This web site is dedicated to my dad and continuing the legacy.
Boyd Coddington Jr.
About Boyd Coddington
The Boyd Coddington Companies
A perfect portrayal of the legendary American dream, Boyd Coddington represents the archetype of the self-made man.
Starting his life as a humble farm boy with big dreams, he arduously worked his way up until he became, through his powers, one of the most influential custom automotive manufacturers in the Unites States. A timeline full of unexpected difficulties, monumental breakthroughs and the rewriting of the rules of the custom car industry, Coddington’s life was no joyride, but the result made it worthwhile. From working two jobs to support his family and feed his passion, Boyd Coddington’s efforts supported him from his garage over to Disneyland and eventually to the most coveted place of all – Wall Street, where stocks for Boyds were traded at NASDAQ.
Famous customers, such as Eddie Van Halen, Dixon Edwards, Michael Anthony, the Beach Boys, Shaquille O’Neal, Roger Clemens, Darryl Strawberry and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top came from different backgrounds and have commissioned vehicles to showcase their personalities, with astounding results. From the classical covers of Hot Rod Magazine to the Smithsonian Magazine and with the American Hot Rod series on Discovery Channel, Boyd’s reputation grew beyond the borders of the United States, turning him into a global icon.
A disharmonious chant sang by hundreds of CNC machines, milling on 6061 aluminum blocks fills the space of the massive 9 building complex stretching over 175,000 square feet, overshadowing the memory of the garage in which Boyd used to tinker with his Model T’s. The result of this symphony of metal is a hot rod, also known as the most beautiful creation on wheels in the entire automotive industry – and it all started with one man.
What seems to be a different era today is the time of my dad’s birth. The technology-laden life we lead today has spoiled us too much perhaps, as we tend to give too little attention to what we could improve or create instead of what we could buy instead, skipping an essential stage in one’s development.
In his time, respect was earned by showcasing one’s capabilities and that creed has become, for some, a life rule. Expectations were as high as you could live up to. My father’s passion for motor vehicles sprung around the age of twelve, as the legal driving age in Idaho was fourteen, and as that seemingly mythical number got closer and closer, the interest grew proportionally. A ’31 Chevy pickup represented his first ride, for which he traded a rather unusual currency – a shotgun. By the time he had reached driving age, he was a seasoned veteran, having sold numerous automobiles, an early proof of his entrepreneurial spirit.
However, his enthusiasm for cars didn’t materialize out of thin air as his brother Wayne, being five years older than himself, instilled him this passion. Together with his entourage, he had “all the cool cars, the ’35 and ’36 Fords and Deuce roadsters”.
By fusing the rear end of a ’32 Buick body to a Model A cowl, he created a two door tub, while the body was placed on rails belonging to a Model A. finally, a rusty flathead constituted the power plant. That was his very first hot rod, built during high school.
Not long after graduation, he enrolled in a trade school. Boyds first semester was spent at a body shop, his true calling became evident and as a result he spent the following three semesters in the machine shop. After graduation and a three-year apprenticeship period in a small-scale machine shop in Salt Lake City, Utah, he took both my mom and the two-year-old me and we relocated to Los Angeles, California. More specifically, an apartment in Redondo Beach became our new home. By sheer will, my father took two jobs – a night shift as a machinist at Western Gear and a part-time fabricator for J&J Chassis.
At last, he was able to tackle another project, which was a custom model T, which won the Best of Show award at the Long Beach Car Show. A humorous moment ensued when he was called to collect his award, and he persuaded a stranger to accept it, as he was taken aback by the outcome.
By switching to the day shift at Western Gear and taking a night shift machinist post at Disneyland, he was able to restrict his rest time to four hours, spending all his free time tinkering with his T. Not long after, he proved that not only his imagination was great, but also his craftsmanship, as the car received multiple awards. But, unsurprisingly, he sold it, just as he did with his previous project, and an incipient idea started taking shape: he could make a living out of fabricating and selling hot rods.
It’s About Reputation
There isn’t much to recommend in the area where Boyd Coddington Garage was originally located. It was in the old industrial side of Orange County California, in a neighborhood you’ll never see pictured in the hotel travel brochures that advertise the many charms of Disneyland, only five miles to the east of the hot rod shop. Driving through the streets that lead to the shop is like looking underneath a ride at a carnival where the greasy machine does all the work. Industrial neighborhoods like this and thousands of others throughout the country are the source of the everyday hardware we barely notice but can’t live without bookshelves, machine screws, mailboxes, paperclips, can openers Phillip screwdriver and all the millions of other man-made commodities that distinguish modem industrial culture from that of an society where you might have to walk 50 miles to find a good hand-held quarter-inch drill. It’s these clusters of little shops that, like underground streams, feed the greater flow of the giant manufacturing plants that in turn, produce the cars, the refrigerators, and the airplanes we take for granted as staples of modem life.
The Boyd Coddington approach to building hot rods is radically different from that of almost every other rodder. The standard shop practice is similar to that of the kit-car business. The majority of the shops that sell finished hot rods don’t manufacture anything. Instead, they purchase their frames, suspension pieces, bodies, and accessories from a handful of mail order suppliers and bolt them together like kits. The process is largely a matter of mix and match. The end products look different, but the ingredients are the same.
Boyd celebrating his birthday with Lil John
Boyd going over the daily schedule with the master craftsman Larry Serjoff
Boyd Coddington Garage built hot rods almost entirely from scratch, and everyone is unique. Every frame, pedal kit, and every wheel was built in the shop, or it was farmed out to a specialist, usually a competitor. Where others cut corners, dad went the extra step. Take pedal linkages, for instance. A buyer would never know, and probably never care if Coddington used an off-the-shelf pedal linkage. The car would not behave any differently. But we machined linkages from bar stocks of aluminum. They are superb, complete with saw tooth adjustments at their pivot points, that they could stand on their own as machine sculpture. To understand the beauty and fascination of, for example, a small machined bracket that routes a spark-plug wire around a valve cover is to grasp the essence of hot rodding. To the trained eye, it is small—one wants to say obsessive details that separate the drop dead, awe-inspiring hot rod from the merely fantastic one. A dedicated rod builder will spend hours hooking up a stainless-steel braided hose line, fiddling with it until the herringbone pattern lines up perfectly from one end to the other, or making sure that a line of stainless screws has all its slots pointing in the same direction or turning spark plugs until each brand name faces out. And that’s just the cosmetics, accessible to nearly anyone with endless patience. On a higher plane, nothing, nothing on this planet is as big a tum-on to a rod addict as a piece of machined 6061. It is said that Michelangelo looked at a monumental slab of marble and saw within it the Paella, waiting to be released. Give Boyd Coddington a piece of 2024 or 6061 aluminum, and all he would see is spindles, shifters, dash inserts, mirrors and wheel centers and chips flying. Rule number one for the serious hot rodder is that you never use a piece of available hardware if you have the means of fabricating it from scratch. This ethic extends from the smallest, simplest brackets to complete car bodies.
If Coddington was the Michelangelo of the machining arts, the credit for pioneering the extensive use of machined billet aluminum goes to Lil John Buttera, who probably had more cars on the cover of Hot Rod magazine than any other car builder. Buttera, was the first to build the “ultra” hot rods, and was the inspiration behind Coddington’s work. Coddington took Buttera’s approach and expanded on it by an order of enormity. Both were expert machinists. Both can turn the most ordinary object into a work of art. Both have an eye for lines and proportion in a car. Where they differ is in an attitude. Buttera was an artist, most the time unpredictable, and 95% of the time, difficult to work with. Coddington was a scientist- methodical, unrelenting in the pursuit of perfection, and slightly crackers. “He’s a little strange,” one of his competitors says. “Only Boyd would machine an oil pan from a two-hundred-pound chunk of 6061 billet aluminum?” Buttera provided the artistic inspiration.
Boyd Coddington and Vern Luce
Boyd never had any trouble drawing business. The customers who picked up their frames and rolling chassis had grins on their faces and were helping to spread the word. The cars were always finished on time and usually under budget. One of those early customers was Vern Luce. Vern Luce was the first of many sugar daddies yet to come, and the customer you dream of walking into your shop. Vern might best be described as a “sleeper.” Most of the time dressed in jeans with holes in the knees, a sweater and boots, Vern hung around the shop. Shortly meeting, Vern contemplated buying a 1956 Chevy that Coddington had for sale. Vern jumped in the car, drove it around the block and really liked it. Luce asked Boyd what he wanted for it. Boyd responded to a price of $7,500 and explained, “I’ll need a deposit if you are interested in the car.” Boyd asked for a deposit and Vern responded by pulling out a wad of cash that could choke a horse. Boyd and Vern became friends Vern, of course, wasn’t just your typical guy, Vern was an industrialist and owned a candy manufacturer. In truth, he was an intellectual. One-day while, at Boyds Garage, Luce saw a drawing done by the legendary automotive artist and designer Thom Taylor in Coddington Shop and with barely a glance, commissioned the hot rod on the spot. The result was a ’33 coupe later to be known as the Vern Luce Coupe.” By the completion date, the 33 had a build price of $90,000, unheard of in the 80’s, Soon many other projects followed with price tags well into the six figures. The Coupe was a hit at the 1981 AMBR Show, where it won the Slonaker award. Now, the small hot rod shop was attracting more and more attention. The various awards led to magazine interviews. Publications such as Street Rodder and Hot Rod helped to give more focus and drive business to the young Boyd Coddington shop.
Another man that took notice of all this attention was Jamie Musselman from San Antonio, Texas. A car fanatic since high school, Jamie had already owned hot rods when he heard about Boyd Coddington in 1981. Like Vern Luce, Jamie would become a good friend. When Jamie’s Roadster won the award as “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster,” the highest honor at the world’s most prestigious hot-rod show in 1982, it set Boyd Coddington on the map.
Moving in a large shop situated on Monroe Avenue in Stanton, California took things to a different level, as everything seemed to move at an incredible place. Winning the first award for “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster” with The Roadster commissioned by Jamie Musselman and the second with Larry Murray’s Tudor phaeton put our business in the spotlight of the custom car world. The shop grew exponentially, as more and more clients started commissioning one of a kind machine. Street rods such as the Aluma Coupe, the CadZZilla, Chezoom, the Boydster and the Boydster II were part of an incredible timeline in which innumerable hours of man effort were invested, but the satisfaction was unrivaled by anything else.
A visionary, Boyd realized that without a team, a man’s solitary efforts are limited. As a result, he assembled a one of a kind group of bright, creative minds that brought fresh ideas and approaches to the industry Pioneering the technique of fabricating high-end billet aluminum wheels for custom cars, Boyd was a powerful pillar in the development of the modern hot rod. As his ideas started materializing into concrete creations, the automotive industry recognized his importance and influence. A part of the globalization process, news of his custom designs reached the Old World and various other parts of the globe, enabling him to reach an almost legendary status. Characterized by Street Rodder magazine as “a man striving to be the best he can be”.
For my dad, his projects represented his greatest source of satisfaction, not the laurels of the media or the awards. With a desire to offer as much as he can to the world and to those who live and breathe engine noises and V8 exhausts growls, his ideas spawned unprecedented creations. With the help of an incredible team of employees, regardless if they were designers or fabricators, Boyd gave life to dreams – not just his own, but of others. How did he do it? I don’t believe there is a clear-cut answer to that question and never will be, but a combination of factors, stemming from his childhood dreams to a vision of a richer and better designed car worlds, from hard work to the point of exhaustion, from self-determination and will, as well as discipline and ultimately – a splash of luck at the right time, has culminated in what is known as Boyd Coddington. If he were alive today, and you asked him if he ever expected to become so successful, he would tell you no.
Run Away Success
A move to a larger shop in Stanton,California on Monroe Avenueis what put us into the fast lane. After winning the second “America’s Most BeautifulRoadster” award, this time for Larry Murray’s Tudor phaeton, the growth and success came fast and hard.A succession of street rods followed. Each outdid the last, and the progression included, among many roadster, Aluma CoupeCadZZilla, Chezoomthe Boydster and the Boydster II. Through it all, it was the people that Boyd assembled who made it happen. They were the best in the business, and they operated in an environment that radiated creativity. There were designers such as Thom Taylor, Larry Erickson, Chris Ito, Chip Foose, Eric Brockmeyer, Luis Tanahara, Eddie Wimble and Todd Emmons. No one can deny Boyd his rank in hot rodding and customizing. Boyd’s remarkable success and the fact he pioneered the productionof high-end billet-aluminum custom wheelsis unprecedented. His car designs have received worldwide acclaim for craftsmanship, quality, attention to detail and originality. Street Rodder magazine once called Boyd “a man striving to be the best he can be”. My dad didn’t just thrive on the success or the good press, but rather on the exhilaration of the projects themselves. He had an incredible eagerness to design new products and new markets for those products, and the excitement of building hot rods that would have been unbuildable if not for the unique combination of designers, the employees and their skills, and all the equipment brought together by Boyd. There is no simple answer to explain the success of my dad. His successes were achieved over time, with vision, hard work, a little luck and the result of a combination of attributes, some of which can be traced all the way back to the strong foundation my grandfatherlaid down for him. If he were alive today, and you asked him if he ever expected to become so successful, he would tell you no. He’d tell you “most the time, I wish I was still behind the house in the garage.”
The Future Of Boyd Coddington
In a continuous search for advancement, innovation, and prestige, Boyd Coddington Junior setup Boyd Coddington Wheels in 1997. This decision contributed to further developing the business and enabled Boyd Senior to focus his vision on constructing and producing custom hot rods, as well as accessories and various other elements.
From unique wheels with unmatched design to forged aluminum accessories and from complete hot rods to frames and chassis, Boyd Coddington Wheels and Hot Rods remain committed to producing unrivaled products of the highest quality. Striving to achieve perfection, we have put into operation atypical resources in the world of custom fabricators, such as space age materials. In addition to novel machining processes and inventive design ideas, our prices remain unrivaled on today’s market.
At present times, Boyd’s hot rods and wheels are designed and manufactured in-house, at the Coddington Companies, in Kansas City, Missouri. With over 30 years of experience, the Coddington’s have the highest commitment and dedication to the hot rod and wheel industries.
“The Quality Of the hot Rods built by the team at Boyd Coddington’s Garage is unsurpassed”. “We are quite comfortable as the leader in the industry however, we do not confuse comfort with Complacency”. “Our total commitment to excellence begins with the concept to the finished product and the ability to make every car we build a show winner”. “If you can dream it, you can build it”. “Cash is king”. “Consistency is king”