"Here's an outlaw [shot rod] coupe. He's trying to look squirrelly. An outlaw doesn't care how he looks as long as he draws attention."
"One reason you're not seeing many candy paint jobs tonight is because of the weather," Thomas said. "Water spots them. The guys get them cleaned up real nice, and they want to keep them that way."
"Another outlaw," said Root, pointing, as he prepared to pull out. "No license light. Bad taillight. Loud pipes. If this were Pomona, I'd pick him up."
"Damn right," said Thomas. "Make him get off the street."
Automobile supply houses keep an eye on L.A. for marketable fads. "The latest craze from California" is the only line needed to sell to hot rodders all over the country. J.C. Whitney & Company in Chicago is offering a "fuzzy wuzzy" steering-wheel cover at $1.25 "for that smooth luxurious feel," and for only $3 you can "give your car that way-out look" with nine feet of the fuzzy stuff, "enough material to customize dashboard, door moldings, all interior knobs, horn ring, rearview mirror, etc." Two dollars buys a voodoo-head gearshift knob, and $6.95 in the mail brings a "classy jacket" with "NO CLUB—LONE WOLF" or "HAVE GOODIES—WILL TRAVEL" silk-screened on the back.
Most of the major fads, however, are set in motion by the high priests of hot rodding. With the exception of a few scattered near San Francisco and in the Middle West, the high priests reside in the Los Angeles area and are products of the hot rod movement itself. One is Dean Moon, 33, a machinist by trade, who owns a specialty parts house that grossed more than $500,000 last year. Moon has contributed to literally hundreds of fads, including spun-aluminum wheel disks and floor-shift-conversion kits. (Hot rodders insist on a floor shift.) So many Moon items have become "in" that it is now "in" for hot rodders to paste a decal with his trademark, the two O's in Moon drawn as oversized eyeballs, on their cars. Last year Moon sold 4 million eyeball decals.
George Barris, 35, is "the king of kustomizing." Last year his firm grossed $300,000. Barris is responsible for many of the design innovations of the last 15 years: floating tube grilles, outside exhausts, recessed taillights, air scoops and continental rear ends. "I like to get things that are very futuristic," he says. "I don't like to repeat." When his wife was expecting a child, Barris had a name all picked out for a boy: XM 140. "I like to be different," he says. "But since it was a girl we named her Jo-Ji. Like Georgie, but still different."
Barris does much of the car work for the movies. For instance, he did the hot rods for Rebel Without a Cause. After Dean was killed speeding in his Porsche, Barris bought the wreck for $200. He exhibited it at car shows "to promote safety," but he was dismayed by the way kids reacted. "They stole pieces of it despite every precaution we took," he says. "Girls would flick paint off to save."
With his entree into the movies, Barris has extended the range of custom culture. He upholstered Liberace's Cadillac in a black-and-white Naugahyde pattern that formed keyboards on the seats. On the bottom of the front seat Barris sewed the notes from the singer's theme song, I'll Be Seeing You. Barris hit a high note of some sort when he customized a Jaguar for Senator Barry Goldwater. "We built full bumpers front and rear for protection," he says. "We built a box continental kit on the rear deck lid with an outside tire. We constructed two full rear fenders, extended with air scoops to the brakes. We constructed taillights of pieces of clear Lucite eight inches long. The light lit one end and penetrated the full length of the Lucite. The front was a specially constructed concave bar grille with twin headlights extended into oval shapes. The car was painted rustic bronze, with 30 coats of lacquer. We installed several aircraft dials in the dash which Senator Goldwater hooked up himself."
One of the top interior designers is Ed Martinez, 24, a trained upholsterer. "The 'in' things are pleats, bucket seats, furniture cloth and tufted bottoms," Martinez says. The bucket seats, made of plastic, rotate on swivels made for deep-sea-fishing chairs. Most cars now have carpeted floor mats with Naugahyde pleats under the pedals. The "in" carpeting is an Acrilan-fiber resembling fur.