Feb. 27, 2008, 11:03 PM EST
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES -- Car-building legend Boyd Coddington, whose testosterone-injecte d cable TV reality show "American Hot Rod" introduced the nation to the West Coast hot rod guru, has died. He was 63.
Coddington died at Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital in suburban Whittier at 6:20 a.m. Wednesday. His La Habra office spokeswoman Amanda Curry wouldn't disclose the cause of death.
Coddington, who started building cars when he was 13 and once operated a gas station in Utah, set a standard for his workmanship and creativity, with his popular "Cadzilla" creation considered a design masterpiece. The customized car based on a 1950s Cadillac was built for rocker Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top.
"That was a groundbreaking car. Very cool," said Dick Messer, executive director of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
"This was your modern era George Barris," Messer said. "He did things to hot rods and customs that weren't being done by anyone else. But the main thing is he designed cars that were drivable."
Coddington was a machinist by trade, working at Disneyland during the day and tinkering with cars in his home garage at night and on weekends. His rolling creations captured the imagination of car-crazy Southern Californians and soon he was building custom cars and making money.
Most often, he customized 1932 Ford "little deuce coupes."
"It was one of those things when a hobby turned into business," Messer said, noting Coddington was also "one of the first guys to get into the custom wheel business."
Wheels by Boyd were fetching $2,000 apiece, which was unheard of two decades ago.
Coddington also surrounded himself with talent. Alumni from his shop include Jesse James and Chip Foose, who went on to open their own shops and star in reality TV shows.
Coddington twice won the Daimler-Chrysler Design Excellence Award and he was inducted into the Grand National Roadster Show Hall of Fame, the National Rod & Custom Museum Hall of Fame and the Route 66 Wall of Fame.
Always dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, Coddington said he loved his "American Hot Rod" Discovery Channel show, which featured ground-up construction of $500,000 hot rods.
"The viewers are ... people who lived in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and loved these cars. Now, they have money," Coddington told The Associated Press in a 2004 interview.