White Hot Rod

Photo series of a hot rod.

This elegant hot rod was hand built by Bob Merkt, who lives a few miles from me near Wales, Wisconsin. It's based on a Model A Ford of course, but virtually the only part left from that car is the body tub.

When I drove by Bob's house, the distinctive lines of the two - esthetics from nearly a hundred years apart - made it an irresistible scene.

I love the lines and the forms, shown so clearly by the flat white paint that they both carry. But being a "patina guy", what makes these photos for me is the wabi sabi of the pair, unfinished and imperfect. Bob assured me both would always remain works-in-progress.

Bob's house was built just prior to the Civil War. He has done a lot of work on it, including moving it a hundred yards or so from the road. He fabricated the porch columns you see here out of sheet steel, recreating the original taper of the rotted wood ones they replaced.

Bob and his son, known as "Bleed", have been building cars since Bleed was a boy. In fact, Bob's father taught him how to cut cars apart and assemble a new vehicle from the pieces. Apparently, this sort of compulsion and talent are genetic.

When the weather permits, Bob can be seen driving this beautiful car around town, and it was important for me to show the grit, the tire wear and the mud splashes in my photos. This is not some show piece. It's a real car.
Bleed moved to Texas where he plays in a band and works as a fabricator in the Austin Speed Shop of Jesse James. Bob told me that Jesse's ex, Sandra Bullock, once did a photo shoot in this car. I wondered if that was her hairbrush on the seat.
(Testing a new digital SLR, I shot some footage of Bob in his body shop. I didn't have an external mic at the time, so the audio is bad, but I think it captures Bob's attitude. I will have to go back this spring, with proper equipment. The video is here.)
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