Well, the 67th Annual Detroit Autorama is in the books. It was one heck of an event. One aspect of the show that many people may be unaware of is the massive party like atmosphere that takes place on the lower level of the Cobo Center. On the basement level is where you will find all manner of exhibits. This year you could get photos with national celebrities and car club groups alike. Everything from minibikes and dog rescues to local distilleries and fabrication shops are present.
The atmosphere on the lower level is in stark contrast to the more formal setting of the upper level. It attracts just as many attendees all jockeying for the best vantage of the fantastic creations on display.
Swag can be purchased and drinks shared on both levels. However, only on the lower level can you find the relaxed nature of local car clubs showing off their rides along side loud live music and mini bike vendors.
That’s not to say that things get out of hand. All who display at the event are required to adhere to a certain level of appropriate behavior. At the same time there is definitely a more laid back feel to the groups and exhibits there.
It was on this lower level where we came across a 1935 Ford rat rod build by Justin Wright. Justin is the owner and head fabricator at Altered Image Motorsports out of Unionville, Michigan. What drew us to the build was the bare-metal finish and liberal use of dimple dyes. While we admit the overall fabrication level and style may not be for everyone. It is definitely an attention grabber. “It is definitely done in my own style,” Justin stated.
The rod was originally a full-fendered vehicle when purchased. “When I bought it the original intention was as a resale truck. I did actually sell it when it was done,” Justin explained. As fortune would have it the rod returned to him like any good sidekick should.
“It was a 4-month build time and then in the spring of 2018 I had the chance to buy it back. Since then we have put over 5000 miles on it. We just drive it and really enjoy it now,” Justin said. He isn’t the only one to enjoy the truck as his girlfriend Kayla Prokopenko also likes traveling and daily driving the rod.
“We like driving it and it really is comfortable. If we have a long trip we may put a pad behind our lower back but it really is comfy and fun to drive”, she said. “We drive it rain or shine.” Justin added.
Justin went to school for metal fabrication and welding at Carol Trade School and then worked at a trucking company prior to opening his business about six years ago. Hot rods and cars in general are a family affair. Justin’s dad has been into cars his whole life and does most of his own maintenance and other work. That interest and passion were shared with Justin from a young age. It sure seems to have paid off.
“I was working at a truck company and I figured if I can fix a boom on an excavator then I can probably build a chassis,” Justin explained. From there it was game on and the Altered Image business was born. Justin has been pushing the business for the last six years. This build is just a small example of what he is capable of. The overall theme of the build is described as holes. Justin has always been into numbers and math as well as holes so the idea and fabrication just seemed to flow into his projects.
Justin noted, “Since I’m into holes the thought was just that everywhere I can put a hole I would. It’s kind of old school and new school. Dimple dyes and bead rolling have been around forever.
People have been building these since the 1960’s. So it’s about building something that is individual to me and running with it. At the end of the day they are really pretty much all the same. My builds use ideas that I’ve seen done by other people. I may take a little bit from here or there. Then I just try and do it my way”.
When looking at this build, not many people would be able to dispute that logic. The techniques used are common but incorporate the creative vision of the builder. While this is generally the case with any build it’s the individual choices each builder makes which set their work apart from everyone else. We all use ideas and inspirations from things we see others do in our projects.
One additional theme of this build is the reliability factor. The rod is driven daily, rain or shine, so reliability has been a key focus of the build. “As wild as something may look I really wanted it to be something that someone could just jump into and go. It’s just at home on a drag strip as it would be driving to church on Sunday. You can jump right in, give it a pump, put it in gear and go. It’s a lot of fun. It’s loud and it gets attention wherever it goes,” he noted with a smile.
With regard to the actual drive train of the build we would not describe it as wild. The stock Ford big-block motor is backed up by a three-speed , TH400 transmission. This combination is nothing new to most in the hot rod community, but has proven itself to be reliablez over the years.
The Ford 8.8 rear axle is packed with 3.50:1 gears and once again Justin described it as reliable. The interior of the Ford features custom touches including the shifter, dash, and seats.
Like most builds, the rod has taken some time to get dialed in. Now that it is essentially turn-key, the plan is to take it to some big time shows this year. “We plan on driving it to Florida for the Turkey Rod Run. I also have some family out in California so Kayla and I are going to hop in and take it cross-country I think,” he said.
Justin and Kayla both agree having something cool means you have the opportunity to drive the car and really enjoy it. That’s exactly what they plan to do. We can definitely see these two having some wild adventures.
“Some people love it and some people hate it. But in the end I didn’t build it for everyone. I built it for me. If you like it then that’s awesome and if not well that’s awesome too. It is what it is,” Justin admitted. We see a lot of different styles and different artistic choices made all the time with regard to builds. We say different strokes for different folks.
“I want people to see that it is not a cookie cutter approach. If I have the chance to make something instead of just buying it then that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I get guys who come over and lose track of time while looking at it because they find something new every time. I guess that at the end of the day that’s what we’re going for,” Justin said.
We would say the mission was accomplished on that front. We hope Justin and Kayla get to put many more miles on their project in the years to come. Happy rodding, guys!
If you had the chance to attend the Detroit Autorama this year , share with us what your thoughts are below. Did you spend more time on the upper or lower level? Did you see Justin’s rat rod truck, and what did you think? Most importantly, did you guys have fun?