bondo, primer, more sanding, masking, masked up, and the ultimate joy of wheeling her out into the sun for the first real look. You would see a part on an Oldsmobile and imagine how it could be blended into your Ford, and then go home and by golly do it.

I was a-fringe of all this my high school years, never having the resources for my own vehicle but enjoying riding shotgun with Jan, and Hank, and Ken.

The 90 weight lube and lacquer thinner didn't make it to my bloodstream but I did follow hotroddom through the years as a casual observer.

When they got to jacking up one side of a car at a car show and sliding a mirror under it to show the virginal perfection there, they lost me. It wasn't about go, it wasn't about how it looked to the girls as we cruised by and it ceased to be about clever adaptations of truck parts to car or converting three taillights on one side to sequential performance. Instead it was the manifestation of an obsessive compulsive disorder applied to the connections between shock absorbers and axles and the absolute perversity of chrome run amok.

Enter the Rat Rod. As I have drifted ever closer to the outward marge of the periphery I have not been able to chronicle the pendulum hitting Side Dead Center with a clang and subsequently breeding, on the antipode, the Rat Rod.

Functional, clearly done with a budget, joyously free, untouched by any kind of perfectionism and unequivocally devoted to the absolute independence of the creator, these machines are singing their siren song on a specific frequency. At last: hot rodding accessible to Everyman.

The images show several of them from the Swap Meet of September 2009, Redmond Oregon. I celebrate their existence, their presence, their uniqueness and sometimes, idly, wonder just how much money and how much welding it might take to get on board.

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