My first visit to Hot Rod Night at Top Notch

Hot Rod Night at Top Notch - Austin, Texas

Hot Rod Night at Top Notch – Austin, Texas

A couple of weeks ago, I went to my first Hot Rod Night at Top Notch, a local, classic drive-in burger joint in Austin. I met my photographer friend Mike and his wife Tonya. He remarked that this month’s event was larger than usual, perhaps because it was over the 4th of July weekend.

Mike’s been shooting a lot of classic cars and motorcycles and he’s been posting them regularly to his blog. In fact, here’s what he shot that day. He commented that he didn’t think I had an interest in cars, a likely conclusion given that this was my first ever visit. I gave a fairly nondescript answer, saying that I did have an interest and that I was always looking for new things to shoot. In reality, what I have is an interest in design. Design of buildings, products, websites, magazines and of course cars.

Most of the cars are from a time when American hardware ruled. Before the gas crisis, the downsizing and the rise of econo import cars. I’m sure there’s a certain romantic notion, a throwback to what is remembered as a simpler time. There’s a tendency, I hear, that we remember things from the past more fondly. These were from the era of gasoline chugging muscle cars, pre-air bag, pre-anti lock brakes pre anything electronic.

I admit that, while I view these cars with interest, from a point of view of design, I’m not nostalgic. I love my cars modern and high-tech. In fact, even today’s cars aren’t advanced enough for me. My dream? I want to step inside and order my car to take me somewhere. Voice recognition will perfectly understand, crowd sourced route guidance systems will determine the optimal path and, of course, the car will drive itself autonomously to its destination.

Yeah, Mike was probably right. I’m not a car enthusiast. I’m a design enthusiast. I look at these metal beasts with the same curiosity of log cabins on display at a history museum. But, I do have an interest for history. And these lovingly restored cars look great at a timeless drive-in establishment like Top Notch.

Here’s the rest of what I shot that day. If you squint hard enough, you might not even think it’s 2016.

Hot Rod Night at Top Notch - Austin, Texas
Hot Rod Night at Top Notch - Austin, Texas
Hot Rod Night at Top Notch - Austin, Texas
Hot Rod Night at Top Notch - Austin, Texas
Hot Rod Night at Top Notch - Austin, Texas
Hot Rod Night at Top Notch - Austin, Texas
Hot Rod Night at Top Notch - Austin, Texas
Hot Rod Night at Top Notch - Austin, Texas

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5 thoughts on “My first visit to Hot Rod Night at Top Notch

  1. Nice write-up and images. It’s fun to see how our contrasting ideas about technology and cars influence our photos at the event. I don’t know if it’s just nostalgia but I miss the times when cars were made mostly of metal instead of plastic. Technology certainly can bring efficiency, precision, and convenience. Today’s cars, while loaded with advanced electronics and computer systems, just feel cheap and lack the craftsmanship I see in the classics. I will say I appreciate their fuel efficiency though!

    1. There are definitely advantages to the older cars. They are certainly solid and they are easier to repair. I also think they have more character and variety. Each model had a more distinctive look.

  2. I particularly like the low angle shot of just the rear quarter of the Corvette with the tall sign occupying the upper half (or more) of the frame. It’s always very frustrating to shoot one of these hot rod gatherings because of the tradition of showing them with their hoods up, plus the crowding and clutter of people, camp chairs, coolers, and other debris intruding on any attempt to capture the designs per se. A lot of the ’30s cars converted to street rods offer amazingly sophisticated examples of automotive design — but doing any of them justice in this setting is nearly impossible.

    1. Thank you, Mike. It took me a few shots to frame that one, the way I liked. Your right about the crowds and the hoods being up. I gave some effort to omit extraneous people but I certainly didn’t get to frame all the photos the way I liked.

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