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Golden-Era Hot-Rodding

Discussion in 'The Golden Era' started by cbrunt, Sep 6, 2008.

  1. cbrunt

    cbrunt One of the Regulars

    Hi Gang,

    Thought a few here might enjoy the following. Sure there are already military re-enactment groups covering most of our period of interest but I've found something pretty damned cool and I think pretty unique: historically recreated hot-rod clubs !!




    Anyone that likes cars of the period should love this stuff :eusa_clap

    Now.... someone please form a recreated motorcycle club please.

  2. BigSleep

    BigSleep One of the Regulars

  3. MaryDeluxe

    MaryDeluxe Practically Family

    cburnt... those are cars of some of the present and past FL members! :D
  4. So all this was a strictly SoCal phenomenon at the time.

    I've sometimes wondered if there were hot rodders in the Midwest in those days, what with plenty of young mechanical talent and 1000s of miles of straight flat roads with (mostly) no speed limits. But I've seen no evidence of it hereabouts till well after WW2. So maybe there had to be an ethnic or counterculture angle to make it happen (in the corn belt we had neither).
  5. Ms. McGraw

    Ms. McGraw One of the Regulars

    Since the mid-west became such a hub of hot rodding post WWII, one could only assume that there MUST have been some pre-WWII roots. The intro to the book "Dry Lakes And Drag Strips, The American Hot Rod" suggests that while hot rodding as we know it today is widely accepted to originated on the west coast, early "built" engines that were assembled in the mid-west went into circle track racers. If you are considering simply "warming up" an engine and chassis to be the fundamental definition of hot rodding then one could easily argue that there WERE indeed pre-WWII mid-west hot rodders.
  6. If the definition of a hot rodder is someone who tinkers with cars, swaps out engines and parts, and seeks ways of making his ride go faster, then there have been hot rodders in every country, town and city that has had internal combustion engines for any length of time.

    Which means that there were "hot rodders" in France, England and other places as well.
  7. cbrunt

    cbrunt One of the Regulars

    Hi Gang,

    Glad to see this stirred up some interest !

    It is cool to see both the new-made, but period correct hot rods, beside those orignals !

    Regarding hot-rods in the 1930s, I found the following story in a book by Herbert Wagner which tells the story of Harley-Davidson in the 1930-1941 period. I'm copying my post for another forum:

    While reading Herbert Wagners "Harley-Davidson 1930-1941: Revolutionary Motorcycles and Those Who Rode Them" I found this really awesome story.
    A fellow name Harry Sebreny worked at the Harley factory and was one of the first to get a 1936 61" OHV. It had a few problems which were repair by the factory and they dyno-ed the motor before installation. It rated a few HP higher than others. It was really fast- especially when compared to the old flatheads- and he named it "Soupy-Sixty-One". 1936 was the first year for the 61 OHV (later named Knucklehead but not yet). It was the first factory Harley that could attain 100mph; pretty damned fast then, I'm sure. The flatheads couldn't reach that and mechanically couldn't hold-up anyway.

    Qoute from the book:

    "That Sixty-one was by far faster than the Seventy-four and Eighty inch Flatheads. I took off the muffler and put on a straight brass pipe. It echoed like a cannon going off. Once I let a speed cop ride it. He came back and said he never rode anything like it. He told the police department about it and they were interested (in buying one for ticket-duty).

    "The factory knew how fast it was. They tested it when they fixed it. One day Bill Davidson- the younger one- came up to me. He said there was some dealer from California picking up thirteen motorcycles. They had been asking about the Sixty-one and didn't believe it was that fast. They had a car with them. a hot-rod. They brought it along to race. Bill Davidson told them "I'll bet we got a Sixty-one here that will beat that thing. But I can't promise anything until I talk to the guy who owns it". They didn't believe anything could beat their that hot-rod. So they al came up to where I was working and Bill Davidson asked me to race them. I didn't want to. But I was awful proud of that damned thing and when he said, "Go ahead, Harry" I agreed."

    At that time Highway 100 outside Milwaukee had recently been built. It was finished but not yet open to traffic. It ran through several miles of farmland with no cross roads and it was there the impromtu race was staged.

    "They put a car at the end where we were supposed to turn around. They put one in the middle, and Bill Davidson and the rest were grouped at the finish. They thought they were going to run away with it. They bet strong on their car. Real strong. All cash. It was three miles out and three mile back. Six mile total. I rode that thing flat out and that Sixty-one went like a dream. It just floated. When you opened it up it was like riding a cloud. They lost their money. I was back before the guy in the hot rod was half and three-quarters of the way (I'm not exactly sure what this means but he whipped 'em). They were surprised. They wanted to buy it right there. They offered me more money than I paid for it. After the race Bill Davidson put his arm around me. That was the only time he asked me to race. But later I heard they talked about it to other guys that came from California that asked about it. They pointed me out while I was working and the garage men said Bill Davidson showed my machine to visitors. That hot-rod had been beating everything in California, but it couldn't beat Soupy-Sixty-on."

  8. Flivver

    Flivver Practically Family

    In the U.S. hot rodding was going on in the 1920s...although it wasn't known by that name. Many firms sold "hop-up" parts for the Ford Model T which became quite popular among the younger set. These hop-up parts included overhead valve cylinder heads, Ruxton two speed rear axles and even body restyling kits to mask the lowly origins of the flivver.

    I think that hot rodding, as we know it today, really got started with the introduction of the Ford flathead V8 in 1932. Almost immediately, folks started to try to extract more power from this already potent package. Most of the activity centered in Southern CA, but there were smaller hotbeds of activity all over the country. By the late 1930s there was quite a bit of hot rodding activity going on here in New England.

    By 1948, the hobby was large enough to support its own magazine, called, appropriately enough, "Hot Rod". This was quickly followed by "Hop Up" in 1951 and "Rod & Custom" in 1953. The latter two magazines were small in size (about like the old TV Guide)...easy to read inside one's algebra book during school!

    By the mid-1950s, no self-respecting high school boy was without a hot rod...no matter how modest. I have fond memories of watching my best friend's older brothers creating hot rods in their garage in the late 1950s.
  9. Story

    Story I'll Lock Up

    Don't know how true it is, but I remember reading somewhere of an aviation maintenance crew in the Pacific taking an aircraft engine (Piper Cub observation plane?) and shoe-horning it into a jeep.

    Zoom Zoom
  10. cbrunt

    cbrunt One of the Regulars

  11. Eyemo

    Eyemo Practically Family

    Cool stuff.. anyone in the UK with cars like these?:eusa_clap
  12. I don't know about that, but Wally Parks claimed to have a V8/60 powered Jeep in the Philippines during the War.

    As for hot rodding in the midwest, it absolutely existed here, but we didn't do the straight-line stuff. Mostly our hot rods were raced on former horsetracks - the genesis of modern dirt track racing. That was way back in the teens and twenties.

    Perhaps you've heard about a little race they have in Indianapolis every Memorial Day? At one time that was rife with hot rodders, and they didn't all come from California.

    If you ever pick up an excellent book by Murray Fahnestock called "Model T Speed Secrets" you'll find it's really a collection of articles from the teens and twenties about building race cars and road-going speedsters - all aimed squarely at readers in the midwest (particularly Ohio).

    I will say this, though. Californians tended to build more stylish hot rods than midwesterners. Ours used to have a distinctly practical look about them - almost like farm machinery.

  13. Strictly speaking, the post-war years saw the birth of the custom car; George Barris' Hirohata Merc was the first.

  14. Ms. McGraw

    Ms. McGraw One of the Regulars

    Chas, while no one would argue that Barris was a pioneer in the world of customs, or that custom cars really became very popular in the post-war years, I believe the Hirohata Merc was unveiled in 52. The Matranga Merc is from 49, but I wouldn't bet the farm that it was the first of it's kind either.
    "The 1940 Westergard Mercury was created by Harry Westergard, the grandfather of customizing." If I'm not mistaken, Barris worked for Westergard at one point prior to opening his own shop in 44.
  15. reetpleat

    reetpleat Call Me a Cab

    Love the purist angle, great stuff.

    But I don't see any clus devoted to recreating the whole atmosphere including clothing etc. That would be my ideal. I suppose that might be asking too much.

    I know some of the older car clubs like the tens nad twentys clubs have authenticity ocntests that involve not just the car, but the outfits as well.

    I would love to see a guy in a late 30s look like slacks and a t shirt, or short sleeve pointed collar shirt with suspenders maybe, reaching up to slick a long greasy strand of hair back onto his scalp as he bends down over an engine.

    Maybe there are some guys that go for that.
    I once saw an article in a 50s mens magazine about jeep 4 wheelers. Apparently, a lot of guys bought surplus jeeps after the war and started taking them out into the hills etc. Any vintage four wheeler clubs around?
  16. reetpleat

    reetpleat Call Me a Cab

    I suspect that two things were elements. California was a prime mover in birthing a youth culture that would pursue things like this with a lot of leasure time for it. Most guys in teh midwest were probably too busy working.

    Secondly, it may well be that the trend just started there and worked its way east eventually.
    While I am sure there wre many young men who wre fascinated and interested in making thigs go faster, teh recognizable trappings of the trend may have ben invented in california and worked east.

    I would think at least in Michigan there were young engineers and techs in the car industry that were interested in such things.
  17. cbrunt

    cbrunt One of the Regulars


    Reading the Hot Irons page, it seems they're working towards recreating the period atmosphere much like a WW2 living-history group. I think there's at least one image of the fellow in period clothing.

    I've the same plans for my motorcycle club- once I get more than just myself wearing vintage duds and trying to capture the "Feel" of the period..[huh] .
  18. benstephens

    benstephens Practically Family

    Yes quite a few Seimon. They have a few big meetings, normally with Rock 'n' Roll bands etc. I have overtaken a few in the Riley on my way home from places ;)

    "Hotting up" as it was called in England was very popular in the 20s and 30s. Not to the same extent as the Americans though, with the completely stripped machines. There is a nice article about 'Hotting up' in August 1935 Speed magazine, the official mag of the British Racing Drivers club.

    They do look nice a lot of the rods. I like some of the early ones.

  19. Hi All;

    If I may jump in here, I know second hand that drag racing was happening in St. Louis in the `30s. My grandma used to talk about how my grandpa and his racing buddies would block off Market St. (The main east-west street at that time.) and race on Sundays. She said there was no flying start and the raced a straight course. (Gotta be drag racing.) She also said that grandpa would work on other guys cars in a little shed that he kept on near their house. According to her, gramps had a `27 Durant and did pretty well.
  20. DavidVillaJr

    DavidVillaJr One of the Regulars

    In the October 1951 issue of HOP UP magazine, Jot Horn and Norm Taylor - both working at Bell Auto Parts - were putting a 6-cylinder Ranger engine from a P.T. 19 trainer into Norm's '32 Ford.

    HOP UP called it the Airoadster....

    There's a follow-up article in the February 1952 HOP UP with photos of the completed car. 105.26 mph in the quarter mile Santa Ana drags...

    Not bad for an engine that had to be mounted upside down and backwards!!


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