Talk about engulfing yourself in car culture.
It’s one thing to drive a cool car, and it’s next-level to build a cool car. But then there’s the entire next dimension… where you begin to morph into a human persona of the cars you own. John Ludwick is on this 3rd level. And he’s so dialed-in, it hurts. It scrambles your mind, and leaves you feeling unsettled, as you self-realize that you’ve only been scratching the surface of car culture. The best way I can describe John Ludwick is like this:
On the surface layers, you have handfuls of really good actors who are still unquestionably true artists & instrumental to their craft. But then you go deep, and you have… the Johnny Depp & Joaquin Phoenix types. And when these guys take on a roll, they go deep. Real deep. And it gets weird… and dark. Because they do whatever it takes to get in the head of their character. For instance, they tend to slip off grid… to some inconspicuous corner of a quiet country, and they literally become the character, to a point where – they’re not acting anymore.
John Ludwick takes it to that deepest level.
It’s the level where obsession and fascination take control. And as a side effect, things get fuzzy, and start to cave in around you… as you reach the point of singularity. Now, you’re at the center of your own black hole. And you’re not just building a car anymore, you’re time traveling. Now, the car is building you. Because it’s burrowed deep into your DNA, let you touch eras past, and altered the way you sense and perceive time. The old world has become your home base, and the new world is just white noise & chatter. –Wooley
John Ludwick is a man of impeccable taste.
Everything about this man seems nearly as curated as the cars he chooses to build. From his dapper coiffure, to the eccentric & eclectic mix of cars he builds and drives all over the United States, John, like his cars, is a true classic.
The Corvair is a misunderstood car.
When you look back, Chevrolet was quite daring to build this rear engined air-cooled flat-six. Especially during a time when the American auto industry was anything but adventurous. The American manufacturers had a formula in the 1960s, and the Corvair most certainly was not it. There was a wagon & sedan version of this car, even a van… but the picks of the litter were the coupes & convertibles. Chevy even offered the flat-six engine with a TURBOCHARGER. Yes – to clarify, you could buy a Chevy flat-six turbo in the 1960s. In fact, if it were not for Ralph Nader’s book “Unsafe at Any Speed”, I am quite confident the Corvair had what it took to truly change the American automotive landscape.
But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
But at least we did at least get the Corvair long enough for Chevy to actually pen a refresh on the shape halfway through the car’s life. In 1965 the Corvair Monza coupe was released with a more aggressive shark nose, along with a restyled rear end treatment. If you’re in the market, the ’65-’69 Monza Coupe is the one to have, and it’s exactly what you see here.
If you’re wondering what it’s like to drive one of these, let me confirm that they’re a party. I have owned several of these in sedan, vert & coupe form, and they are brilliant cars all around. For instance, they have amazing interior room, and decent power. And when they’re set up correctly, they feel a lot like a longer wheelbase, wider-track early Porsche 911. In fact, they certainly look more European than American when you think about it.
I remember the first time seeing this chopped Corvair.
It was in Helen Georgia, 2014. An unfortunately, it would end up being the very last SOWO. I have have always had a thing for rat rods, and this car seamlessly marries all the hallmarks of a true rat, PLUS the tasteful elements of European car-mod culture in one glorious amalgamation. I, as well as most other attendees, could scarcely take our eyes off this Corvair. It was & remains so tastefully presented.
Pillarless coupes look amazing when they are bagged to the ground.
And here, the lack of a B-pillar sets off the greenhouse perfectly. Still, leave it to John to chop the roof down & create an even more beautiful silhouette. If you look at this car’s profile next to a standard car, the subtlety of the change is the kind of attention to detail that made the Italian coach builders of the ‘60s so revered. John has that coach builders’ eye, and this small change of just a few inches in profile is absolutely transformative. The increase in sex appeal is ten-fold.
The custom air ride serves to nestle the chassis down perfectly on 3-piece Epsilon wheels, and those polished lips draw your eyes to all the salvaged brite-work around the car. It’s important to realize, the hallmark of a great builder is knowing what to replace & knowing what to leave. And while a lot of people would have ripped-out many of the fabulous ‘60s touches for modern items, John’s car still basks in the glory of those vintage touches that could never make it into a car today. For example, the thin-rimmed steering wheel with its floating chrome horn bar is a beautiful piece of design-work that could simply not be bettered by Nardi, MOMO, or Sparco. And this car is strategically free from any addition or subtraction that would alter the feel of this car’s lovingly preserved interior.
Capturing the essence of a car is our mission.
And this is the epitome of automotive form & flow. Inside and out, this perfectly patina-laden Corvair has truly been shaped & forged into the perfect representation of what was AND what could have been. –Tim Neely
Text by Wooley & Tim Neely Photos by Benny Whiles