The All American Hot Rod


I don’t know what kind of inspiration struck me recently, but there was something in my head that I just had to do – photograph my Dad’s hot rod.  Maybe it was Independence Day, maybe it was attending a car show recently.  Perhaps, it was just something I always wanted to do and I made up my mind to just finally do it. Either way, I finally coerced my dad into letting me come out and take some photos of his pride and joy.


I’ve never been as die hard of a “car guy” as many people, but having worked in automotive pretty extensively before jumping into photography (and being from an automotive town), an appreciation of nice cars is just part of my being.  For my dad, automotive was his life for 30 or so years and building a hot rod from the ground up was a passion he put a lot of time, thought and effort into.  When he acquired this truck, it was in pieces – the box, a cab full of holes, a motor in need of repair (actually the whole drivetrain) and a few miscellaenous boxes of parts all came home on a trailer.  We all thought it was an over-priced junk pile.  Long story short, after a few years he managed to produce a masterpiece and is wining all kinds of awards at car shows across the state.

Americans love their cars.  Perhaps even more, they love to make them their own.  The idea that one can take a factory produced vehicle and modify it any way they choose represents the spirit of inginuity and personal expression so often associated with the American Dream.   That, combined with a nostalgia of America’s manufacturing heyday, is one of the most alluring things about building a hot rod.  Americans like to make things.  We love the idea that we can take a pile of junk and turn it into something beautiful and functional.

The pride that comes from the completion of a project is what drives us and what what we appreciate when we see a meticulously detailed car that has amassed countless hours of work.  At it’s core, hot rodding is the combined talents of engineering, problem solving, hands-on manipulation, abstract thinking, conceptualization, art direction, and design all on an individual level.  It’s also the origin of the DIY, maker mentality.  Americans like to experiment.  We like to tinker and we like to make improvements.  Most of all we like to dream and work to fulfill those dreams.


I am probably going off on a tangent here, but perhaps my goal with doing this shoot was to try to express some of the elements of the American Dream in a single image.  For some, building a hot rod represents the intangible benefits of living in a country where we are able to make our dreams a reality.  For others, hot rods are inspiration for dreams of their own.  For me, well, I just love to photograph things that look nice and go fast.