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The Art of the Build: Rods & Kustoms At the AACA Museum


 The Art of the Build: Rods & Kustoms celebrates the cars and their creators that dared to be different by individually customizing their vehicles.

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Hershey, PA – A new year will begin with an unusual display at the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Museum in Hershey. A new featured exhibit The Art of the Build: Rods & Kustoms is a departure from previous exhibits which have typically featured original vehicles or vehicles restored to original standards.


The Art of the Build: Rods & Kustoms celebrates the cars and their creators that dared to be different by individually customizing their vehicles.


Whether it be Europe, Asia, here in America or anywhere in between, the world depends on mass-produced vehicles to make life convenient and comfortable. These vehicles and the factories that assemble them are what keeps economies growing, businesses flourishing, and families in motion. For most of the general population, a ‘showroom stock’ car is more than adequate.

In fact, the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) prides itself on promoting the preservation and restoration of cars and other vehicles to the exact way a car left the factory for historical documentation.


But as typical human beings we are all individuals, and some are not content to possess an object that thousands of others could easily own. Be it a house, car, or even a fashion statement, many of these free-thinkers prefer to create a custom tailored vision of their unique persona.


We are all (thankfully) guilty of this trait to some degree. Most manufacturers now offer ’boutiques’ within their dealerships catering to customers wishing to personalize their rides. Some owners take this to the limit, completely altering a vehicle in every possible way to create a true “one of a kind.”

Many consider the prestigious Ridler Award, given annually at the Detroit Autorama, to be the highest honor for those in the rod and custom culture of the automotive hobby.

The Art of the Build: Rods & Kustoms exhibit has a total of 5 Ridler contender cars: “Kracklin Rose”, The 69er”, “The Handyman”, “SwishAir” and “D-Ranged”. Two of these contenders made it to the “Great Eight” which is the final round leading to The Ridler Award – “D-Ranged” and “The Handyman”.


Also included in the exhibit is a selection of artistically built novelty vehicles and unusual objects including a motorized bar stool and in-line roller skates from the personal collection of Jo and John Robertson.

The Robertsons have contracted such legends as George “the King of Kustomizers” Barris, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, Boyd Coddington, Posies and other stars of rod and customizing fame to produce one of the most varied collections of such pieces ever assembled.

They have a cross section of those builds to display along with numerous original car show photos, programs, circuit souvenirs, car club plaques, drag plates, and trophies.


The AACA Museum’s “Art of the Build” exhibit focuses on these individuals, and the rolling art they have created. By treating each custom vehicle as a piece of sculpture, the Museum has planned this display as an art installation, celebrating each item for what it has become, not lamenting what it once was.

Each of these vehicles has been carefully planned, and painstakingly transformed by hand to its current configuration. Metal has been shaped, worked and smoothed, leather has been dyed, stretched and sewn, paint has been sprayed, sanded and polished, and powertrains have been extensively upgraded by world-class craftsmen. It was feared that many of these skills would be lost to history, but thanks to both restoration and custom shops they have been resurrected.

About the AACA Museum:
The Antique Automobile Club of America Museum, a member of the Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program, displays beautifully restored automobiles, buses and motorcycles in unique life-like scenes representing the 1890s – 1980s in a cross-country journey from New York to San Francisco. This Museum, a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, is known to be one of the largest automotive museums. Special exhibits change several times a year and focus on a variety of eras and types of vehicles. The Museum is located just off Route 39, one mile west of Hersheypark Drive in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Regular admission $10, seniors age 61 and older $9, juniors age 4-12 $7, children age 3 and under are FREE. The Museum is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. For further information, please call 717-566-7100 or visit

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