Boyd Coddington

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Boyd Coddington
US Navy 050508-N-1205S-085 Television show American Hot Rod car builder Boyd Coddington and his wife Jo signed autographs for Sailors stationed aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) (cropped).jpg
Coddington from American Hot Rod signs autographs aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Nimitz in 2005
Born(1944-08-28)August 28, 1944
DiedFebruary 27, 2008(2008-02-27) (aged 63)
Occupation(s)Hot rod designer
TV show host
Spouse(s)Jo Andenise Clausen McGee
(m. 2002–2008; his death)
Diane Marie Ragone Elkins
(m.1971–1996; divorce)
Peggy Jeanne King
(m.1965– ?; divorce)
ChildrenWith Jo:
With Diane:

Boyd Coddington (August 28, 1944 – February 27, 2008)[1] was an American hot rod designer, the owner of the Boyd Coddington Hot Rod Shop, and star of American Hot Rod on TLC.

Early life, education and early career[edit]

Coddington grew up in Rupert, Idaho, reading all the car and hot rod magazines he could, and got his first car (a 1931 Chevrolet truck) at age 13.[2] He attended machinist trade school and completed a three-year apprenticeship in machining. In 1968, he moved to California building hot rods by day and working as a machinist at Disneyland during the night. He soon became known for building unique hot rods and in 1977 he opened his own shop, Hot Rods by Boyd, in Stanton, California. His first major customer was Vern Luce whose car, a 1933 coupe, won the Al Slonaker Award at the 1981 Oakland Roadster show.

Design innovations[edit]

Coddington was known for clean, elegant designs combining old school with what would come to be known as the "Boyd Look".

Some of Coddington's signature innovations were his custom-fabricated alloy wheels, typically machined from a solid aluminum billet, an industry first. Together with John Buttera,[3] Boyd pioneered this "billet" machined look and applied it not only to wheels, but broadly throughout the car.[4]

In 1988, Coddington founded Boyd's Wheels, Inc. to manufacture and market his custom billet wheels.


CadZZilla on display at the April 2005 Longhorn Hot Rod Show in Austin, Texas: The car was driven to the event.

In 1989, CadZZilla, a customized 1949 Cadillac, was commissioned by ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, conceived by Jack Chisenhall, and designed by Chisenhall and Larry Erickson.[5] It is acclaimed as one of the great expressions of automotive customization.[6] Columnist Gray Baskerville called CadZZilla "the most incredible transformation he'd ever witnessed",[5] and in their "History of Hot Rods & Customs" the auto editors of Consumer Guide praised it as "the first really new type of custom since the heyday of the 1950s".[4]

Artistic legacy[edit]

Many of the next generation of customizers started their career with Coddington. Larry Erickson, later the chief designer of the Mustang and Thunderbird for Ford Motor Co., worked with Coddington early on, and specifically credits the CadZZilla collaboration for jump-starting his career.[7] Designer Chip Foose (Overhaulin') and fabricator Jesse James (Motorcycle Mania)[8] both started their careers in his shop.[9] Coddington hosted the Discovery Channel show American Hot Rod.

Coddington's creations have won the Grand National Roadster Show's "America's Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR)" award seven times (the only back-to-back winner of America's Most Beautiful Roadster) and the Daimler-Chrysler Design Excellence award twice, and earned him entry into the Grand National Roadster Show Hall of Fame, the SEMA Hall of Fame, the Route 66 Hall of Fame, and the National Rod & Custom Museum Hall of Fame.[10] In 1997, Coddington was inducted into the Hot Rod Hall of Fame.[11]

Later financial trouble[edit]

In 1998, financial trouble due to a $465,000 loss from a bankrupt customer led Coddington to re-organize Boyd's Wheels and partner with his eldest son (Boyd Coddington, Jr.).

In his later days, he began registering cars that were essentially completely custom fabrications as antique automobiles, avoiding major emissions restrictions and tax liabilities. California officials considered this a "ship of Theseus" fraud, claiming that so many central elements were replaced, the cars ceased to be the same entity. Coddington was charged with a misdemeanor and pleaded guilty on April 7, 2005.[12]


Coddington was hospitalized on December 31, 2007. He was discharged shortly after New Year's Eve, but was readmitted a few days later to Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital in Whittier, California. Doctors performed surgery; despite the prognosis of a complete recovery, Coddington died on February 27, 2008. His publicist stated that Coddington was a long-time diabetic who died from complications that were brought on from a recent surgery for a perforated colon along with sepsis and kidney complications.[13]

Coddington was buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California.


  1. ^ "Boyd Coddington, Hot Rod King, Dead At Age 63".
  2. ^ Lienert, Dan (June 1, 2004). "The Hot Rod King".
  3. ^ John Buttera obituary in Hot Rod Magazine: ""Lil John" Buttera, Master Hot Rodder, 1941–2008". "He may very well have been the "father of billet components" in racing and street rodding, as his love of taking a chunk of aluminum and machining it into something uniquely functional were legend." Coddington and Buttera are often jointly credited for the popularity of billet componentry.
  4. ^ a b The Auto Editors of Consumer Guide (September 19, 2007). "History of Hot Rods & Customs". Consumer Guide. p. 10. Retrieved December 12, 2008. {{cite web}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  5. ^ a b "Iconic "Cadzzilla" Part of New Exhibit at Saratoga Automobile Museum". Archived from the original on July 17, 2011.
  6. ^ The Auto Editors of Consumer Guide (September 19, 2007). "History of Hot Rods & Customs". Consumer Guide. p. 11. Retrieved December 12, 2008. {{cite web}}: |author= has generic name (help) "The design language of the top, hood, side window openings, and front and rear ends was completely new and different from anything that had gone before it. CadZZilla created a stir and was instantly recognized as one of the all-time great custom cars."
  7. ^ HOT ROD Magazine. "Dream – 1932 Chevrolet Roadster". Petersen Automotive. Archived from the original on December 3, 2010. Retrieved December 12, 2008.
  8. ^ The COACHBUILT Encyclopedia of American Coachbuilders & Coachbuilding. "Jesse James (profile)". Retrieved December 12, 2008. In 1992, after an apprenticeship of sorts with the legendary hot-rod builder Boyd Coddington, James started up his own shop.
  9. ^ Chantal Lamers (May 7, 2006). "Driven to be the best". Orange County Register Newspaper. Retrieved December 12, 2008.
  10. ^ "Boyd Coddington, 63, King of Hot Rods, Dies". New York Times. March 1, 2008.
  11. ^ "Troubled Company Reporter – BOYDS WHEELS: Third Quarter Report". InterNet Bankruptcy Library. December 18, 1997.
  12. ^ Garrett, Jerry (February 27, 2008). "Boyd Coddington, Hot Rod Hero, Dies at 63". New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2010. In 2005, he was accused of fraud by the State of California for titling his custom-fabricated creations as "antique cars" to avoid emissions controls and tax obligations
  13. ^ Boyd Coddington, 63; custom car designer starred on 'American Hot Rod' – Los Angeles Times Archived March 4, 2008, at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]