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Whats With the Flames?

When and where were they born and what do they mean?

In answer to the first question, I can say without the slightest hesitation or equivocation, I have absolutely no idea and neither does anyone else.

As for their meaning, the answer is both obvious—they look cool—and a bit more complex, involving how we, as human beings, are visually and emotionally hard-wired. After due research, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to approxi- mate the first ‘pyrographic’ occurrence is to look at old photographs. Cars have always been a fit subject for the photo-op and rods are no exception. The earliest pictorial evidence of a “flame job” I’ve been able to find is a shot dated 1938. It shows a rather rough and ready little dry lakes racer named “Skip it.” Cobbled together in 1934, the car was redone in 1938 and painted cream with some-what crude and amorphous red flames licking back from the cowl. Are these the first flames… subject zero? I seriously doubt it. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover one from the 1920s. For all I know, old Karl Benz had a flame or two tucked away on that three wheeler.

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