The State of the Hobby Roundtable


state of the hobby

The Gearheads hosted a roundtable of a different sort, discussing the state of the hobby at the 71st Grand National Roadster Show. We arranged a cast of builders, owner/clients and builder/owners to talk about where the hobby is at, where it’s going, and what the stakes are with regard to quality and chasing perfection. This episode is an amazing look into competing at AMBR/Slonaker/Ridler levels from nearly every perspective. We invited Erik Hansen, who has owned high-profile cars (including “Sedeuced,” the 1932 Ford which was featured on the TV show Rides, season one, episode ten) to provide his perspective as a client. We also invited builder and prior guest Tim Strange, and builder/sometimes self-client JF Launier to provide the builder perspective on the state of the hobby, and what goes into putting a car together at the upper  level.

It is an interesting and entertaining look inside of the relationship between client, designer and builder, and a fascinating peek behind the curtain of competing for the top awards.


  • Some VERY coincidental events and overlaps
  • Speaking Canadian fluently
  • The client/builder relationship
    – The builder/client relationship
  • An insider’s look at the time investment from a client’s perspective
  • The client/designer/builder dynamic
    – Mention of “the wife dynamic”
  • Perception of quality
    – Private sale VS auction sale
    – Passion from all parties involved as opposed to screen time on TV
  • The builder’s “whole life investment” in a build
    – Re-mortgaging multiple family properties to complete a build
  • Selling a concept to a client
  • Hinting at a project
  • The amassed knowledge of a career VS billable hours
    – Building a car in the real world as compared to a television budget
  • The reality of automotive reality television
    – 3800 man hours in 30 hours of TV
    – A team of skilled industry professionals working nonstop versus three buddies eating pizza and watching NASCAR
    – The push at the end/building the right team
  • Logistics of a high-end client build
  • Hot rod flashcards
    – Ben Franklin’s non-Presidency that should have been
  • The Al Slonaker Memorial Award (best non-roadster) revamp
    – The Detroit VS Pomona thing
    – The lessening of the importance of the big award in Detroit
  • Competing at the highest level
    – Best car in the world compared to the best car to show up that day
  • Originality in builds versus simply refining a trend
  • Building for pleasure meets finances
    – Private sale or auction
  • “Well-bought” weighed against “$3M invested” and the public perception
  • “You don’t build these cars to make money”
    – The challenge of building AFTER winning the top award
    – Narrowing your reach to clients due to perception of higher prices/longer build times
  • Plans to have the first 200MPH Ridler winner


  • How the Ridler Award slit the throat of the hobby
    – Visually imperfect and onward to the auction for a payday
    – Altering the state of the hobby in a negative way
  • On being an ambassador of the hobby versus winning a trophy
    – The importance of utilizing that win to promote the industry as a whole
  • Adding value to not just a car, but to an entire industry
    – Proving that a car can be used as well as display
  • Crafting provenance and a pedigree
  • What constitutes value more: A trophy or using the car for what a car is?
  • When a speech out-values the actual car
  • The importance of using that award win to promote them hobby over the next year
  • On making a positive impact and influencing by having the right attitude
  • The extra importance of being an ambassador in an age where the magazines are dying
  • Real-world ambassadorship via small project builds
    – Being at the top of the game and still getting excited about working with your heroes in a garage
  • Doing burnouts in an AMBR car
  • The Round Six burnout box proposal
  • Discussing the autocross requirement at Goodguys as it narrows a field against Pro-Street or drag race-style cars
  • Building cars that are memorable
  • The influx of money people following trends
    – A lifetime in the hobby contrasted by a rich guy dabbling for a year
  • “Believe in yourself” is all you need to know
  • Ambassadorship in action; get out in the garage


5 minute sizzle 2

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