"The hot rod story. So it goes. Dry lake beds. Endless deserts. Hopped up Southern California jalopies. Timing associations. Engineer boots, pocket tees, chinos and heavy selvedge. A miasma of Americana. All those GIs returned from the war with a "
Harley Peters and his loveable roadster mutt...
photography Michael Fordham/influx
Harley Peters is 22 years old. But the car that is at the centre of his life has components that were manufactured before his granddad was born.
“It started with my old man really,” he tells me as we sit in the vintage-bedecked living room of his North London flat. “He had cars in the early nineties. He got out of them, but I stuck with it.”
The self-taught young mechanic now spends his working life building, maintaining and creating hot rods for customers at Buckland Automotive in Bedford. But this creation reflects very much his own hot rodding world view. “The car is a bit of a mongrel” he says, “But then all hot rods were mongrels in the 1940s.”
And Harley here makes an important point. The birth of hot rodding was the ultimate back-yard, garage-built, do it yourself scene, with a whole generation of mechanically savvy thrill-seekers with a few dollars in their pocket taking bits and pieces of all sorts of machines to build fun, fast, stripped-down cars that were meant to be simply driven with spirit between the lights.
And there’s something about Harley’s Roadster, out of all the amazing machines on the sand at Pendine back in July, that stood out. It’s something about that simple, purposeful stance and a natural patina that appeals. And what’s it like on the daily commute? “The car is no Smart Car, but it’s a bit of a laugh,” he says.
“I wanted a car that was straight out of a Don Montgomery Book. A lot of people look at other cars for inspiration, but I look at old pictures and try to recreate that. I wanted the car to look as if a kid had built it in the forties, to have that sort of mentality about it. In the early days hot rods were built by mechanics rather than fabricators. They were built to work, to do what they were meant to do and to look good while they did it.”
Harley drives the car to work as much as he can. “It’s just a normal car for me”, he says, “But people want to stop and take pictures all the time. It’s good, but I’m not into hot rodding for that, to be looked at. The car is just an extension of me, really, so it’s strange for me that so many people want to stop and look and stare.”
Like many in the hot rod scene, the car as it is now is at a simple weigh point in its evolution. “It’s a constant project”, he says. “Now the winter is coming I’m going to strip it down, put a steel body on it and create it in a new colour. I want it to be a really nice car.
Personally we love it as it is. Power to Harley’s elbow!
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