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Boyd Coddington with Wife on American Hot Rod
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Boyd Coddington’s influence on the world of hot rods and hot rod design can’t be overstated. Coddington didn’t just reimagine the hot rod. He also ushered in a new generation of hot rod designers and enthusiasts by maximizing his impact outside the shop.

So, it’s important to remember Coddington and what he did for road sports so that we can learn by his example, because it’s a noble example to follow.

How Did Boyd Coddington Die?

Unfortunately, Boyd Coddington suddenly passed away on February 27, 2008 at the age of 63. His team noted that he passed away from complications from surgery, sepsis, and kidney complications after suffering from diabetes for many years. His passing was a shock to the American auto community.

Boyd’s name may have fallen out of the public ear, but in celebration of this incredible American innovator, here are 10 facts celebrating the fascinating life of Boyd Coddington. 

1. He bought his first car at 13 with a shotgun.

Coddington managed to buy his first car, a Chevy pickup, at just 13 years old. How much did he pay for his truck? One shotgun. The lesson here? Make sweet deals.

2. He attended machinist trade school. 

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Coddington fine-tuned his love for machines at the Idaho State University Machinist Trade School. He finished his three-year apprenticeship on time and then prepared for his next big move. Coddington understood the importance of acquiring an education. The same education won’t work for everyone, but there have never been more options for self-betterment and vocational training, from college credits to youtube videos.

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3. He moved to California to build hot rods.

Some people move to Los Angeles to be an actor, model, writer or filmmaker. Boyd Coddington moved to California to design and build custom cars. Boyd followed his own dreams and his own path, and you should, too. Always take the risks that will get you where you want to be.

4. He worked as a machinist for Disneyland.

Coddington put his machinist degree to good use getting a paycheck from the Walt Disney Company. While designing hot rods by day in his shop, Coddington worked nights as a machinist for Disneyland.

It’s important to pursue your interests but in the meantime get a job to pay the bills.

5. Coddington’s first major design won the 1981 Oakland Roadster Show.

Although Boyds first major design commission won big at the 1981 Oakland Roadster Car Show, he had spent almost two decades beforehand working on his designs and practicing his skills.

It might look like some people are overnight success stories, but what you don’t see are the countless other nights that people like Boyd Coddington were working their butts off.

6. He co-pioneered billet parts.

Boyd Coddington wasn’t someone who stuck to the normal way things were done–and thanks goodness he wasn’t! Otherwise, the world of custom cars might never have been introduced to billet parts, for which Coddington was largely responsible along with John Buttera. Coddington’s aluminum billet wheels and custom wheels, in particular, have become staples of hot rod design.

Boyd was an innovator. He took what the world gave him, and made it into something new and unique. Not everyone can be a revolutionary designer, but you’d do well to follow Coddington’s example by looking out for ways to keep things fresh.

7. He gave several important designers and hot rodders their starts.

Coddington wasn’t just in it for himself. He truly cared about the hot rod design community. Many of today’s prominent hot rod and automobile designers got their start under Coddington. Larry Erickson, who went on to design Mustang and Thunderbird models for Ford, got his start at Boyd’s hot rod shop. Chip Foose of TLC’s Overhaulin’ and Jesse James of Motorcycle Mania both got their starts in Coddington’s shops, as well.  

As he established himself, Coddington did what he could to help others become successful too. Always be willing to lend a hand to your peers and coworkers, just like Boyd Coddington.

8. He Hosted American Hot Rod.

If you don’t follow hot rod design closely, you might not have heard about Boyd Coddington until his American Hot Rod TV show aired on TLC and The Discovery Channel. By hosting the show, Coddington helped re-invigorate the hot rod community and brought hot rod design into the mainstream. 

Coddington believed in helping the community he was a part of grow. It’s important to spread the word about things that interest you. Life isn’t Fight Club.

10. He was a five-time Hall of Famer and seven-time America’s Most Beautiful Roadster winner.

Coddington was inducted into five separate halls of fame. These included the SEMA Hall of Fame, the Grand National Roadster Show Hall of Fame, the National Rod & Custom Museum Hall of Fame, the Route 66 Hall of Fame and the Hot Rod Hall of Fame.

He also managed to win America’s most beautiful Roadster seven times and is the only back-to-back winner ever. In addition, Vern Luce’s ‘33 Ford Coupe, a Boyd Coddington hot rod, won the Al Slonaker award in 1981.

These are impressive accolades, but the lesson is simple: do your best. The rewards speak for themselves, even if your designs don’t end up in Smithsonian Magazine like Butch Martino’s ’34 3-Window Coupe, another Boyd Coddington hot rod.

In conclusion? Be like Boyd.

Boyd Coddington thought creatively, worked hard and took risks. And clearly, Coddington’s process worked for him. Coddington’s reputation speaks for himself, as do his legendary designs: the Boydster, Jamie Musselman’s 33 Ford Roadster, Larry Murray’s ‘33 Ford Phaeton, Butch Martino’s All-Aluminum ’32 Roadster, Dennis Varney’s AMBR 29 Roadster, the Smoothster and, of course, the CadZZilla built for ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.

Boyd Coddington knew how to use his influence to impact the world and grow the communities he cared about. For Coddington, this meant doing everything he could to advocate for and advance hot rod design. What does it mean for you?

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