Boyd Coddington: A great builder dies young

We would like to offer our condolences to the Coddington family, We are very sorry to hear of Boyd Sr.’s death.

Boyd Coddington, the hot-rod innovator whose creations won the coveted Grand National Roadster Show’s America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) trophy a record seven times, died Wednesday morning after a lengthy hospital stay. He was 63.

Coddington was raised in rural Idaho but moved to Southern California as soon as he came of age, to pursue his dream of building hot rods. He quickly earned a reputation for subtle, stylistic innovations on what had been an almost overdone theme–the ’32 Ford roadster. That branched out to ’33s, ’34s and then all manner of surprising twists on iconic themes.

Cars with names such as Boydster, Smoothster, Alumacoupe and Chezoom redefined what a rod could be. His wheels were equally well known, particularly those shaved from billet aluminum. He soon earned the nickname “Billet Boyd” for his aluminum-machining techniques.

One of his best qualities, realized at the height of his creative passion in the mid-1990s, was his ability to gather a talented team to produce the creations he envisioned.

In the early ’90s, he had assembled one of the best teams ever, including builder Lil’ John Buttera and designer Chip Foose, to produce some of the best hot rods the hobby had ever seen, raising the level of what could be expected from such a craft.

His early works were swaddled in simple, flowing lines. The Foose-designed Boydster was an early Coddington interpretation of the iconic ’32 Ford roadster, but Boyd’s take was stretched three inches, lowered and smoothed out beyond what anyone else had ever done. The subsequent Boydsters II and III carried that theme but with full, flowing fenders.

The Smoothster was a yellow, full-fendered ’37 Ford riding on Corvette mechanicals and a Corvette drivetrain.

A Corvette engine also powered Chezoom, a ’57 Chevy so heavily modified that only 10 percent of the original sheetmetal remained. While the look was unmistakably ’57 Chevy, it was unlike any ’57 ever seen, with a lowered, channeled body and a reclining cruiser elegance not normally associated with the muscle of the original.

Like Chezoom, Cadzilla was a reclined cruiser take on a more modern Cadillac. Designed by Larry Erickson and built by Boyd for ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons, it is one of his most well-known creations.

Coddington experimented with aluminum in offbeat creations such as the Mitsubishi-powered Alumacoupe, the truck-based AlumaTruck and the shiny Aluma-Dub-Tub.

Coddington went through his share of troubles, including a bankruptcy in the late 1990s. He is best known outside the rodding community for his Discovery Channel show, American Hot Rod, which often showed his short-tempered side. But ultimately, his influence on hot rods and customs cannot be overstated.

“It is my firm belief that Boyd is the founding father of this street-rod movement,” said Gary Meadors of the Goodguys. “From the Boyd cars to the Boyd billet aluminum wheels . . . that whole smooth look that he brought to street rodding is what set him apart. He took our hobby to a whole other level with all the exposure he got in media outside our world. He was a forerunner, and he will be missed.”
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