Monday, February 2, 2009


Long before Muroc Army Airforce Base there was the dry lakes.
During the 1930's this perfect flat desert landscape was the testing ground for man and machine, a legacy that would continue for years afterwards when this arid geological oddity would become a United States Army Airforce Testing facility ( see the movie "The Right Stuff".

On the 15th May 1938, Life magazine sent its photographer, William Carroll, out to the dry lakes to capture the birth of the Hot Rod Phenomena. The photographs were never published.
On June the 20th 1938, during another impromptu rod meet, a military unit showed up claiming the Dry Lakes for the Army Airforce and evicting the Hot rodders.
Weeks later the Army Airforce painted the outlines of two battleships on Muroc's flat mud surface and then began bombing practice in pre-WWII aircraft.

The book "The Day the Hotrods Ran", was complied from the Life Magazine photos taken on that May day in 1938. This visual relic is one one the most defining examples of the moment when Hotrodding captured the imagination of so many. The book covers the entire day from pre-dawn preparations to the actual meet.

What drew me to this book was the fact that it shows a rare glimpse of the style of the era. Being a vintage clothing collector and an avid fan of period style, especially the 1930's and 1940's, I found this reference an amazing insight into the actuals of the day. In our age it is so easy to get caught up in the fashion dictates of the moment, especially when many profess to encompass themselves in identifying labels such as Rockabilly, Kustom Kulture and the like. These labels in truth are just an excuse to find exceptance with others of a similar ilk. The truth I believe is that its all just about fashion and adopting a style that, well is generic. Any Rod meet or Kustom Car show these days is awash with the obvious and the homogenised. Rarely do we see people who have a genuine depth of appreciation to explore the genre beyond what is commercial available.

There are truthfully some exceptions. What I find interesting is this, with so much original reference available, such as this magnificent book, how come individuals find it so difficult to get 'it' right?
The photos in this book are an incredible resource. The photos show every type of iconic vintage fashion idea around, we have a visual style world bedecked in coveralls, selvedged denim, engineers boots, loggers boots, club jackets, flight jackets, Naval deck jacket, Half belted cycle jackets, pilots caps, sailor caps, white t-shirts, pendleton, cayuse and trade blankets, aviation goggles, chinos, work pants and much much more. For someone with an eye for detail its a surplus world that would provide a lifetime of style reference. There's all this and we haven't even begun to talk about the Rods themselves and what reference that would provide for any motor enthusiast. With so much going on and what's more so accessible to people it never ceases to amaze me how you can get it all so wrong. This is the Papa's opinion of course, but I do know somethings for fact and that is the only ones that seem to be truely on the right track are the Japanese. They appear to be the ones who are able to pick and choose those points of reference that are on the money. Sure there's a hand full of us others, I know some of them amd Im sure there's plenty more out there but we are after all talking generalities here. So the message really is just about opening your eyes to the endless opportunity to explore really cool stuff, regardless of genre and the comfort of creating your own being without following the dictates of the moment.

No comments:

Post a Comment