Hot Rod designer Boyd Coddington died yesterday. He was 63. Internet rumors concerning his death said his colon burst, his liver was leaking or his kidneys failed.

After a fall in his home a couple of months ago, Boyd sustained several surgeries. Boyd made his bones designing cars. He made his fame as the star of his own TV show — “American Hot Rod” on The Learning Channel.

Boyd’s custom designs set the standard for grace and beauty in building cars.

What I do not understand is why Boyd wanted to be a television star. He did not come across well over the air. Boyd was perpetually cruel to ex-wife and son on camera. He had disdain and hatred for his paid staff. He employed a manager who lived to crush new hires and to destroy any sense of kindness and goodwill the rest of the shop tried to create in the midst of the leavening.

You watched Boyd’s show for all the wrong reasons: Who would get fired? Which intern would be mocked and shamed? How many babyish outbursts would Boyd perpetuate on his underlings as they slaved to meet unrealistic build deadlines on $500,000.00USD custom cars?

Fame — and the lure of evergreen longevity — is a dangerous temptation for good people and an addiction for the wanton, and now, in the crevasse of Boyd Coddington’s death, we are left longing for his inspiration while wondering what Boyd was thinking when he codified his want to have the worst of him air on television for the remainder of eternity. Sometimes the fame isn’t worth the punishing mark it leaves behind.


  1. Janna —
    It was a fun show to watch — you never knew who was getting fired or staying! 😀 It seemed he did have good friends outside the show, though.

  2. Anne!
    Right. It was as if Boyd never watched his own show — or he would’ve known how terrible that manager was treating his staff and then fired him instead of the good workers.

  3. I often wonder to what extent cruelty and mean spirit can cause illness in our body. It seems that pleasant people are healthier than the evil – almost as though their bodies are rebelling?

  4. That’s an excellent point, Gordon. Some people are also predisposed for misery and they aren’t happy unless they, and those around them, are miserable. The manager on the show is one of those petty, cruel, and miserable people who actually laugh when they inflict pain.

  5. I think to some extent anger releases toxins in our body whereas happy thoughts lead to better feelings though good chemicals.
    Good thing I never watched the show. I don’t like to see cruelty for the sake of cruelty.

  6. That makes sense, Gordon, but don’t some people get a release of happy chemicals from pain instead of happiness?
    The show was definitely bizarre to watch. There was such a disconnect between the greatness of Boyd’s vision and the pettiness of how his staff worked.

  7. Woah, I had no idea he died. My dad was a fan of his show (my dad loves classic cars, and some customs). Crazy.

  8. serduchkafan —
    It was a surprise to many of us that Boyd died — but if he watched his show he never really looked healthy. He hadn’t been well for a while and I also read online he was a severe diabetic — so perhaps his downfall had been oncoming for a predictable while.

  9. Come on people,
    The show was run that way to keep you coming back for more.It makes better tv.Boyd will be missed for his craftsmanship his skills.The man was talented beyond belief.His insight about the hot rodding world will be missed.The man has passed,let him rest now.

  10. In some ways, I do agree with Boone, the man is gone & we shouldn’t let the pettiness of the show overshadow his immense talent & vision, But yes David, the good must always come with the bad & in passing, I do agree with Gordon, there must be some sort of correlation of happiness to health. Boyd will be gone but not forgotten & I’m sure there will be others come along & fill the void.

  11. bitlion —
    The pettiness of the show was created by Boyd, was it not? It was his shop. His rules. His employees. He made it extremely clear on that show that what he wanted was everything this way and the cameras captured that mandate and its unfortunate, unraveling, result.
    It always bothered Boyd that Chip Foose left the stable and found more success without him. Several of Boyd’s best workers left to work with Chip as documented on the show.
    Jesse James was also educated by Boyd.
    I’m sure Boyd knew he didn’t have anyone to continue his legacy under his banner and his vision and that’s too bad. He could’ve really made an empire out of his shop instead of just a fleeting anomaly with no future.
    With the wheels shop sold — what is left to buy after the visionary is dead? Is there anyone on that lot who can take over the man and the mission? That seems like extremely poor future planning for the necessary propagation of a legacy.

  12. Though we enjoy the talents of men like Mr. Coddington, and other car afficianados, we personally found his screen persona vile, arrogant, and offfensive. Great people don’t have to lord it over their subordinates with demeaning comments, filthy language, and insults. It’s really ufortunate he will be remembered this way by the many who watched him, to be this kind of person.

  13. LLM —
    The only time Boyd seemed to “warm up” was during the staged interactions with his “mentally challenged” cleaning crew.
    All the other times, when Boyd would berate his staff — you had to realize that’s who he was because his show was on for many years and he could’ve at least changed the perception of him if he tried — but he chose to remain publicly disparaging of the guys building his visions.

  14. I watched every episode of American Hot Rod, with the sole purpose of picking up as many tips as I could about fabrication. While Boyd was maybe not my kinda guy, I don’t recall seeing Boyd berate his personnel. Obviously, he did not like to be challenged by others, or to feel that he had to justify his decisions to anyone, and he let that be known. I never saw an instance where he was “publicly disparaging of the guys building his visions”. He always gave credit to his team, at any unvailing.
    All of the awful things you want to atribute to Boyd I found in the sadistic homosexual that managed the shop. Now, how much of all this was staged for the show, I can’t hope to know. Nor can you. I don’t believe Boyd was as bad as you seem to remember.

  15. I would argue, Hemiphyle, that being on TV and speaking ill of your crew is a “public disparaging” even if done in his office or on the floor because if we’re seeing it on TV, it is “public.”
    Boyd may not have bad-mouthed his guys in the presence of strangers in a crowd at an unveiling, but his treatment of Charlie and Mike alone make my hard point that Boyd did not appreciate his employees and their work. I, too, watched every show.

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