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Boyd Coddington 1944 - 2008

Posted by Whitmore, February 28, 2008 10:36am | Post a Comment


As a kid I grew up around Southern California’s custom car culture. My Dad did custom auto body, paint and design. He was constantly chopping, welding, re-chopping, re-welding, filling in some Bondo here, pounding out a dent, re-filling in some Bondo there, pounding out another fender, painting, taping off, re-painting, all performed on some innocent Detroit family car, transforming your average Ford or Chevy into some kind of mutant So-Cal testosterone by-product of too much sun and youth. The smell of Bondo, the polyester fiberglass resin used to fill in holes, is the smell that takes me back to my childhood!  I may just drive a ’97 Toyota, but my heart has always been wrapped around the 1934 Ford Roadster my Dad owned when I was a kid. There was, and is, nothing like cruising around town in a hot rod - the rumble of glass-packs, or the pure simple beauty of pin stripping or the swagger of flames painted across the polished curves of a vintage fender and hood.

West Coast custom car-building legend Boyd Coddington has died at the age of 63.  Coddington had been hospitalized during this past holiday season, but the cause of death has not yet been released.  Born in Rupert, Idaho, in 1944, Coddington started to build cars in his parents' garage as a teenager.  He became a machinist by trade, and at one point worked for Disneyland on the graveyard shift, but by day he would tinker in his home garage producing one car at a time. His designs soon captured the imagination and spirit of Southern Californian car-culture fans. Presently Coddington’s shop in La Habra, California has some 70 employees working in a 50,000 square foot facility which includes an in-house body and paint shop.

Coddington set the standard for workmanship and creativity.  His first claim to fame came with his streamlined re-creation of a 1933 Coupe that won the Al Slonaker Award at the1981 Oakland Roadshow, one of hot roddings most prestigious prizes. Boyd's cars have also won "America's Most Beautiful Roadster" an unprecedented seven times, the Daimler-Chrysler Design Excellence Award twice, and he's been inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame, the Grand National Roadster Show Hall of Fame, the National Rod & Custom Museum Hall of Fame, the Route 66 Wall of Fame, the Street Rod Marketing Alliance Hall of Fame, and was voted "Man of the Year" in 1988 by Hot Rod Magazine. His "Cadzilla" creation is considered to be a design masterpiece, based on a 1950s style Cadillac, it was built for ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. And one more unusual honor came Coddington’s way: he was to have the only hot rod displayed at the Smithsonian, when his '33 coupe was part of a 1993 exhibit titled "Sculpture on Wheels."

Coddington also created the TV reality show American Hot Rod which aired on the Discovery Channel from 2004 to 2007 and introduced to the nation the West Coast hot rod guru, with Coddington perpetually dressed in a Hawaiian shirt. The New York Times has called him "indisputably the best-known and arguably the most influential professional builder in the field."

Boyd Coddington is survived by his wife, Jo and three sons, Boyd Jr., Chris and Greg, and grandchildren.

Boyd Coddington was a hell of a creative genius. Rest in peace.

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Obits (63), American Culture (94), Outsider Art (21), Boyd Coddington (2), Hot Rods (2), Southern California (11), Car Culture (2)