Last Updated: 21 August 2012

Custom culture, part 2: Customs around the world

Today, modifying cars and completely rebuilding engines has become much more than just an American thing.

One example is the many Asian Americans in California who are part of their own variant of custom culture, centered around Asian import cars. This has reportedly had a positive impact on the young people in the area; as one Asian American tuner put it, modifying cars teaches you discipline and responsibility.

Custom culture is also flourishing in the Far East. Far from being just a retro trend or a way of getting more power, it has become a way of expressing one’s personality. This is perhaps no more true than in Japan, where some of the world’s most elaborate vehicles are created. Recently, a $280,000 Batman van was shown at a Japanese show: It had cost its owner thirteen years of hard labour and a wrecked marriage.

Swedish customs

Custom culture is especially vibrant in Sweden, and one of the country’s best-known public figures in this field is Lasse Theander. For more than thirty years, Lasse has been the manager of Scandinavia’s biggest custom show, Bilsport Performance & Custom Motor Show. His love for hot rods and custom cars caught on early in his teens and has not waned since.

“Few people in Sweden had heard of hot rodding in the 1960s,” Lasse recalls. “Then a Swedish magazine did an article about LA Roadsters, the Californian team of classic car enthusiasts. I think it opened the eyes of many Swedes at the time.”

In 1980, when his hot rod club needed money, Lasse used his Pontiac lowrider as the basis for a small motor show held in a local Opel dealer’s showroom. With 3,500 visitors, the show was a success, and Lasse would soon become involved full-time in motor shows.

Since 1983 he is the project manager of the annual custom motor show, held each year and attracting an ever-growing number of international visitors and stars.

In recent years the visitors have been treated to the world’s best-known custom car, the Hirohata Mercury, the Ford Roadster from “American Graffiti”, a host of spectacular Hollywood movie cars, and in-person appearances of legendary customizers like George Barris.

Off the road and into the garden

Closely linked to the retro trend, custom culture has become something of a social movement. The special design language of hot rods and custom cars has also spilled over to other areas in society.

It has even affected garden equipment. At McCulloch, a ride-on lawn mower was recently created by using the classic hot rod disciples – stripping away anything unnecessary and adding power.

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