Who is going to be the next pro builder? What amazing work of art is going to find its way into the halls of great winning custom cars? What local hobbyist is about to build that life changing vehicle that grant’s him national recognition by the hierarchy of the industry. Who Knows? Either way the creativity in the hobby never seizes to amaze me. It’s astonishing what is possible today from these young homebrewed hot rodders. The equipment that can be purchased today that used to be out of reach for the average garage builder just a few short years ago is now more common and readily available. So it should shock me how many average garage built cars are popping up and giving the pro builders a run for their money, but it doesn’t. It doesn’t shock me in the least. When I really stop and think about it the industry has always evolved this way. Guys like Troy Trepanier, and The Ring Brothers all burst onto the scene from their own garages. Even the greats like Don Pilkenton, Berry Lobeck, and Bobby Alloway all had humble garage day beginnings. But are the future rising stars of tomorrow any different from the current heroes of the industry? In a way, yes they are, but how different?
For starters, the garage builders of today have access to the same technology and tools as pro builders do, and China on their side. The amount of tech that has burst onto the mainstream within the last 10 years is astonishing. Big money shop tools of yesterday are smaller cheaper, faster, and more readily available than ever before. You can buy cheap plasma cutters from several tool wholesalers now, from either internet orders, or local store branch stores. CNC mills, lathes, and plasma tables are becoming common place in small garages everywhere. Basic shop tools like saws, drill presses and welders can be bought for reasonable and affordable costs. Now granted most of this is fueled by cheaper versions made in Asia but they are allowing the average builder to easily have the same kind of tools that the pros do. Is that the only difference?
No! New equipment manufacturer are bringing out some unbelievable pieces of equipment. Companies like Baileigh Industrial, Mitler Brothers, and countless others that have started making some very high tech pieces of equipment that are designed for the pro’s but still very much affordable and readily available to the home builder. The home builder now also has access to equipment like English wheels, planishing hammers, power hammers, slip rolls, metal breaks, benders, bead rollers, and iron workers. All those being equipment that 20 years ago if you were a home builder and you bought one it was more than likely used and probably manufactured back in the 1930’s or 40’s. But now you can buy it all new. Well you could back then as well but nowhere near a price like you can now. But I still don’t think that’s the only differences. What else is there?
Learning! Education! Information! These are all huge differences to home builders of today compared to those 20 years ago. Trade schools were around back then including those that would teach you the art of hot rod building, but now there is another player in the game. The World Wide Web has changed hot rodding. Information that used to be industry secrets, or only accessible in trade schools or taught one on one, can now be found and learned on the internet. I’m not saying the internet is going to render trade schools as useless, I’m not saying that at all. That’s government’s job to render them useless. I’m saying that what use to only be seen in the classroom can now be seen on YouTube, and web forums. People are sharing information and garage builders are taking advantage of it, and so are the pros. The internet is an unlimited text book of information and knowledge, but it can also be as misguided as learning all your skills from watching the Power Block shows on the weekends. Yes you might pick up the basics, but that alone won’t make you a pro. You can only get that one way. By doing it!
So these are a few of the differences, or should I say advantages that home builders have today over what they did say 15 to 20 years ago. All this being said I am looking forward to seeing some of the new, hard charging creative talent make its way from the garage onto the pro scene. I’ve seen some garage projects lately with tons of potential, and I can’t wait to see how those turn out. Who knows maybe one of them will launch the dreams of some new creative talent into pro status. Maybe one of them will be the next Kindig It Designs. All in all I’ve learned to take note and pay close attention to what’s going on in local garages, and never overlook a potential diamond in the rough, and closer attention to the one building it.