Almost all modern cars come standard with features that were once reserved only for high-end luxury vehicles. This is the way of almost all accessories and features for the automotive market. The automatic transmission was introduced as a high-end option and now it’s the standard, and in most cases, a manual transmission in modern full-sized cars is getting harder to find—if not impossible. Look at air conditioning, power windows, cruise control, air bags, power steering, power brakes, and so on, these features started as options, and are now pretty much standard.
The point being, we have come to expect a certain level of luxury, even in economy-class cars, but where does that leave us with our high-end hot rods? Most builds lack many of the modern comforts and features present our daily drivers. Watson’s StreetWorks is at the forefront of the hot rod accessories market, and they’re looking to bring those conveniences into classic cars.
Watson’s has won the NSRA safety product of the year three of the last four years, and this year, they walked away with the award for their recently introduced hot rod backup camera. The backup camera screen is packaged in a stylish billet-aluminum rearview mirror that adds a custom touch to any hot rod. The camera itself is available in two flavors: a through-hole camera for custom mounting, or a simple license plate frame-mounted camera.
21st Century Hot Rods
We think Watson’s is doing something really cool here with their backup camera, it’s a safety feature, priced in the budget of the weekend builder. We had to find out more, and so we reached out and talked to Watson’s Paul Pappas for the inside scoop.
“When we look at where we are going, we look at how do you make a hot rod in the 21st century,” Paul explained. “With today’s world of available conveniences, people want some of those conveniences found in their daily driver in their restoration or restomod.” That’s the drive behind Watson’s line of products, and it’s what keeps them innovating and bringing new stuff to the table every year. “There is no real problem, there is a solution to the challenge,” Paul said.
This backup camera is a really cool addition to their lineup, and it’s a unique addition to what’s available for hot rods. “The mirror is nothing big, just 3 inches by 6 inches, so it’s not gaudy,” Paul explained, “And inside is a 4.3-inch screen. With today’s hot rods, people are not only used to comforts, they see an added value in them.” Watson’s have folks with all different makes and models using these in their cars. They don’t do year/make/model specific stuff, they want to make sure their products are accessible to anyone with a hot rod.
The backup camera unit was released in late-June, and they sold out in three days. “We had a pretty good feeling that this was going to go well,” Paul said. “We are always looking for things that will make project owners’ lives a little easier.” This product hit the mark. As a bonus feature, you can install a switch to activate the camera at any time. “Take into consideration someone that has a small rear window and side windows that don’t give much of a panoramic view.”
These are easy to install, and can be mounted either on the dash or overhead. Wiring is a breeze. Just supply power to the camera and screen, and one wire joins them together. Tim Glennon of Manchester, New Hampshire, lives close by to Watson StreetWorks, and is building a custom ’48 GMC truck. We also talked to him to get some third party input on the camera system.
The rearview mirror design fits well with the custom look of his truck, and he went with the through-hole camera design since his build is unconventional and may not lend itself to a license plate mount in the end. This is a truck that Tim’s had for two decades, and he’s going all out on the build. It incorporates the drivetrain from a C4 Corvette, along with too many custom additions and changes to count. This is a build that we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on.
This install however, did require a special detail. “It’s one of those things where we were looking at the camera and I didn’t know what to do. We were going to put it in a tube and just round the end off, but that wasn’t up to the coolness of the truck,” Tim explained. He ended up looking at a .50-caliber shell casing and thinking it would look pretty cool to have the camera housed in that. “I put the camera near an original casing, and discovered it was pretty close, but it didn’t fit the brass. So, I milled some stock on the lathe to make it look like the .50-caliber shell.” The fit and look is stellar, and it just goes to show the kind of creativity that you can put into making the camera system fit the design of your hot rod.
We can hardly wait to see the finished build of this truck. As for Watson’s StreetWorks, we are wondering what new product they are going to release next year, and will it win the NSRA’s Safety Product of the Year award – again?