Old friends Kevin Anderson and Bob Davis got together a few years ago and reminisced about “the good ol’ days”–back when custom cars were all the rage. Maybe, just maybe, they surmised, they could recreate an old fashioned outdoor style car show, reminiscent of the 50s parking lot/dealer car lot shows. Perhaps invite a few like-minded individuals–who knows what might happen?
“Rod and custom shows around the country in the past few years are just not ‘custom oriented,’” Kevin pointed out to us on that warm June 14th Saturday in Indianapolis while standing next to his custom–a stunning Cobalt Blue chopped ’50 Mercury. “There simply aren’t enough customs at those shows. Custom guys are tired of parking next to near stock Mustangs and 1966 Chevelles. We want to see other customs, want to hang out around custom guys, talk custom cars, and reminisce about the past when it seemed every close friend/pal owned a custom.”
“Most of the events these days are a combination of hot rods, street rods, rat rods, and 60s muscle cars, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Bob Davis added. “But most of those ‘other’ car owners have no idea how difficult it is to build a TRUE custom. How to get the modifications to flow correctly and look right. Custom car guys DO, and that’s why Kevin and I started the Custom Car Revival, to celebrate just that.”
“We felt we needed a ‘custom-only’ show here in the Midwest,” Bob Davis continued, the owner of a very nice, super straight, super black ’50 Chevy hardtop sled–he’s owned the car for over 30 years and drives it all over the country. “After all, 80% of the population of the US lives east of the Mississippi and 80% of the true customs live here as well.” Both men chuckled at that statement. While not exactly accurate, the Midwest has always been a hotbed of custom activity and the argument that the custom trend started in the Midwest is always tempered by those that say it started in Southern California, but who can say?
“If not us, then who?” Kevin chimed in. “After all, from most anywhere in the U.S, it’s only a day’s drive to Indy. We decided a custom event around Indianapolis was needed yet no one had considered this area as a place to hold an event. We felt it was time to correct that by inviting a few custom car friends and do an old-fashioned parking lot show.”
As an aside to the above, some words used by “custom” guys were borne back in the 50s when every high school kid of driver’s license age yearned for, or owned a kustom like those he saw featured in the small magazines of the day. Perhaps their high-school ‘kustom’ was simply a lowered, fender-skirted, nosed and decked Ford or Chevy (a five to ten year old Ford or Chevy were perennial favorites simply because they were affordable) with primered spots where the hood and trunk emblems used to be–a ‘budget-build’ on a part-time salary. Although it was nothing like a full-blown show kustom built by guys out of school that had good jobs and could afford to do more modifications to their car or go ‘radical,’ most of them enjoyed a sense of camaraderie with the ‘show-only’ group.
There were a few major body shops in the Midwest that built ‘show’ kustoms to display what they could do. The word “kustom” eventually found its way into the custom car world, that ‘k’ spelling has been attributed to George Barris, King of Kustoms, as a way of denoting a car that had been modified from stock with changes to the grille area, changes to the taillight area, and possibly changing or modifying bumpers.
A kustom almost always had wide whitewall tires, ‘flipper’ or ‘spinner’ hubcaps (there were no “mag” wheels in the early days of kustoms) and Lakes Pipes (side pipes to make the car look lower). The word “sled” was borne out of the cars that were radically modified and had many changes to the body work or a chopped top–back then bondo hadn’t been invented and body men used lead to smooth the transition between welded seams after changing body panels, hence the term for most “kustoms” was “lead sled”, meaning the car sat low because of all the heavyweight lead used, however, that evolved into a derogatory term used to denote a “show-only kustom.”
At the first CCR event in June, 2013, sleds came in from about 15 states. This year, 23 states were represented, including New York and California. Even several well-known names in the kustom scene came out to support this year’s show: Jack Walker, Voodoo Larry Grobe, Mark Moriarty, Chuck Miller, Ed Lepold, Lou Calisbetta, Frank Livingston, Gary Minor, Ross Rodenbeck, Kurt & Amy McCormick, Kelly Puckett, Dennis Shirtz, Don Wallin, and others.
Needless to say, the 2nd annual Custom Car Revival was an unqualified success. 172 kustoms (double from 2013, that event had 85 kustoms) came in despite the weather that hampered the area around Indianapolis. Fortunately, the TV weathermen were watching out for us and Indy enjoyed a respite from the wind, rain, and hail. The registration fee (and proceeds) were donated to Kevin’s favorite charity–Alzheimer’s Association of Central Indiana.
The CCR did not have vendors. There was no autocross racing, or “Pro-Picks” and sorry, there wasn’t any pin-up contests either. Instead, Kevin & Bob asked a few of their nation-wide friends to bring an ‘award’ and to ‘pick’ out a car they liked. Those awards included:
- Kustoms of Pittsburgh Pick
- Car Kulture Deluxe Magazine Award
- The Caddy Boys/Back Street Kustoms (of ColoRODo)
- Koolest Kustom” Award
- Kustoms Illustrated Magazine Pick
- Relix Car Club Pick (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
- Right Coast Association Pick (Syracuse, New York)
- Gas Axe Garage Pick
- Satan’s Angels “Helluva Car” Pick (San Francisco, California)
- Love Those Louvers” Pick by Dan Jetter
- 2014 Custom Car Revival Participants Pick for “Most Outstanding Custom” won by Dave Jenkins for his over-the-top ’57 Chevy Bel Air
And last but not least, the Custom Car Lifetime Achievement Award. This year it was won by two men: Chuck Miller of Styline Kustoms (Michigan) and Frank Livingston (California), one of the original “Satan’s Angels” members. Those two took home a beautiful, large plaque for their life-time of involvement in kustoms.
The event officially started on Friday morning as Thursday afternoon/evening was clean-your-cars-from-the-trip, registration in the hotel lobby and the “Parking Lot Social” with those friends we hadn’t seen for a while. Edwards Drive-In (our host on Saturday) brought over their fantastic fifties-themed food truck to give CCR participants free food!
Friday was planned as a “tour” day and we cruised to some cool Indianapolis spots. Group One left at 9:00 a.m. and went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and did a grounds tour. After that it was off to Dallara Indy Car Manufacturing Facility to see new Indy cars being built.
Group Two also left at 9:00 a.m. but went a different direction–off to the White River State Park (in downtown Indy), including the Central Canal Walk and to visit the Eiteljorg Museum of Western Art, Indiana State Museum, NCAA Hall of Fame and Veterans Memorials. Options included renting paddle boats for the canal or renting a bike, a scooter, or a 2-wheel Segway to enjoy the canal by land. Some just opted to take an enjoyable walk along the beautifully landscaped area of the canal.
A lunch stop was scheduled at 11:30 at the MCL cafeteria. After, the two groups swapped destinations. Both groups ended up back at the La Quinta Inn late afternoon.
That evening, about 6:00 p.m. another tour was scheduled for a cruise to the historic Fountain Square District of Indianapolis. The District features antique shops, Duckpin Bowling, swing dancing, rooftop dining, BBQ, art boutiques, a comic book store, and all kinds of diverse and ethnic restaurants.
Saturday was the actual “show” at world famous Edwards Drive-In. Jeff Edwards, owner of Edwards Drive-In (serving their famous root beer and operated continuously for 57 years) hosted the event and the kustoms started rolling into their parking lot about 8:00 a.m. By 10:00 a.m. the lot was full and participants were enjoying coffee, juice, and pastries while mingling and photographing the gorgeous cars that looked like they had just rolled out of the late 1950s.
The awards were scheduled for 4:00 p.m., but got moved up half an hour in order to allow those long distance drivers an early start for home.
Saturday night, for those staying over, it was more “Parking Lot Socializing-Part II!,” and that was nothing more than hanging out in the motel lot, the many gorgeous kustom cars basking in the glowing parking lot lights and reminiscing about a successful event.
Sunday morning, sorry to say it came so soon, but it was all over–time for the long drive home. Of course, Kevin and Bob simply couldn’t let anyone leave without shaking their hands, “thanks for attending,” and wishing them a safe trip home, so they’d set up a little breakfast meet at the near-by Steak ‘n Shake restaurant. Bob, Kevin, and some other folks were there to see us off!
The 3rd annual Custom Car Revival will be held the same weekend in 2015 at the same location, although we think it will outgrow the parking lot of the La Quinta Inn. Edwards Drive-In can handle another 100 or so cars on top of the 172 there with some creative parking. So, mark your calendars for the 3rd annual on June 14 & 15, 2015 and make sure you check out the website: www.customcarrevival.com for more information. Hopefully, we’ll see you there.