Scene & Heard Issue 2

This is a column for venting opinions about the scene today – this month, it’s Jon Hill

So, Street Machine’s back and I for one couldn’t be happier. I worked on what could be termed the ‘controversial years’ – although they were years that have kind of formed the basis for what’s happened since – and I have to say though, stuff that has seriously divided the scene, too. I genuinely believe we need an open-minded mag like Street Machine back. There are some great forums out there but you need a magazine with a direction to kind of bond it all together. For me, Street Machine had an ethos – one that’s slipped in favour of, dare I say it, elitism, and I personally think we need to get back to grass roots rather than worry about what anyone else thinks or getting approval from your peers…

It seems to me that you need to be a millionaire to build a decent car, you can’t possibly build anything unless it’s genuine American steel and it has the best parts even if it breaks you. Don’t get me wrong, I love US-based hot rods and gassers and A/GS is my thing, but whatever happened to modifying the car you’ve got? Cleaning up your daily driver so it’s different, smoothed out and, above all, trick? Cleaning up the body, shaving off the badges, getting the stance right, the right wheel combination and maybe a bigger/better power plant. Above all, soul…

The thing is, people are still doing it – it’s just that you don’t necessarily see it at car shows because the scene’s become so divided. Perhaps that was the fault of niche market magazines. At one time, it exploded – you had mags for Ford, Vauxhall, Jap stuff, whatever. What Street Machine did was cover it all in a general way but add its own set of rules, almost – although these were loose and there to be broken, but within guide lines … if you follow that?

Now the scene’s so divided, there are people all over the country doing their own thing and sticking to their own shows in their own insulated world so that you don’t know they’re doing it. There are some awesome cars out there that you’ll only see on forums or one-make car shows, which kind of gives the impression the scene’s dying ‘cos you don’t see cars like you used to. But it’s not, and I think it’s as strong, if not stronger, than it ever has been. It’s just that the mags don’t show them. I don’t believe the custom market is strong enough for so many niche market titles anymore; we need a general one…

What we need to get across is that it’s ok to build whatever you want and to whatever budget – it is all acceptable. There was a concept that you started on a Morris Minor then ‘move on to something more legitimate/American.’ Cobblers! That is a recipe for division; the concept that your car’s not as good as someone that’s spent 60 grand on a rusty body shell because it’s ‘real’ is just nonsense. It’s maybe an extreme case but the stuff Dave Rothwell at Straight Paint builds is, to me, every bit as acceptable as a real steel three-window Deuce coupe with a £125,000 budget.

Way back on my time at Street Machine there was a thing about not featuring front wheel drive cars. Some of that was political, some of it pure snobbery, but right now we can’t afford to ignore anything, because the majority of daily drivers are FWD. And you should be modifying your daily – even if it’s shaving the badges off, just do it! There’s a ton of VAG stuff out there that’s pure Street Machine. Just check out Hot Rod Trimmer (on Rodsnsods.co.uk) and his gold Passat wagon. The thing’s awesome! I would be proud to drive that…

I’ve a lot to say in the coming months but we certainly need to get back to grass roots – we’re all into cars and this country’s too small for division. To me anything goes as long as it’s got soul; above all enjoy life, ‘cos it’s later than you think. Welcome back, Street Machine!

So, do you agree with Jon? Should we all try to be as all-encompassing as possible on the scene, or will FWD never be acceptable? Get it off your chest to dave@street-machine.co.uk.