Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Photo Essay: Custom Cruising The Valley at Galpin Auto Sports

The San Fernando Valley gets a bad rap.

Personally, I think it's one of the things that makes the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area livable.

It's the neighboring suburb over the hill that—though much of it is technically part of the City of Los Angeles—makes you feel like you're a world away from the hubbub of Beverly Hills, Boystown, the beach, the bay, the bold, and the beautiful.

You can find parking in the Valley. You can drive in the Valley. And, by the very nature of it being a flat expanse in between mountain ranges, you can see where you're going—for miles.

To me, the Valley is all American Graffiti—hot rods and games of chicken and drive-thru's and drive-ins, car hops and revving engines at red lights and incandescent bulbs glittering.



So, when I finally made it to the Galpin Car Show and Galpin Auto Sports—an institution along Roscoe Boulevard at the 405—all I could say is, "This is so Valley."



Had anyone else come up over the hill—from Beverly Hills, no less—to check out the classics and customs both new and used, for both show and for sale?



If they had, Galpin still managed to keep this multi-location auto show feeling like a big ol' block party.



With a total of 10 franchises, including an in-dealership restaurant formerly known as The Horseless Carriage...



...Galpin is so embedded in the community of North Hills and beyond and the philanthropy of Galpin Motors owner/chairman H. F. (Bert) Boeckmann II is so great that Ford Motor Company has honored him as a "Hero for the Planet."



How's that for a car dealership?



It's almost as though the clocks and calendars have stopped, and it's still 1946, the year that Galpin was founded.



If there ever was an example of mid-20th century Middle America—family values and such—it's right here in LA. Believe it or not.



Of course, custom cars and hot rodding has always evoked images of the "bad boys," the hoodlums, the greasers, and the roughnecks.



But make no mistake—the customization and restoration that happens at and is displayed by Galpin inside its showroom-slash-museum is art, pure and simple.



Unfortunately, much of it is art for the elite and not for the masses living in Reseda, Van Nuys, or Panorama City.



You couldn't afford the "Aquarius," a coachbuilt custom created and built out of aluminum sheet by Rick Dore Kustoms with a teardrop body and pontoon fenders unless you were the lead singer of Metallica, like this car's owner James Hetfield is.



You may not be able to drive around a Barris-customized '56 Thunderbird with a spiderweb grille unless you were Elvira herself.



The Average Joe can't get the kind of custom striping and lettering that you see on cars like the "Henry Jaded."



But so many of the cars on display at Galpin Auto Sports—where you can see them all year, not just during the car show—weren't really meant for driving, per se. The Milk Truck, Ice Truck, and Pizza Wagon, for example, were California "showcars"—eye candy more than anything else.



Of course, once artists like Ed "Newt" Newton and Joe Perez showed what they could do with the paint jobs and interiors of cars—especially in the 1960s—Hollywood came calling. Case in point: the 23-foot-long Pink Panthermobile from NBC's The Pink Panther Show, a one-of-a-kind limo built on a 1960s Oldsmobile Tornado chassis with clamshell doors.



And if it's showcased at Galpin, it's likely that it was either restored or built by Dave Shuten and that it's owned by Galpin President owner Beau Boeckmann—as is the purple 1934 Ford 5 Window Coupe called the "Iron Orchid," which was a new build (whose parts are either one-offs or from before 1965) designed to emulate the extreme show cars of the 1960s.



Beau Boeckmann also managed to snag perhaps one of the most extreme examples of where your imagination could take you in automotive design in the '60s: Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's infamous Orbitron, custom-built in 1964 with a hand-laid fiberglass body painted in "candy blue." Its infamy comes mostly from it having been lost for decades—and then being found outside an adult bookstore in Mexico in 2007.



Looking at the futuristic, bubble-top car with its cockpit-style driver's seat, two baffled young boys at the car show could only exclaim, "What even is this?!"



But you don't have to understand the masterpieces in Galpin's collection (and Beau Boeckmann's personal fleet)—like Ed Roth's "56" Ford Shop Truck, with striping and lettering by Hot Dog, as well as other "Roth-mobiles"—to appreciate their beauty.

But unless you're proficient in automotive restoration yourself, most of these crazy, sculptural customs fall under the category of: Look, but don't touch.

These, of course, are just extreme examples of how car culture is still alive and well in the San Fernando Valley and its environs. You can bet that some of the sweet rides you see cruising down Ventura Boulevard have some tricks going on under the hood, even if their fenders haven't been painted with pinstripes or flames.

There's always more than meets the eye in the Valley. It is LA, after all.

And anything is possible, when you're surrounded by Hollywood.

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Photo Essay: Cruisin' Glendale