Volume II, Issue 9, Page 6

Let’s see how they bolt together.

You’ve seen them at car shows: cars without a visible weld or a single bolt. Cars with hundreds of fabrication hours and countless brain cells expended to disguise how they go together. Finishes so mirror-smooth you can eyeball the ladies without getting caught.  Cars with no visible wires under the hood, with magical headlights that somehow don’t require electricity.

Now just so you know where I stand: I don’t like ‘em.  All that work could be put into suspension design, better brakes, or best of all: more horsepower.  Hell, put in a better stereo with that money, or even more comfortable seats.  I’m of a mind that cars should be cars, and one ought to be able to see the basic ways they go together. And if you want to spend some time making the nuts and bolts of a car look better, then work on the nuts and bolts.  Don’t hide them.  Show them off proudly, and let the rest of us know how it works. 

I remember seeing a Camaro sub-frame with body filler to hide all the welds.  Dozens of hours went into making that sub-frame look like it was punched out of a Revel life-size model kit, all smooth and plastic-like.  Sorry, that’s not for me. I want to see the welds and I want to be able to figure out in my mind’s eye how the factory suspension jigs worked to hold the steel pieces together for welding.  I want to see those weld beads.  I want to see the exposed threads on the cross-shaft bolts where it’s bolted to the chassis mount, complete with shims to get the alignment right. 

When a proud owner shows off his shaved, smoothed, and seam-filled hot rod, I end up behaving like I’m looking at an ugly baby. I’ll make the all the right noises, but inside I’m thinking, “Man, we need to get that baby’s car cover back on pronto!” 

It’s an age-old controversy in the hot rod world. We all care about the appearance of our projects, and most of us work to change that for the better (don’t get me started on the chalk-mark crowd … that’s a whole other column!). So how does one go about making their car different and better than the other guy’s? Simple: stay with functional enhancements, keep the decorative doo-dads off, and work to show how the pieces fit together. When the rest of us gather round to look at it we can have discussions about the bolt heads, not about the color. 

If you care what I think about your car, it better have door handles.  The engine shouldn’t be covered up with another hood when I open the real hood.  The car should start with a key, and it ought to be obvious where it goes.  Show us how the headlights get their power.  And finally, put practice into your welding so you can be proud of those visible beads.


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