Vacations aren’t always what you might expect. For instance, over Thanksgiving, my family was in Columbus, Ohio, for the holiday when I was tipped off by my father-in-law to a custom vehicles exhibit at the Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD), titled Wheelz: The Art and Design of the Customized Ride.
According to CCAD, the intent of Wheelz was to “explore the American subculture of custom-designed motor vehicles within the context of art and design, exhibiting how design and art principles are used to turn cars and motorcycles into personal forms of expression. … In addition the exhibition will look at other forms of customizing: from ‘art cars’ to famous movie cars … to the customizing trends coming out of Detroit.”
Wheelz also utilized two guest co-curators: Ed Youngblood, traveling curator of the Guggenheim exhibition, The Art of the Motorcycle, and curator at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum; and Jack DeWitt, professor of liberal arts at the Philadelphia Academy of Art and author of Cool Cars, High Art: The Rise of Kustom Kulture in America. Both included their thoughts on the exhibit in pamphlets at the show.
“From its scattered beginnings on the lake beds of Southern California in the ’30s and early ’40s, interest in hot rodding exploded in the postwar years fueled by the dreams of car-starved veterans of World War II,” wrote DeWitt. “They built hot rods, invented drag racing, and frightened a nation.”
There were several examples of both vintage and modern custom cars at the Wheelz exhibit, including a clone of the “Hirohata Merc,” and a Boyd Coddington ’40 Ford coupe. Of special custom note were the Von Dutch-painted doors of an El Camino, done for a body shop in Orange, California. One of Von Dutch’s customized personal rides, a 1959 Triumph Thunderbird motorcycle, included his own “seaweed flames” paint job.
“As vehicles of self expression, it was only natural that the motorcycle would attract creative individuals who would modify their rides to become different, unique, faster, and more conspicuous,” wrote Youngblood. “By the 1930s, the motorcycle was on its way to becoming an American art form ‘ a medium especially appropriate to an industrialized culture bent on speed, greater mobility, and more independence.”
The Wheelz exhibit also hosted several movie screenings, including Rebel Without a Cause, The Wild One, Thunder Road, Easy Rider, Hells Angels on Wheels, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Kustom Kar Kommandos, Black Jackets & Leather Choppers, Cadillac Ranch, American Graffiti, Hollywood Nights, Hot Rod Girl, High School Confidential, and Lowriders: The Real Story.
The exhibit ended December 1, 2005, so, unfortunately, you can’t go there now. Enjoy these pics!