It was tough road growing up, but you finally live in a place that doesn’t smell like feet and stale beer that your parents would step into without a flamethrower. It feels pretty good to do the dishes every night and clean the bathroom before a Gojo-and-pube monster starts attacking the guests, but the place could still use a little class. Something on the walls and floors other than paint, carpet and furniture would be nice, right?
It is possible to add some class to the homestead and still keep it totally hot rod, and I am not talking about a poster of a babe in a bikini leaning on a Lamborghini. It is a lot easier than you think to add a classy hot rod automobilia motif to your digs without making it look like the garage. Read on my under-decorated friends.
FInd 'em and frame 'em. Old car ads are great deco.
Vintage car ads and brochures: Framing up a bunch of vintage car ads and dealership propaganda is a great way to spruce up a bare wall or two. Vintage car ads are pretty much free if you get creative with your sourcing. Don’t be a wimp and buy them on Ebay, just pick up some old magazines at flea markets, garage sales and your grandpa’s basement, and cut ‘em out yourself. Playboy and National Geographic are good sources for the ads, and both of them usually have boobs on the other pages so you don’t get too bored. Outdoor magazines are pretty great too, and some old gun ads can add some variety to your spread.
Old car sales brochures are a little harder to come by, but I recently found a cheap-as-free source at www.oldcarbrochures.com. They have full-size, hi-resolution images that are perfect for printing and framing, and they are not watermarked. Oldcarbrochures.com is made up of user derived content, so send them your hi-res scans if you have some of your own brochures layin’ around, and of course they take cash donations to keep the site running.
It's a hubcap. It's a clock. It's a hubcap clock!
What about the frames? No matter how cool the picture, it’s gonna look like crap if you just tack it to the wall. Your place isn’t a punk flophouse (anymore)—grown-ups use frames for art. But yea, they are freaking expensive and you want to spend your good money on car parts so you’ll have to get creative. Thrift stores like Mission Thrift in San Francisco are awash with old picture frames for next to nothing, and discount joints like Ross or TJ Maxx are a decent source too. I just mat my ads with colored cardstock to keep things varied and looking sharp.
Car parts as car art: So the engine block table a-la-Top-Gear may be a bit much (if you’re married), but there are other tasteful tidbits that aren’t so over-the-top. How many factory hubcaps have you taken off in favor of mags or bare steels and tossed in the garage? Turns out, they make awesome clocks, because they are totally round and stuff. Just drill a hole in the middle and bolt in a cheap clock movement, put on some hands and you are in business. Really, that is just the beginning. You can make a barstool from a crankshaft by just cleaning up the crank, welding it to a brake drum and putting a nice red vinyl barstool top on it. Have one of your talented friends class it up with some pinstripes and you are in business. End tables with axles, classic steering wheels and some glass—the possibilities are endless, just get creative.
“Real” art: OK, so there are some people out there who make this sort of stuff for a living, and a lot of them have more than the kindergarten-level art abilities that the rest of us possess. No, it’s not cheap, so try not so be shocked by the prices.
Take San Francisco photog Robert Hatch’s full-size dash photos (above, and previously featured here), and hook up a whole wall with one purchase. Or take a peek in the back of your hot rod mags for artists hocking their wares. Yea, a lot of it is pretty cheesy, but guys like Damian Fulton and Max Grundy are some of my faves that come to mind right off the bat, and there are many others that go way beyond the Rat-fink-hack stuff you used to draw on the back of your Trapper Keeper.
Vintage furniture and fixures: This is a tough one if you are not flush with cash or had the unfortunate recent passing of a pack-rat relative, because mid-century fixtures are getting expensive and it takes a while to find what meets your tastes and needs. But if you keep your eyes peeled on Craigslist, flea markets and estate sales, you might find some gold. The best advice I can give is to get the hell away from fashion-centers like the Bay Area, because mid-century furniture is still treated like junk by a lot of folks out there, and it is better to buy it at junk prices than San Francisco “Vintage” prices.
In the end, don’t be scared to get creative and spruce your joint up with some hot-rod flair. You can keep it so damn classy, that your woman can move in and she won’t even make you throw any of your crap away.
Have an idea for hot rod décor? Leave it in the comments section below!