Kar Kulture going mainstream?
Anyone who knows me fairly well knows that I love Kustom Kulture-the Bettie Page chicks, tatts, ducktails and pompadours, flat-black ratrods, the works. I am a huge fan of The Reverend Horton Heat and bands like Southern Culture on The Skids. It's a huge subculture that always seems to lurk in the fringe. So it was a surprise to me when I got a look at Car Kulture DeLuxe on the shelves at Barnes and Noble of all places. It is the little snippets of irony that get me through the day when I'm feeling down...I picture the lone greaser leafing through the copies of Vogue and Architectural Digest with a tattoo-covered arm, saying "man there has to be ONE copy left here, man".
Usually when a magazine is published catering to a subculture nowadays, it is assumed that it has "jumped the shark" as they say in TV lingo-meaning, it is no longer hip, hot, whatever the kiddies are callin' it. So at first blush, I'd say that it was time to move on to the Next Big Thing.
However, this subculture has a few things going for it in terms of survivability-it is driven, by and large, by a slightly older demographic. It's not uncommon at Rat Rod shows to see guys in their sixties who actually worked on all-steel customs back in the day. With guys like Jesse James paying homage on his shows to icons like George Barris and lead-slinger Bill Hines, The perpetuation of the custom car phenomenon continues to roll on. One would think the compact car craze would see the older trends dying off-not so. As more folks get older and have a little scratch in their pocket, it's not uncommon on a decent cruise night to see Rats, Rice Burners, Sportbikes, Harleys and Musclecars under one sodium arc lamp in Anytown, USA. What's cool is you see the generations sometimes sharing tips and fish stories, and there is a genuine respect for those who have gone before-something sorely lacking elsewhere in our culture these days. It hearkens back to the elder telling stories around the fire, spinning tales of mystery and wonder.
The Compact Car phenomenon is borne out of the same necessities Hot Rodding was-take a lightweight, readily available, cheaply-aquired car, and wring every last bit of horsepower out of your engine. The Honda and Nissan engine swaps of today are no different than the Cadillac or Olds engines dropped into the Ford Roadsters of yesteryear. Early hot rods were the most available cars of the day-usually old Fords that had lived out their usefulness as family cars or daily commuters, rusting away in junkyards until enterprising youth rescued them and chopped, channeled, bored and stroked their way into automotive history.
Another thing the Kustom craze has is that it has both nostalgia and rebellion rolled into one-the iconic image of James Dean is etched on the far-off glance of every Wannabilly that stares at a chopped all-steel sedan as it rolls by. It is something that some youth as well as the folks who lived it in the 1950s can identify with.
I predict there will be a new segment of the subculture-perhaps the foreign sports car faction-James Dean drove (and died) in a Porsche after all. These enthusiasts will be a bit snobbier, less ornamentation, more clean cut... They'll wear chinos and poplin windbreakers, madras shirts, shiny penny loafers and flattop haircuts. The rift will be like the Mods and Rockers in Quadrophenia. Subcultures of today are simply examples of Neo-Tribalism-your group, your Boys, Your Homies, your Tribe. It's just that rather than gang violence, some of us just like to look at cars.
Long story short, I bought the magazine-I like it, and I'll probably get it again.