Here at Empire, we love finding people that are passionate about what they do. In this case, we got the opportunity to talk to John, a car enthusiast out of Rochester, NY. Read his interview about his plans to restore a classic ’48 Dodge Truck, his feelings on custom cars, and why he dislikes car snobs.
BTC: How long have you been working on custom cars?
John: I’ve been doing brake jobs, oil changes, tire changes etc when I was ten or eleven. As for heavy-duty restoration/repairing/rebuilding, that started this summer. To be able to rehab a part that most people would simply replace is not a skill that really exists anymore, but once you have knowledge of metalworking and welding and grinding and so on, you can pretty much fix anything.
BTC: What are your favorite make/models of cars?
John: I love small Japanese or British roadsters. Miatas, S2000s, MGs and Triumphs. I also love almost everything vintage. Cars from the 20′s and 30′s just oooooze style and charm. My absolute favorite car would probably be a Ford GT40. Rear engine, massive power, incredible styling – it was created to beat Ferrari in races, and it did. That’s all. Its a machine with a mission, and its not trying to win style points.
BTC: How long can it take to completely rebuild a vehicle?
John: Rebuilding a car can take years, proper restorations can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, more than the car could ever be worth, probably. I’m not trying to restore cars to win trophies at car shows, I’m trying to rebuild cars so that they don’t simply rot in a field somewhere. In cases like this, the mechanical bits take precendece over the paint and finish and shininess. To get everything in good working order, it will probably take 2 summers of intermittent work. If this was my full-time job, a few months. This particular truck, a 1948 Dodge, will probably take a year.
BTC: So far, what’s been your favorite car restoration project?
John: My favorite project . . . my favorite project is one I haven’t started yet. I really want to make a completely custom, totally self-designed and home-made race car. Tube-frame chassis, custom suspension components, hand-formed body panels, something low and sleek and sexy like the rocket-shaped F1 cars of the 40′s and 50′s. That’s the sort of thing I’m working towards.
BTC: What kind of skill set do you need to rebuild a car?
John: I have to keep accumulating knowledge of old-time techniques, because that is the kind of car I want to build. Something old-timey, simple, computer free with no ABS or traction control or GPS navigation. Cars are expressions, and everyone has something different to express.
BTC: What’s your favorite thing about rebuilding cars/ cars in general?
John: I love the off-road scene, big monstrous Jeeps and old lifted pickups with winches and floodlights. Also drifters, people who race and thrash their cars.I basically love people who use cars for their intended purpose and don’t care if it picks up a few dings and dents along the way. I’m a big fan of the import scene, but I also love American muscle and European grace. If its cool, I like it. I don’t like the people who hate on cars because “I would never do that to my ride! It looks so stupid!”