Rewind the Fifties
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Hot Rods, Customs and the 
Dream Machines

Hot Rods & Customs - The Story

NOW THE STORY OF "US". Hot Rods and Kustom cars came about at this time.. the war over, the U.S. now a leading world power, and while the rest of Europe and Asia had to recover from that awful war, the U.S. had clear and free sailing to take advantage of the flourishing market. 

Roding grew rapidly after WWII when GI's had money to spend on their cars... such as this '34 Ford

Most car makers QUICKLY tried to get back to their first love, making cars, and hurried to quench the thirsty GIs returning home that wanted a new set of wheels. Only one catch! you could get a "new" car.. OH SURE! no problem. but truly "new".. NO:( not really.. as the car makers didn't have the time to get ready for new cars due to the war, so until they could get new models out there, you had to settle for PRE war designs and engineering. All the car companies scurried to develop and put out new designs, and though one or two jumped ahead (Studebaker being one) with new designs, the wait was going to be a long one...."OH! no no no, that just won't do!".... Now those restless, fast-loving, pumped up READY FOR ACTION! 

cRaZiEd-minded GIs were not about to sit back and wait for "dad's old Pontiac", so a number of them rolled up their sleeves and commenced to work on creating the next evolutionary step in the history of the car.. THE KUSTOM CAR! This great transformation sparked off in a few places, but no more so then in California, where the already sun-crazed Californians had a love-affair with the automobile. 

A group of Los Angeles Roadsters Club members at a Drive In, Hollywood, 1958
Many GIs first started off taking off that. and putting on this.. leaving this alone and changing that completely. So piece by piece the hot rod legacy began... We start off with the simple things.. of the late 40s with mild changes and modest refinement, to the 50s crusin' bvld specials and youthful dreams, and end with the early 60s and the "only-for-show" anything goes MUST BE FROM OUTER SPACE madness creations that ended only when the muscle cars started to roll off the assembly line, finishing off the original hot rod era like an asteroid wiping out the MONSTER LIZARDS:) (yes I know dinosaurs, but come on, that sounds so Square man!) 

Still in uniform fresh from the war.. they opened up the doors to the garage to discover the rusted out heap they once drove.. They started to think and ponder, some knew EXACTLY what to go after and get rid of... others meditated and did complex rocket science-like math (no not really, but builds up the excitement does it?) SO! First to go!...

For those that owned a Ford Model T or Ford Model A (1928-1933) it was those FENDERS! the fenders along with the running boards HAD TO BE TOSSED! (now yes there were a few of you out there that left them on.. and so be it the Gods of Rod nod their heads in approval, but for most THEY ARE OUTTA HERE!) So gone now are those "ugly" fenders, next turn to the motor. 

A stripped and channeled '28 model A, in primer, on the street. The flathead V8 has twin carbs. 

Now up until later in the 50s most of you fellas had to work with that same motor, or if lucky enough (and only a very very very small number did even do this in late 40s) you swapped out that one for something a bit more horsepower. Keep in mind the Fords weren't the only ones being changed but they were the most common as so many had been built and the quality and engineering very good for that kind of car when they were first made. So for those of you with other makes... we haven't forgotten you (small pats on the head:) The old-reliable motors that up until then in the Fords was not a bad piece of engineering, but things got better when Ford came out with their flat-head V8s.

OK! now some of you might not be all to crazy about that motor.. and talk and talk of Chevy motors, yes mind you, the Big daddy bowtie powerhouses are great.. But we are still talking of the mid-50s and some teenager just trying to get his wacky little contraption on the streets.

Now once you had gotten the motor up and going.. and had taken off those awful running boards.. the main key next was wheels... those wire-spoked Ford wheels were "out of fad", in by the start of the 50s as the solid-center wheels were introduced in 1940 and THOSE are the most popular for the classic 50s hot rod.

AH! those tail lights! yuck! those were usually replaced by flush fitting units, most common being the 1950 Pontiac ones, though 1939 Ford tear drops look great too.. (and THOSE details and more are covered in the Body Works section) 

The whole main idea of hot rods was to use the best equipment (not always the same brands or the cheapest parts, though some times that was not an option). The Cars were meant to be open-wheeled, wind-in-your-hair, more power then you should ever need go-carts.. they were fun and exciting and could be a source of wonderful pride to a otherwise average teenager.. They were all about horsepower and "need for speed" that comes with youth. 

 

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