‘Nobody in their right mind would come to Helsinki in February. Except you, you badass. Welcome.’ It’s the slogan repeating in my mind as I disembark from a very familiar two-hour ferry ride over the Gulf of Finland.
The same thing happens every time I visit my northern neighbors, even though the original wording of the famous banner stated the month of November. But if anything, February is even worse in our 60°-ish latitude.
As freezing wind and moist snow attacked my face, I paced steadily to The Cable Factory for the 8th annual Kustom Kulture Show.
Given the weather outlook in February, the KKS’s organizers are definitely brave for holding it at this time of the year, but there’s method to their madness: Why wait if you wish to hang with likeminded people and appreciate their vehicles; just enjoy Finnish hospitality and head to the sauna afterwards.
It’s been more than half a century since George Barris coined the term kustom to unify hot rodding, custom motorcycles and cars, and rockabilly style in music, clothes and hairdos. In doing so, a global social phenomenon was created.
I don’t consider any kustom event a car show per se; they are art shows for car builders.
On that note, it’s hard to just call this Lincoln Continental a car, because it’s clearly so much more than that now. With modern cars it might be easy to install headlights from a facelift model, but putting 1958 headlights and fins on a 1959 model requires a different set of skills altogether. And that’s before you even get into the customization of the rest of the vehicle. This was easily one of my favorites at the show.
Another personal highlight was this 1955 Chrysler Windsor, a build famous in kustom circles for three decades now. Chopped, shaved and fitted with 1956 Imperial headlights, the Windsor was designed by Texan customizer David Guymon in 1996. The engine is a V8 monoblock.
When I think about it, the Kustom Kulture Show is more of a get-together for artists. For many, the cars and motorcycles are their metal canvases.
In the 1950s, Kenneth Howard, later known as Von Dutch, started making the first pinstripe designs. Before then, only lines were used in car decoration. The Ford Model T famously had striped wheels, and to this day long straight lines are drawn by hand on Rolls-Royce cars in the factory.
Von Dutch and Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth were the early adopters of modern pinstriping, and even though both icons of automotive art are no longer with us, they’re still inspiring artists to this day. Look how many works feature some kind of a flying eyeball art, as originally created by Howard. On the other hand, all the crazy animals and other cartoon characters pay some homage to Ed Roth’s ‘Rat Fink’, an antihero to Mickey Mouse.
When you break pinstriping down, it’s dead simple: a can of paint and a sword striper brush. Traditional designs consist of only three main strokes – a straight line, c-curve and s-curve. After mastering these three elements – and that’s the hard part – artists are able to combine them into free-flowing art.
I really like the old school nature of this art form, which is why I ended up bringing home a set of Mack brushes and two cans of enamel paint from my trip to Helsinki. I just found a piece of glass and now I’m learning to pull my own lines.
Who knows, maybe this will become my second favorite automotive hobby after Speedhunting…