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Boyd Coddington, Hot Rod Guru Dies

There are two types of mainstream designers in the auto biz: classically trained individuals who create vehicles for major manufacturers, and independent creative gurus, who typically build custom or one-off masterpieces. The auto industry lost one of its best independents this week, with the passing of Boyd Coddington. Coddington, perhaps the leader in west coast “Hot Rod” design, died this week at a hospital in Whittier, California.


Perhaps best known for his Hot Rod “Cadzilla” – created for ZZ Top, Coddington was also the host of the TV Reality show “American Hot Rod.” He started building cars when he was 13 years old, operated a gas station in Utah, and was always known as an individual dedicated to creativity, workmanship, and detail.
He grew up in Rupert, Idaho, but by the time he was a teen, he knew his destiny was closer to the California coast. But it wasn’t the sound of the Beach Boys or the surf that drew Boyd west, it was his desire to build little deuce coupes, powered by a variety of then popular hot-rod motors. Years later, Beach Boy Al Jardine contracted Coddington to create a deuce coupe – a 409 Chevy woodie for him.
Boyd opened his first hot rod shop, Hot Rods by Boyd, in Cypress in 1977. By the time of his death this week, his business covered more than 50,000 square feet, had more than 70 employees, and helped bring a number of talented designers into the light of stardom, including Chip Foose.

As with most entrepreneurs, Coddington also had his challenges, including a 1998 reorganization (Chapter 11 bankruptcy), and more recently, some legal issues related to registering cars to avoid emissions and tax liabilities. Regardless, his designs were truely visionary – smooth lines, sharp edges, and a look that always communicated speed and class. Even his daily driver, a Mercedes CLS four-door coupe, had the door handles removed and featured other nuances that dictate the “Boyd look.”
In addition to his custom car business, his reality TLC TV show, Coddington owned a popular wheel company, Boyd Wheels (started in 1988) offering up highly polished wheels designed to make any hot rod a bit hotter.
The offices at VehicleVoice and AutoPacific are filled with models of cars built through the ages, including some fantastic hot rod examples. Tonight, we’ll raise our glasses and toast one of the masters: Boyd Coddington. We’ll miss you and your vision.

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