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Car snobbery has chapped my ass for a long time. I remember writing an argument on behalf of low-riders back in my Hissyfit days, when a bunch of people jumped into a slam-fest regarding small rims and low-profile tires (thread title “Did you get those wheels off a skateboard.”) My feeling then, as is my feeling now, is that if somebody obviously put a lot of time, work, creativity, passion, and probably money into a project, then it has merit on the workmanship alone, even if the aesthetics aren't particularly to my taste. Also, some customs belie their owners “newbie” status, with bad graphics, cheezy bolt-on accessories, or poor performance. I see it as a case of “everyone's got to start somewhere,” and I certainly recognise that ones daydreams often outstrip reality. I've so been there. That being said, it's rare for me to come across a project that exhibits evidence of creativity, and hard work and not be favorably impressed.

I've always had a soft spot for lowriders. I remember when I first became aware of the species, I had to have been about 5 or 6. My family had gone out to California to visit the bunch of our relatives out there, and my aunt Debbie took me running errands with her. We were tooling through a mall parking lot in her sweet 1968 Camaro (which she still has–kudos cool aunt Debbie) and I was peeking out the window, looking at all of the cars and people in this huge parking lot (rural kid). And I saw it…I don't remember the make, model, or year—I was 5–but it was the coolest thing ever. It was some kind of big ol' 1970s land-barge, bright metalflake lime green with panels of forest green and gold, spokey gold-tone wheels, and black tinted windows. It was like a gigantic Hot Wheels car come to life. It hunkered there, inches above the pavement, teasing all passersby for a second look.

This was the early 1980s, and the culture of van-art and muralled window decals was still hanging around. It was the nadir of domestic auto production, with Citations, Pintos, and K-cars running amok. This made all of the truly outstanding cars stand out so much more. My dad has this Jo Jo Gunne album, from 1972, and I was always fascinated by the car they're driving. White metalflake with candy purple flames and candy pink panels…I'd love to have a look at this car from other angles! I used to rat through my parents' records and marvel at the cover-art…I was compelled, fascinated, and faintly disgusted by the R. Crumb artwork on the Big Brother & The Holding Company album, and spent way too many hours boggling at the photo of Edgar Winter on “They Only Come Out At Night,” trying to mentally reconcile the soft, pretty blonde hair, the muttonchop sideburns, and the elegant gemstone choker…gender bending is hard to understand when you've only just gotten your head around the fact that girls have a vagina and boys have a penis.

Anyway, I liked to look at cars with colorful, funky paint schemes, and enjoyed the “whoomp boompa thoomp” music that often came out of them.

I got a little older and started reading my dad's car magazines. There were Hot VWs and VW Trends, of course, and then there were the old-school hotrod magazines. He had (and has) Rod & Custom from between 1968 and 1979, when they went on hiatus printing. They took back up circa 1990, because I started buying my own fresh copies with babysitting money before I hit highschool. I liked best the super-old-school T-buckets and Model A street-rods, and you simply cannot beat a '33 Ford for graceful and elegant lines. LOVED the lead-sled Mercs, the hot-to-trot shoebox Chevies, and the late-60s, early '70s Mopar muscle. With the VWs, my preferences ran to pure restoration or mild custom, AKA the California Look. I loved reading my dad's old Rod & Customs from the 1970s, though, with their “right-on, party-down, rock-n-roll” copy, the resto-rods, and the show coverage. Girls in short-shorts, guys in tight-butt bellbottoms, and sweet vintage steel as far as the eye could see.

Now there are things I am not too into. The early 1990s “red street-rod, 3″ chop, tan leather interior, chevy 350, Ford 9-inch rear-end.” Totally overdone. I'm not into 1980s anything. I find tricked-out Caprice Classics (and their analogues) slightly miserable. Otherwise, darn near anything goes.

This brings me to contemporary J-rods (or rice-racers or ricers, if you are into being an offensive, racist twit). I like a well-executed J-rod. Some of 'em are pretty much only for show, but some of them have plenty of get up and go, too. I respect both, if they're done well. For every dozen kids driving around in essentially stock Civics with a rattle-can, stick-on graphics, a bolt-on wing, and peely window tinting, there's that gem with a pro-built screamer under the hood, a beautiful paint scheme, and artistic, yet functional spoilers.

It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to build a good car, no matter what your genre. Time and effort are the biggest factors…I've seen some outstanding cars done on the cheap, but it all comes down to craftsmanship and good planning. If I can see that you've put both of those elements into your ride, then hell yes, I'll admire it, and if I see you, I'll tell you I think your car is pretty damn cool.

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