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So my buddy Tom and I head down to the Indy Goodguys to check things out. I have never been to it and he grew up just a couple of miles from Indianapolis Raceway Park (IRP) where everything is held. It’s been almost a year since I completed the makeover of my ’56 Cadillac Sedan de Ville known as “FireMaker”. It’s pretty cool to have Tom along for the trip since he helped to rebuild the car and now can finally enjoy it. It is a great highway cruiser with lots of room and style. 500 cubic inches power is rotating under the hood, 10,000 watts of tunage in our ears, and 4 hides of leather under our butts. We are just living the American dream in the hot rod lap of luxury.

"FireMaker" 1956 Cadillac

It’s Friday and we pull into the show. We troll around the main ring in the car checking everything out. Make a stop at Air Ride Technologies (now Ride Tech), say hi to Moose and Troy at Rad Rides, and look for a place to dock the land yacht. Things are filled up pretty good by power-parkers so we shoot for a spot in the middle of the grassy field a little ways from all the other cars. The Cadillac always looks so good slammed to the ground, and tall grass just makes it look that much lower. After a quick rain storm we dry the car off and decide to take a walk around.

IRP is a pretty cool spot with the dragstrip, grassy parking areas, and midway for vendors. After a quick walk through the commercial vendors, we look around all of the shiny rods, and some not so shiny cars. Now I have always wanted to have a rough around the edges, lots of attitude, don’t worry about it kind of car. And this sort of attitude is one of the reasons I did a make over on the Cadillac that I have owned for 18 years. It started out to be a suede painted, Mexican blanket covered interior re-do. It sure didn’t end up that way, before I knew it, I was preparing for shiny surfaces, new chrome, and leather interior. So much for good intentions. In the end I am thrilled with the results, but still long for “rough rod”.


As we make our way around Tom and I talk about car projects. He wants a 30’s rod with patina. He would love to find a Gardner (his last name). A few exist, but he hasn’t found any in a price range that you wouldn’t feel guilty about hacking it up. As for me, rods are neat, but have never really gotten me that excited. I dig the type of cars that have been showing up at the Hunnert Car Pile-Up – little rods with 50’s tail fins grafted on, but they are still 30’s cars – not that exciting to me.

Then I see it. What you ask? It’s the inspirational moment for the Imperial Speedster. I didn’t know it at the time, but I knew it was cool, and different. It was not necessarily the car itself, but what was done to it, and how it was done to it. It was a VW Beetle. Now Beetles have never gotten me that excited, my sister had a convertible which I drove a few times, but I always felt like a dork behind the wheel. No, this one was different, it had an “I could give a crap about what you think” attitude. It was built just for one guy – its owner. Just the way a car should be built.

Custom cars and hot rods are the ultimate personal statement and ultimately they only need to please one person. Too often I find cars are being built to please others – show goers, editors, judges, and others. This is where they fall short. In trying to please everyone, you don’t please anyone. We might as well paint every hot rod red, black, or yellow and bolt on torque thrust wheels. Cars should make a statement. They should tell you a little about the person who owns, or built it. They shouldn’t be perfect. They certainly weren’t when they came from the factory. We fall in love with cars for their quirks, oddities, and imperfections, as much as their beautiful lines and forms – this has to be the reason so many people love English sports cars.

Love it or hate it, this car demands that you look at it. Like Frankenstein’s monster it was chopped down, all of the scars from the sawz-all were visible due to the unfinished welds. It’s mostly green with spots of gray, brown, and red – possibly fresh road kill that had dried months ago. Big red steel wheels and headlights from a luxury 30’s cars exaggerate the cars overall appearance along with the flat windshield header and chopped folding top. It’s just my kind of cool.

Rocky Hodges VW

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