Modern Rodding STARTING OVER
Craig Morrison portrait
A Moment in Time
By Brian Brennan with Randy Borcherding

‘ve always said the best reason to be a hot rodder comes from the true friends you garner. Make sure to hold them close because they are special and rare, and enjoy their company whether behind the wheel, under the hood, or at the dinner table. For me, to find myself sitting in a parking lot ingesting a pizza and a few cold ones after a hot day of tramping around blistering asphalt is a blessing come true. One such “special and rare” individual was Craig Morrison from Art Morrison Enterprises out of Washington. Craig was my friend and a friend to countless others. Having good friends to enjoy is hard enough to come by but losing one has proven to be very painful.

I’ve said this before when writing about the loss of a friend, “If you want all of the details you will have to look elsewhere because you probably won’t find them here.” For me, my reflections about 46-year-old Craig are more about the loss of a friend and what that means than the whys and wherefores. To me everything else is “stuff.” He was noticeably younger than I but it never stopped either one of us from talking “shop,” enjoying a good laugh, or mapping out where we wanted to end up and how we would get there. Aside from our hot rod world, we enjoyed the outdoors, especially the mountains, Jeeps, four-wheeling, and the friends we have across this country. Both of us would talk about our life’s plans; he was most assuredly working his.

Turns out Craig had plenty of friends, although you can never have enough, and while sitting behind the keyboard I had the opportunity to go over a myriad of Craig-inspired stories. Turns out Randy Borcherding of Painthouse (a Texas-based shop known for their expertise, especially in all things related to paint) was a close friend of Craig’s. Each enjoyed a similar excitement about their chosen vocations and shared countless stories about their much-enjoyed avocations.

When talking to Randy, he said it best about a loss any of us might experience. “We all have a ‘Born On’ and a ‘Died On’ date. What we do in between those dates is the important part. There is no doubt Craig left behind an enviable legacy. From quite literally exploring the globe to revolutionizing an entire industry, what he accomplished in his fleeting 46 years is nothing short of epic.”

I believe that sums up Craig pretty well.

Randy also went on to tell me, “Craig was a once-in-a-lifetime, one-of-a-kind shooting star in the galaxy of humans we exist within. His smile, humor, and passion for anything he touched, not only the hot rod industry, but his friends and family, were to be admired, and more importantly, emulated. His wake has spread far and wide.”

According to Randy he and Craig became fast friends “because of the industry we are both passionate about but also because of our quirky sense of humor, a mutual love of an outdoor adventure, and, perhaps, an appreciation for the occasional glass of ‘high-quality brown-colored water.’”

And that brings me to a saying that Craig repeated often and I would hear for years to come. While at an industry function such as a car event, trade show, or while working on a story the subject would come up about having a “cold one.” I would offer and he would always say to me, “Well, it would be rude to refuse, so thank you.” I would chuckle, as would all those around. I was never in the man’s presence when he didn’t have an infectious smile that immediately everyone would see and respond in kind.

To support my hypothesis let me share another quote from Randy:

“His smile, we all know that ever-present, sincere, and often mischievous smile. I have never seen a photo where Craig was not smiling or laughing, none of which was posed or staged. Seeds of happiness planted.”

Craig was known for his sense of humor; man he could be fun. On more than one occasion I found myself shuffling off to bed while he continued to entertain and be entertained by his growing world of friends. One night at an industry trade show we had numerous pizzas delivered to the room and for hours the Morrisons (Craig and his dad, Art) would play the part of the perfect hosts by making sure everyone had something to eat and something to wash it down, all the time laughing and smiling and telling stories. Some of those stories had to have been “whoppers”! I remember going back to my room that night only to return to theirs the next morning and found pizza remnants on the table and possibly 50 water-soaked bath towels on the floor. Not sure exactly what happened but I know everyone around was laughing and smiling along with the Morrisons.

According to Randy (which I wholeheartedly concur), “His sense of humor was nothing short of infinite, infectious, and spontaneous. If you were around Craig, or had his phone number, there was always a joke to be heard or a life story to be shared. Seeds of joy planted.”

At the time of his death, Craig and I were working on a project. Over the years we had worked on many magazine stories but this time the project was something nearer to me. I found myself really enjoying getting into the minutia, so many details, but it was fun to “listen” to his mind work as he sorted out my random wanderings and kept me on path.

I believe the first time we met was right around the millennium. It began with telephone conversations, lots of emails, and then came the first “face-to-face” meeting with himself and Art. I will never forget. He and Art had just driven down to our offices in SoCal with the first 1955 Chevy to be outfitted with their brand-new Tri-Five chassis. This was the first one and let me tell you how excited all of us were to see it. I can remember clearly how Craig and Art explained how they would take off-ramps just so they could feel how well the car would handle at speed and then negotiate the next on-ramp so they could accelerate back up to speed. Now, for those of you who know Art, he too is built with a perpetual smile and a “spring” in his voice. The eternal optimist. I knew that going in but here I was looking at a twentysomething-year-old who was a carbon copy of the old man. Craig was full of the youthful exuberance, and rightfully so.

Randy would say this, “Craig was a trendsetter in our industry but–more importantly–I saw him as a ‘friendsetter.’ Once you met him, a handshake was not enough. Hugs were the order of the day.”

In thinking, how can an individual like Craig be replaced. Well, he can’t. Randy will tell you that, “Sadly, we are all left with a Craig-shaped hole in our lives. This hole appeared tragically and suddenly, without respect for timing or reason.”

The best thing any of us can do when we lose someone of such proportions in our own lives is to remember them and all of the good that they brought to us and all those around. By remembering the good the sadness will not vanish but it will at the very least become more manageable.

In speaking with Randy, he went on to say, “If there is one lesson I have gleaned from all of this tragedy it is the all-too-true fact that life is far too short, whether you are called home at 6, 46, or 106. I plan to slow down and enjoy myself more, just as he was so adept at doing.”

I would be willing to guess, and I believe Randy would agree, that for all of the love we have for our industry and/or hobby we probably invest too much time in these cars and not enough time with the living, breathing friends who we have become so close to. Friends are irreplaceable; hot rods, well, there’s always the next project.

It should be noted that Craig has a son, 12-year-old Alexander, who to this point enjoyed a mother and father who were, are, totally devoted to giving him a foundation that will serve him well for the rest of his life.

To Alexander: When you need an answer to one of life’s challenges, look to your mom for guidance as well as others in your family. Remember, you came from them too. If you find yourself looking for some real insight about your dad, look to Grandma Jeanette. All of us are what we become based on our foundation and it was she who was the guiding force behind your dad. She is one heck of an adventurer and we are pretty sure that’s where your dad got his sense of adventure; his“what’s out there” curiosity. She masterfully raised a family while Grandpa Art was building the family business. Once your dad wanted to learn more as a businessman, an outdoorsman, and a great hot rodder it was Grandpa Art who was there.

Craig Morrison with his father Art
Modern Rodding
VOLUME 2 • ISSUE 11 • 2021