• The automotive design industry is highly competitive with creative geniuses such as Boyd Coddington standing out
• Boyd's innovative and pioneering methods led to his business success and left an indelible mark on the hot rod industry
• Vern Luce's 1933 Coupe, Boydster I, 1934 Chevrolet Coupe, Boydsters II & III, 1936 Ford Bud Light, 1929 Ford Model T Coupe Beater, Aluma Coupe and CadZZilla were some of the most remarkable designs by Boyd Coddington
• He combined traditional and modern elements, mixed classic hot-rodding shape with innovation, and created unique designs such as the Delahaye-inspired Whatthehaye Street-Rod and the CadZZilla
• His works set a precedent in the entire hot rodding and automotive industry
The automotive design industry is fascinating, though also highly competitive, as not many people stand out in a business where many talented, creative, and skilled people do their best to show their abilities. One of those rarely-seen creative geniuses was Boyd Coddington, known not only for his unique approach to design, but also for his contributions to the world of hot rod customizations.
Leaving an indelible mark in the hot rod industry was accomplished by Boyd through his innovative and pioneering methods, leading the way for his business success, and for other big names in the industry.
So which ones were the best hot rods built by Boyd Coddington? Get to know the most remarkable designs by the iconic car builder through his company and in the show “American Hot Rod”, what they meant in his successful decades-long career, his legacy as a hot rodder, and so much more!
Vern Luce’s 1933 Coupe
The most extraordinary people start humbly, somewhere, and it’s no different for Boyd Coddington. From the late 1960s, Boyd worked half-time in building and customizations, but it wasn’t until 1977 that he left his full-time job as a Disneyland machinist, and started Hot Rods by Boyd in his house’s garage.
The Vern Luce Coupe was the car which fitted this new chapter in Boyd’s professional life the most. Often known as the car which began the ‘Boyd look’ concept, and for introducing the idea of the billed wheels later produced by Boyd, the Luce Coupe was built over the body of a three-window 1933 Ford Coupe, with its changes designed by Thom Taylor. Some parts of the coupe were donated from a failed 1933 Ford project by automotive builder John Buttera, who also suggested some changes to the grille.
Not much is known of Vern Luce except that he was a candy business owner, but his simplicity was contrasted by the extraordinary car he commissioned from Boyd. However, the coupe wasn’t a real hot rod until Vern’s death, as its next owner, Jamie Musselman commissioned a new customization from Boyd in 1981. The finished hot rod Vern Luce Coupe won an Al Slonaker Award, was America’s Most Beautiful Roadster 1982, and had a Hot Wheels diecast produced. It now belongs to Gary Brown, who restored it in 2013, and has been taking care of it in Australia.
Surprisingly, Boyd Coddington didn’t own a lot of hot rodders. For a man who dedicated his life to not only building but innovating and conveying his visions into real-life cars, the lack of hot rodders in his personal garage was quite astounding.
Nonetheless, that changed somewhat in 1996 when the DuPont Boydser was finished. By the time Boyd and his then-apprentice turned-renowned designer Chip Foose worked on this particular roadster, Hot Rods By Boyd and Boyd Coddington Wheels were already well-established names in the industry.
Built over the chassis of a 1932 Ford Coupe, and also using elements from the 1933 model, the usual 1930s Ford Deuce looks are found everywhere. As both Boyd and Foose affirmed to Hot Rod Magazine in May 1996, the theme chosen for the Boydster I was taking a 1932 Ford Deuce to its ‘essential shape’, then elongating its form on top of reducing its grille to resemble the ‘wind-cheating’ look of a Pontiac Bonneville.
The bright red found in its interior and the body, is a custom DuPont Red, thus explaining the alternative name for the Boydster I. The result was heart-stopping for any hot rod lover, explaining well why it won 1996’s America’s Most Beautiful Roadster title.
— Boyd Coddington Jr. (@boydcoddington) May 22, 2018
1934 Chevrolet Coupe
As was usual for Boyd Coddington and his company, his hot rods were a mix of ingenuity, creativity, and a pioneering attitude which set their creations apart from most builders of his time. The same standards were applied while bringing this 1934 Chevrolet Coupe to build into reality in 2006, showing that not only was Boyd still a big name in the industry at the time, but also that what made his brand different wasn’t the materials or resources, but the talent of his staff.
The 1934 Chevy Coupe’s body was made of fiberglass by the Texas-based Outlaw Performance, and the aluminum roof made by Marcel’s Custom Metal, of California. The rest of the work was left in the hands of Boyd and his team, which assembled it to completion after adding engine and transmission systems to it. Besides the incredible building work and the creative sense and skill behind it, the 1934 Chevy Coupe was painted in a copper-tinted orange tone named Lion’s Mane, produced by PPG Industries.
The final look was worth the effort and though Boyd’s team was almost behind the deadline, the 1934 Chevy Coupe was finished in time to be featured by Hot Rodder Magazine as its annual Rod Tour title-holder car.
Boydsters II & III
While Boyd Coddington had already set a statement with the Boydster I, that didn’t stop him from trying different things with his following models of the series, without losing its essence.
Just as its predecessor, the Buckaroo Boydster II was designed by Chip Foose. Limited to six units produced, this Boydster was built over a 1932 Ford Coupe, but in an all-steel body built by California-based Marcel’s Custom Metal. Besides taking charge of the design, parts assembling, and mechanic system, Boyd’s billed wheels are part of this design as well.
Besides making it onto the 2004 Street Rod Builder’s cover, the Boydster II was awarded as America’s Most Beautiful Roadster in 2003.
The Boydster III came alive not long afterwards, but its conception was quite different from its predecessors. Knowing that a third Boydster was a possibility, businessman and car lover Gil Losi, convinced Boyd to build it after the design of the Ashcroft Flyer, a bike built by the Oregon-based Ashcroft Motorcycles, which he saw at a Grand National Roadster Show.
Gil already owned one of the all-steel Boydster II models, and was a long-time customer of Boyd, who built a beautiful gray-painted 1933 Ford Coupe Boydster III for him, which perfectly combines the nostalgia and elegance of hot rods, with the innovation and technology of the early 2000s.
1936 Ford Bud Light
Undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous cars which ever came out of Boyd Coddington’s garage, the 1936 Ford Bud Light Roadster demonstrated what Hot Rods by Boyd could accomplish, even when time wasn’t in their favor.
The roader was commissioned by beer company Budweiser, and was featured in the third season of Boyd’s show “American Hot Rod” aired in 2005. While it was initially planned to make de Bud Light out of a 1933 Ford Coupe, the only model available at the time was a 1936’s one, but that wasn’t the only challenge faced by the team. Besides losing valuable members of the team and making it work with new ones, the Hot Rods by Boyd’s staff was behind time for its unveiling, six weeks after the project’s beginning.
Some of the most notable features of this hot rod include Boyd-made chassis, transmission, and titanium wheels. The color is electric DuPont Candy Blue, and the red leather interiors were made by the California-based Gabe Lopez. Unlike some 1930s Boyd customizations, the Bud Light is the only one of its type with these specifications.
1929 Ford Model T Coupe Beater
While Boyd Coddington usually went for the polished, sleek and elegant look, that doesn’t mean he was afraid of giving rat rods a try. To prove that, the 1929 Ford Model T Coupe has everything one would expect from a hot rod which came out of Boyd’s garage, yet is at the same time unexpected and a rare sight.
The idea for the Beater Coupe didn’t come up from Boyd’s relentless search for innovation but from his rare need for something simple, an old-school style which reminded him of his beginnings. Some important changes to the body were made, such as removing the roof and replacing it with a three-piece one, modifying the windows, and raising the rear wheels. The most notable modification was adding a new nose to turn it into a classic hot rod, keeping style while not losing the Boyd look.
While it was a meticulous build, some original features such as the bodyline and hinges were deliberately unchanged, to keep the not-so-slick rat-rod-like look from the original. The dark-brown paint job is nothing out of the ordinary, yet it keeps the hot rod’s style intact, while perfectly combining with its black leather interior. The car was featured in several episodes of “America’s Hot Rod” section “Beater Build-Off”.
Definitely a car impossible to find anywhere else than in Boyd Coddington’s garage, the Aluma Coupe was revolutionary for its design and concept, showing what happens when talented people work together.
During a flight from Detroit to California in 1991, designer Larry Erickson fell asleep without knowing that the initial idea for the Aluma Coupe would come to him in dreams. Unable to get that concept out of his mind, Erickson sketched it all, directly inspired by the 1930s and 1934 Ford Coupes, and sent it to Boyd Coddington. Unknowingly for both of them, Mitsubishi had been thinking of building a car which resembled the 3000GTO and there was nobody else for that job than Boyd, who mixed that concept with Erickson’s idea.
While it was initially thought that keeping a classic hot-rodding shape would be the best option, a coupe body was chosen in the end for structural safety reasons. Builder Marcel DeLay was in charge of shaping the hot rod out of aluminum, giving origin to the car’s name.
The final result is a successful mix of traditional and modern elements, putting together the ingenuity of everyone involved in an equilibrated way, but staying in brand with Boyd and Mitsubishi. The Aluma Coupe was unveiled in 1992 at the New York International Auto Show, and was donated to the Petersen Automotive Museum in 2010.
Classic never goes out of fashion, and that is something Boyd Coddington understood better than anyone else. Following that concept, it’s unsurprising that he was the perfect formula for combining the coolness of hot rods with the magnificence of Delahaye, the French luxury car manufacturer founded in the late 1800s.
For his part, Scotty Gray was a Texas-based car auctioneer and long-time customer of Boyd, who wanted something different from his past commissions. He came up with the idea of a Delahaye-inspired hot rod, and Boyd made it a reality with a 1930’s model as a basis, adding Boyd Coddington’s custom coil-over, Pro-Ride suspension system, and wheels.
To fit the chassis built by Art Morrison in collaboration with Boyd’s custom chassis, the staff at Marcel’s Custom Metal was left to build the body: ‘Boyd brought us a chassis, a rough sketch, and an idea—he gave us a sort of free-for-all’, as Marcel’s son Luc DeLey told MotorTrend at the time, confessing that the Whatthehaye was the type of car his father always wanted to build.
Marcel and his team created the Delahaye-inspired V-shape windshields from scratch, while following the classic design of the 1930s. The black leather upholstery work was left to Gabe Lopez, but not before Boyd and his staff assembled it all. After a whole year of work, in early 2004 the Whatthehaye Street Rod was finished, and valued at $400,000.
Despite it being one of his early works, the CadZZilla build is one of the most famous hot rods by Boyd Coddington.
The CadZZilla’s first concept was drafted on a Mexican restaurant’s napkin by designer Larry Erickson, and Billy Gibbons, frontman of rock band ZZ Top and who commissioned the work. Later Erickson and Jack Chisenhall revised the design before sending it to Hot Rods by Boyd, where they took a 1948 Series 62 Cadillac body and shaped it into something modern, but a hot rod nonetheless.
In the hands of artisan Craig Naff, the Cadillac didn’t lose its post-war look, yet sported a modified frame which would have been great for everyone, except Gibbons. Asking for a more forward and defying look, Gibbons got what he wanted with radical changes such as a new roof line, custom-made windshields, and a larger and dramatically sleek trunk. To fit Gibbon’s thirst for speed, an eight cylinders 500ci Cadillac V engine was installed under the hood. The cherry on top was its House of Kolor-made dark purple paint job.
While Boyd went on to work on several incredible projects afterwards, the CadZZilla remains one of the most important creations of his career for setting a precedent not only in his future works, but in the entire hot rodding and automotive industry.