A Little Something for the Road Ahead
Written by Liam Sweeny on February 1, 2020
Art doesn’t roost in between staff lines on sheet music, nor can it fit squarely on a palette, or the tip of a pencil. Art is constantly moving, constantly breaking the next barrier. In fact, so much of our lives are shaped by art as we drive down the street, we forget that it’s even art. And sometimes; hell, all times, the very machine driving us down the street is something so much greater than gears and axles. It too is art.
Jeremy Baye owns and operates 1945 Speed and Custom, which customizes and restores hot rods and other cars. You don’t even need eyes to know the creativity that goes into his, and their, work. Just run your hand along one of their finished builds and feel the contours. Maybe ask first.
I sit down with Jeremy and we discuss turning 787 into a drag strip.
RRX: Customizing classic cars, hot rods, etc. – It’s not doing oil changes and hooking up people up with alignments, or even installing after-market this or that. Very few people do what you do, and even fewer in the area. It feels, to the uninitiated, like it would be something everyone would want to do. What’s the barrier to doing it well?
JB: I think it is something a lot of people want to do, that’s the reason you see so many TV shows or youtube channels of people doing it, the barrier to doing it well is attention to detail along with doing things that “fit” each particular part of the build process. At the end of the day you are building a car so while it needs to look great it also has to be safe.
RRX: I know that most businesses start out small, home-based, or out of a (basic) garage, and then blossom out. Is that how 1945 started out? Obviously garage, but was the first commercial garage the one in Troy? More generally, what’s the origin story of 1945?
JB: I built my first real hot rod in my parents one car garage at the house I grew in on Rt. 150 in Schodack NY, from there I moved to Pittsburgh to work at a street rod shop after I retired from my Professional snowboarding career.
RRX: We’re an art and culture pub, not a car pub, so many thanks for doing this. What you do is so much into the artistic realm, I’d ask this; would you rather take and artist in and teach them mechanics, or bring a mechanic in and teach them art? Or do you always look for people that are both out of the box?
JB: Nobody is both put of the box, it takes time and a lot of paying attention to the small stuff, building cars and doing what we do is so demanding because someone needs to be an Artist, Designer, Machinist, Engineer, Fabricator, Welder, and Mechanic all in one. I think it would be more of a challenge to teach someone be an Artist, is that even something that can be taught? You either have the eye or you don’t. I was kicked out of Art class in 7th grade because I was so bad at drawing. I still have a tough time with putting a pen to paper but I can build a car that looks like its going 100mph while standing still. Someone who is a Machinist is all about precision and an artist is more about what is pleasing to the eye. Automotive design is something very special in my opinion because its two things that very rarely go together.
RRX: Obviously when people see your work, the first thing they see is bodywork. And if they don’t know any better, they might walk away thinking that “my autobody guy’s good, he could do that.’ But what you do is so much more. Can you take us through a wild project that tested all facets of what you do, and then some?
JB: That’s going to be tough because like I said before so much goes into a project. First what are we building? I take a lot of time with my customers to figurer out what they want. Are we building a car to go fast in the corners or a car to go fast in a straight line? Dragsters and F1 cars look the way they do for a reason. It starts with a chassis “the frame, suspension and brakes” If we are building a scratch built chassis it’s a ton of design and engineering. Then the body, are we building a 1940’s period correct Hot Rod “usually a 1930’s era car built how it would have been done as a modified car in the 40’s” or are we building a restomod. That’s usually something from the 60’s with modern everything. With whatever we are building I try to do some taste full body mods I try not to change the cars from looking much different at first glance. I try to take what the factory did and make it better. then bodywork and paint, we spend 100’s of hours block sanding and prepping the body for whatever color we choose to make it smooth as glass so it looks like a mirror when you look into it. Then comes the wiring, which is very involved, we try to hide as much as possible which is very time consuming Then interior which can be finished in a million different ways. I feel it also needs to match the style of the build. If the car has sharp square lines then the interior should do the same etc.,
RRX: Cars and Caffeine. Once a month, a little get together, sit around the shop with a few airpots of medium roast and talk shop… what I thought, but not exactly what it was. It’s massive, blocks upon blocks of River Street sectioned off. Cars of all shapes and sizes. Did it start small and grow? Or did it launch strong to begin with?
JB: when I first opened I would do an annual party in July which would draw a couple hundred people. I was approached by a buddy Charlie Darmanjian who was hosting a cars and coffee in Clifton Park once a month in the summer which was starting to get bigger. He asked about moving his event down to River St. So I got the permits and the insurance together and now we have over 500 cars a month with thousands of people walking around held the last Sunday of the month 8am-noon from April- Sept.
RRX: I want to work for you, I want to do what you do. I’m a high school freshman. If I’m at Cars and Caffeine, and I spot you and we play “guidance counselor,” what are you telling me as far as playing my high school time out. Am I going to Vo-Tech? Am I aiming for a 2-4 year school and then trade, or should I go trade first? Other options?
JB: The answer is make sure you have passion for whatever you choose to do. And work hard. Read a lot, look at the history of hot rodding. You can learn a lot from looking at the past. As far as school goes I would look into mechanical engineering or industrial design.
RRX: This is where you can answer the question I didn’t ask. Is River Street good to drag race down? What coffee is the official Cars and Caffeine blend? Enlighten, educate, emote… the floor is yours.
JB: Treat others how you want to be treated. Stay out of trouble. Ask for help if you need it and read the Bible. God has a plan for everyone.