5 Minutes with Dave Lane
Dave Lane is an unassuming, soft-spoken guy who built a reputation for crafting cool, timeless, well-crafted hot rods at his one-man Iowa-based Fast Lane Rod Shop over the past 20-plus years. Primarily self-taught, Lane has specialized in complete builds and constructed a long string of benchmark hot rods that earned some of the industry’s top accolades, including many Goodguys Top 12 honors. In fact, one of his final Fast Lane builds, Phil Becker’s ’32 Ford Victoria, was the Goodguys 2019 Classic Instruments Street Rod of the Year.
We were a little surprised a couple years ago when we learned Lane would be turning off his welder, closing up his shop, and moving to Arizona to retire. Now that he’s had time to settle into the Phoenix area, we thought we’d catch up with him to talk about his career, his hot rod philosophy, and his latest personal project.
Goodguys: At what point did you know you could make it as a car builder?
Dave Lane: It started as a hobby in the ’80s and ’90s. I built myself a couple of cars and did small work for others on nights and weekends. I learned the needed skills. An introduction to George Poteet in 1994 led to an opportunity of a lifetime. At Goodguys Indy 1999, I casually mentioned to George to keep me in mind if he was looking for someone to build a hot rod. When I got home from work the following Monday, there was a message from George. I knew that message could change my life. We put together a plan for a ’32 roadster build. This was the opportunity I had been working toward. I quit my full-time job and never looked back!
GG: You’ve avoided trendy styles with your builds. Did you follow a specific design philosophy?
Lane: I’ve always liked traditional hot rods. Having done mostly ’32 Fords, I feel the factory lines and proportions are beautiful. My thought was to tighten them up with good gaps and correct any slight misalignments and side-to-side inaccuracies, along with an occasional slight chop and making sure the body lines flowed well front to rear. Small changes can make a big difference! Just a few special pieces spread throughout the car are enough, allowing the special pieces to be special and the rest of the car to just look right. We’re not building a Christmas tree!
GG: What is the biggest difference you’ve seen in hot rod building in the last 35 years?
Lane: Back when I started, just having stainless steel brake lines put you in the upper tier! The bar has now been raised to an incredible level. With the ability to easily draw up and machine parts that look like they were cast or stamped (first 3D printing them for a trial fit), the only limiting factor is one’s imagination. Fit and finish has gone thru the roof. Panel fit and gaps are beyond anything we could have dreamed of back then.
GG: We hear you have a personal project being built at another shop. How hard is it for you to not jump in and take things over?
Lane: It actually wasn’t hard. As I was finishing up the last car, I was pretty burned out. The last 10 years were pretty much non-stop and I needed a break. This project is a ’67 Jaguar E-type coupe. I guess you could say it is a bucket list car. Fortunately, I found a guy near Austin, Jeff’s Resurrections, that has done several high-quality E-type restorations, so I have confidence it will be done right.
GG: What are you enjoying most about retirement?
Lane: For most of those 20 years, I had little to no time off. I loved what I did, but these projects were all-consuming and took everything I had to get them done the way I wanted in a reasonable timeframe. Now I really enjoy living without the sense of urgency and the feeling like I should constantly be in the shop. Both of my sons live in the Phoenix area, so I enjoy spending time with them, too.
GG: How hard was it to actually retire? Do you miss anything?
Lane: It wasn’t hard at all. I was so fortunate through the years to have amazing customers, all of which are good friends now, and great relationships with the vendors I dealt with. Now I have time to talk with all of them and not feel rushed.
GG: What’s it like to finally attend an event as a participant or spectator?
Lane: It’s wonderful! So much less stressful. Just park the Galaxie wherever and enjoy the event. It takes me back to the first shows I ever went to. Some of the cars being built these days are absolutely incredible and it’s nice to just go and admire them and not be thinking about how I’m going to compete.
GG: What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
Lane: My formal education was in computer systems; I have a master’s degree in information systems. I did that for the federal government for 12 years before building cars full time. It was interesting work, but in the end my passion was hot rods.
GG: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the old car hobby in recent years?
Lane: The shift in the era of the popular cars. Back when I started, prewar Fords were the dominant cars. Now, muscle cars and ’50s-’60s cars dominate the event. It’s a big change.
GG: What do you appreciate in a hot rod build?
Lane: I get excited when I see cars with modifications that I don’t initially catch. Bobby Alloway is a master at this. For instance, he’ll use an interior from a different year and make it fit perfectly. Unless you know that car intimately, you’d never guess it’s not original. I appreciate a car that looks so much better than original and yet you can’t figure out why.