Cover image for Cool cars, high art : the rise of kustom kulture
Cool cars, high art : the rise of kustom kulture
DeWitt, John.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Jackson : University Press of Mississippi, [2001]

Physical Description:
xviii, 205 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 26 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TL236.3 .D48 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Provides a suped-up cruise through chopped Mercs & slammed Chevies seen as works of art.

Author Notes

John DeWitt is an associate professor of English and the acting director of the liberal arts program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

One consequence of the twentieth-century project to break down the barriers between popular and fine arts is the aesthetic discussion of objects and media not previously considered artistic, such as comic strips, photographs, quilts, and customized cars, the objects of DeWitt's incisive appreciation in this lavish book. Right off the bat, DeWitt discloses his investment in the subject with an account of his '50s Friday nights, which began by "attend[ing] to the hygiene" of his "metallic blue, nosed and decked, lowered 1953 Chevy." He belongs to the largest cohort of custom-car aficionados, former post-World War II teenagers who injected the new '50s youth culture into the small, mostly West Coast, working-class men's avocation of modifying stock cars into hot rods, capable of much greater speeds, and custom cars, intended to look much better than what rolled off the assembly lines. The marriage of custom cars and '50s youth fashions stuck, but before he ponders the implications of that, DeWitt backtracks. He explains why customizing is an art medium, demonstrating that customizers approach their work the same way fine artists do, and likening the ground rules of customizing to those of cubism and surrealism. He analyzes the various styles of customizing and distinguishes periods in the now 60-plus-year history of the practice. Finally, he weighs the symbiosis of the '50s and customizing and its implications for the future of customizing. Throughout, he refers with pinpoint pertinence to the 56 figures and 65 colorplates that make the book itself quite a dream machine. --Ray Olson

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. VII
Introductionp. IX
Prologuep. XVI
The Invention of Kustom Kulturep. 3
Making Art Out of Carsp. 31
Blue-Collar Modernismp. 53
The Golden Age of Customsp. 83
Back to the Futurep. 115
Afterwordp. 149
Sourcesp. 151
Indexp. 155
Platesp. 159