THROWBACK THURSDAY: Remembering Boyd Coddington

CadZZilla filmThis past week I received an eNewsletter with a cool story about the CadZZilla, a 1948 Cadillac that famed hot-rod builder Boyd Coddington crafted for ZZ Top guitarist and lead singer Billy Gibbons. I have a close friend who was present at the Los Angeles Coliseum when ZZ Top opened for The Doors. At that time no one had yet heard of ZZ Top and my friend John knew from the opening chords that these guys were heading for stardom. They stole the show.

This blog post is about cars, not guitars. Billy Gibbons’ CadZZilla is one eye-poppin’ ride, and its builder became a friend of the AMSOIL family for a while. Like his cars, Boyd Coddington was one-of-a-kind.

He was born in rural Idaho, but you’d never know it by his trademark Hawaiian shirts and California lifestyle. His introduction to rodding came from older brothers and their friends who were into the early Deuce Roadsters and ’32 Coupes. From his earliest memories cars were his passion, and through cars he expressed his genius. Even after a lifetime of designing cars, building cars and driving cars, when Boyd Coddington had time off he still went to swap meets and car shows. He loved being around both cars and the people who love cars.

Boyd established his reputation as a car builder with contemporary L’il John Buttera, who made his fame building drag-racing funny cars before getting into street rods. Both were both master machinists who developed new aesthetics for rods. Rather than buy a reproduction of a vintage Ford rearview mirror like other restoration gearheads, Coddington and Buttera would use a lathe and mill to carve a block of aluminum to give it the look of a mirror. Thus was born the billet phenomenon. Creating and customizing parts from scratch, Coddington established his name.

Like ripples in a pond, others emulated the new concept, but missed the point of what they were doing. By using pre-designed programs they became mass-production houses, losing the sense of art behind the personalized craftsman approach. Coddington’s style was to never mass produce anything.

1468520729_tmp_BOYDHis high standards led to magazine coverage, which in turn resulted in enough fame to attract wealthy customers from other states who made their pilgrimage to Coddington’s to obtain one-of-a-kind cars that made a statement. Vern Luce’s so-red ’33 coupe and Jamie Musselman’s roadster became touring hits in the show circuit, increasing his visibility and the appreciation for his talents. His red cars were so eye-smashing that Dupont created “Boyd Red” as a production color, followed by “Boyd Hot Hue,” “Boyd Yellow Mellow” and “Boyd Black in Black”.

And then there was the CadZZilla. As you can see, it’s a hoot.

Coddington’s cars had an attitude that stood them apart from the herd. His personalized cars were unique without being weird, stopping people in their tracks by their beauty and style, not freakishness. Flawless metalwork and paint were givens. Coddington had the ability to take a vision and transform it into contours that subtly brought the original design to a new harmonious line.

Cars built at Coddington’s garage have won the prestigious “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster” an unprecedented seven times and the Daimler-Chrysler Design Excellence Award twice. Coddington has been inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame, the Grand National Roadster Show Hall of Fame and the National Rod & Custom Museum Hall of Fame. In 1988 he was voted HOT ROD magazine’s “Man of the Year.”

Boyd passed in February of 2008. The previous summer AMSOIL sponsored his show, “American Hot Rod,” as he built a car that his wife Jo used in an attempt to set a record at Bonneville. I first got to know him at the Tulsarama where he was flown in to start a 50-year old Plymouth Belvedere that had been buried in a time capsule. That’s a story I’ll have to save for another day. We met again at SEMA and shared time together at a PRI Show in Orlando, which included an AMSOIL Dealer meeting and other activities. He’s still missed.

CadZZilla Photo Credit:Eric Geisert

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