The old car culture has evolved significantly over the past decade. It was not too long ago that rust was the enemy of almost every aficionado. Today, it seems like it is being looked at as an advantage. While many still want the traditional approach in car restoration, the appeal of an unrestored original is just too hard to resist. After all, a car is only original once. However, it’s not just true survivors decorated by mother nature that I’m talking about. It includes those that are intentionally built and modified but retaining its patina. I guess I’m one of those once conservative but now a convert when it comes to rust buckets. I’m a big fan. No, I don’t endorse unsafe builds, but somehow there is just so much cool factor in patina.
So how did this craze ever begin? It’s hard to point a finger when it started, as rusted and patina cars have been part of the car culture as far back as hot-rodding is. However, you can go back to just a few years ago, and you’ll see these cars are still not welcome in many traditional classic car shows. And while the term “rat rod” was once a derogatory word, it now evolved not just as something acceptable, but as a term for a sub culture within the hotrod community that is now bordering desirability. How did such an underground culture of the car world surfaced to be among the mainstream in hot rodding?
One of the big names that contributed to rust bucket’s popularity today is David Freiburger, one of the longest editor in chief of Hot Rod Magazine, and host of the very popular web car show Roadkill, a spinoff from Hot Rod and Motor Trend Magazines. The show celebrates the cheap, less desirable cars and the fun that goes with it. It is a countercultural approach to the mindset that you need to spend half of your retirement pay to be able to afford an old car. Although Roadkill is a relatively new show, Freiburger’s idea of incorporating beat-up cars to a hyper-traditional Hot Rod Magazine dates back to the early 90s, a new concept frowned upon by the elite separatists. However, over the years, it started spreading like wildfire. To date, car events are never complete without these cool down to earth rust-bucket ratty rides.
When fun is taken out of an equation and what’s left is given to an elite few, it becomes a bubble that gets big for a short while but dies immediately when it bursts. Back in the day, old cars were just what they are – old used vehicles that nobody really cared about. I guess most of us that has been involved with the car culture for a long time could testify to that. Who really wanted an old Impala, or a beat-up VW Country Buggy that we call Sakbayan, or even a gas-guzzling Mustang back in the day? But when the law of supply and demand kicks in, all of a sudden, everyone thinks their old dilapidated rides are now worth more than their true value. Partly they are right. Many old cars became unaffordable and has turned into nothing more than an investor’s portfolio. While we love the Boss 429s or the Yenko Camaros, it is no longer realistic for an average car person to own one as prices have skyrocketed beyond reach. Pessimists say the bubble is killing the hobby, but I believe otherwise.
If necessity is the mother of inventions, it is but normal for any car guy to find its way out of the new norm. That’s when the older less valuable rust buckets eventually became big in the hobby. Old more door sedans, station wagons, old jeeps or trucks started getting the attention of car people. And while true survivor – unrestored original is still worth a fortune, especially when the car is highly desirable, there are now a whole bunch of old vehicles out there that people can afford, and have fun resurrecting them so they become not only weekend cars and coffee novelties, but even daily drivers. And when bread trucks and hearses are now being revived, it simply shows that the hobby is well alive. Just like good old Swatch that kept Swiss watch industry from its demise, thanks to these old beat up rust buckets that are here to stay and will keep the hobby alive – at least for many of us average folks. So go out there get your hands dirty. You don’t really need a shiny paint to enjoy your ride. There are mirrors out there if what you want to see is your own reflection.
Happy Lumang Oto Motoring