Rod Fellows

Fifties sensibilities and styles fuel the passions of latter-day gearheads

"When I had no tools and not a whole lot of ability, [I had] a lot of ambition. It's funny. Now I have some money, a lot of ability and tools, and no ambition."

Marks has owned the same '32 Ford Roadster for more than 30 years, a hot rod well known in these circles.

His personal "works in progress" include three roadster pickups, a two-door '32 sedan, a '56 panel truck, a '36 Phantom roadster, a '23 T-bucket and a '34 sprint car he's building from scratch off a blueprint from a 1934 magazine.

Metal madness: Chop-shop tool box.
Paolo Vescia
Metal madness: Chop-shop tool box.
Cars had faces then. Rubber pong outside the Emerald Lounge.
Paolo Vescia
Cars had faces then. Rubber pong outside the Emerald Lounge.

Does he partake in street drag racing?

"About a month and a half ago I was in a street race," he says, laughing, "but that doesn't really count. It was with some late-model car, I don't know if it was BMW or what the hell it was. A couple Latinos in it. I still had the blower [supercharger] on my car at that point. My old car is noisy and it's loud and it's tired. They got their music loud and they are kind of jacking with me a little bit and I just stood on it and I never saw them again. I don't know what happened to them.

"When I was a kid, there was a lot of drag race guys and went to Beeline or out to an old strip on the other side of Sun City. It's just a whole different deal. When the muscle cars started coming out, suddenly the street rods started disappearing. They were fast, faster than most of the home-built hot rods of the time.

"I'm not going to say I never did any street racing."

The DIY spirit and inventiveness of hot rods is what gives them intrinsic value, a personality; or, as any builder would say, "a soul." A true hot rod, they'll tell you, is homemade, not ordered and assembled from some ready-made kit or an 800 number. Each car owns a bit of its builder's character. They are raw, unkempt, brassy and obnoxious.

Hence the contrarieties between hot rods and street rods.

"Street rods are too soulless, too clean, too finished, too pussified," says Howard Greenfield. "Street rod guys have gone and cut the balls off hot rodding. In my opinion, street rodding is the socially acceptable face of hot rodding. Our cars are raw. It's like when you look at a couple of chicks. One of them is really pretty, and the other one ain't so pretty but she's got all that shit going on that you just want to get on her. She's got the "umph,' right?

"And we call 'em 1-800 cars," continues Greenfield. "Because basically most of the stuff on them street rods is new, and all they do is send for the stuff and pay for it with their credit cards and assemble it. It's like a big fucking kit."

Greenfield and Marks use their hot rods for transportation.

Greenfield: "None of my other cars are even up and running. I take this to the grocery store."

Marks: "I was a charter member of an Arizona street car association that started here in the early '70s. But I'm not really much on herd mentality . . . car clubs are kinda weird. I'd go down there and pretty soon they had the women -- and I don't want to get all the women pissed off -- voting, and pretty soon every club meeting was about whether we should get a typewriter, and I'm going, 'Christ, let's go get a pizza and a beer and drive our car somewhere.'

"I love those clubs that don't take it so seriously. And it's basically how I remember it. The hair, their clothing, the cars, everything. With exception to all the tattoos, which I have no problem with either."

A core still exists who subscribe to a recklessness of rebellion and defiance and associate it with hot rods. Car "clubs" in Phoenix like the Invaders, the Cheqs and the Rattlers share the DIY ethos. Local shows at places like the Rhythm Room and the Emerald Lounge see all-day rockabilly fests with pinup beauty contests and Mercs, Fords and Chevys on display. Betty Crockers in poodle skirts with tattoos on their shoulders. Greasers, posturing drag-strip beats, sheet-metal fabricators.

Hot rodders share a sense of childlike displacement. Like they've found an auspicious place to remain an adolescent for the remainder of their days. A chop-shop Never-Never Land. Many consider themselves pariahs -- no kids, failed marriages and bitchin' jalopies.

The flier reads, "Hot Rods, Hot Dogs and Cold Beer. Free show and hot rods at the Emerald Lounge . . ."

Al Foul and the Shakes throw charisma to all corners of the Emerald. Foul is one of those rare singers able to whip the devil's music to such heights, in an aura of sex, menace and goonies, that you forget any talk of pinup hussies or fire-spitting Chevys. You just want to watch and laugh and salute. Foul gets it, in spades. Tonight he is girdled with copulating shouts, breaking glass and women offering ass for spanks -- all sure signs of greatness.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Phoenix Concert Tickets