Modern Rodding STARTING OVER
A headshot picture of Brian Brennan grinning
Where It All Begins
By Brian Brennan

I’m thinking that we all have similar stories on how we began our love affair with cars. The most popular routes to our lifelong passion likely started from one or more of the following three popular methods. The magazine. It presented monthly to each of us new dreams to aspire to. Then comes family, where Dad or older brother liked cars. This provided a great influence on our early likes and dislikes. Lastly, the hidden treasure. We would come upon a cool-looking hot rod, in any one of a thousand configurations, sitting behind a barn, gas station, or at the corner across from us.

For me it was family adjacent–my best friend and his neighbor who served as a surrogate father to the two of us. His love of all things mechanical seeped into our veins and as such we were fascinated by all manner of four-wheel mechanisms. Hence our love of cars.

Now, that was the easy part. I was hooked and I wanted to work on cars. I wanted to make my car go faster and I wanted to be behind the wheel, shifting the gears, mashing on the “loud pedal.” So where does one begin? Tools. You can’t achieve goals without having a means to an end.

This brings me to an art director I once worked with back in the day, Michael Stanford. One day he sends over some ideas regarding tools. Now, as you will see, it wasn’t what I first had in mind. But, for those of you who know me, it was, in fact, the perfect correlation. (I was once given a screwdriver set by my good friend Ron Ceridono where both ends of the said tool were dipped in a rubber coating. I was a bit puzzled whether he was giving me a gift or having a joyful moment at my expense.)

I’m willing to bet all of us have some form of drill press in our garage. It wouldn’t take me long to realize that a drill press is not to be taken lightly and one should exhibit a great deal of care when using this basic tool.

My definition of a “drill press” is an electrical device that can perform numerous useful drilling functions. However, first and foremost it is ideally suited at snatching flat metal from our hands and flinging it. Generally, it will be, grab it from our hands in a nano-second, next drive it with great force into our chest, then fling it across the garage. This probably doesn’t need to be stated but here goes, the “flying metal” will hit the only panel on your hot rod that doesn’t have a nick or dent. A drill press is in the same family as “field artillery” but used in one’s garage.

Another tool in the “garage field artillery” is the wire wheel. My definition of a “wire wheel” is an electrical device that while ideal for cleaning paint off bolts, and so on, it will then “grab and toss” said bolt. It can be guaranteed that said bolt will roll under the nearby car, workbench, or garage refrigerator. Did I mention that it is ideally suited at removing skin at a blinding speed. You will also realize that your vocabulary is somewhat limited and loud!

One more of my favorite family “garage field artillery” is the saw, mechanical or power. Although the power version does the job much more quickly, I’ve found the saw ideal for cutting all thread, bolts, or pretty much anything too short. No matter how many times you cut it!

I’m getting ahead of myself. Hand tools did come before power tools. My first two hand tools were a Vise-Grip and a hammer. The Vise-Grip is ideally suited for rounding head bolts when a normal pair of pliers has begun the process. Next up was (is) the hammer. Now, for those history buffs, you know that the hammer is a weapon of war—honest!—having a long history for inflicting pain. Apparently, we hot rodders enjoy pain and have implemented the hammer into our toolbox. Aside from flattening your thumb(s) it is also ideally suited for hitting the one component you didn’t want to hit. (I knew I was doomed when I realized the part; what I wanted to hit was adjacent to the part I didn’t want to hit. You can fill in what happened next.)

I won’t even get into what you can accomplish with a screwdriver or a Phillips. Aside from destroying the screwhead each tool is adapted at inflicting stunningly painful stabbing wounds. A pry bar is another amazing tool that can create so much more work than originally planned when in my hands.

There is one tool to be particularly careful with and that’s the utility knife. There are any number of useful uses for the utility knife, but I should mention it’s best to use when within sight of a box of bandages. You see where I am going here …

Keep in mind that “fixed and safe are not synonymous words.” Be careful when using tools. First and foremost, learn how to use a tool before jumping into the deep end.

Modern Rodding
VOLUME 4 • ISSUE 28 • 2023