An Unforgettable Era: The History of the “Hot Rod”
“Now you can’t catch me, no baby you can’t catch me
‘Cause if you get too close, you know I’m gone like a cool breeze” – Chuck Berry (You cant catch me, Circa; 1956)
“The fifties is a decade when every year is markedly different from the one before and after. That doesn’t happen every decade. 1983 isn’t that much different from 1986. But 1953 is very different from 1956.” – Sara Sheridan
We can’t even begin to fathom the 1950’s without immediately day-dreaming of all the sexy hot rods that era had to offer us. The age of the hot rod transformed the American automobile industry forever! The American manufacturing economy switched from producing war-related items to consumer goods at the end of World War II. By the end of the 1950’s, one in six working Americans were employed either directly or indirectly in the automotive industry. The United States became the world’s largest manufacturer of automobiles. Henry Ford’s goal of 40 years earlier, that “Any man with a good job should be able to afford an automobile”, was achieved. A new generation of businesses who focused on customers with their automobiles was created during this decade, including drive-through or drive-in restaurants and more drive-in theaters (cinemas).
Hot rods are typically vintage, classic American cars with larger engines, modified for sequential speed. The origin of the term “hot rod” and how it became a description for a type of car, is unknown. Roadsters were the cars of choice back in the 1950’s because they were light-weight, were easy to modify, and could be purchased for an affordable price.
There is still a vibrant hot rod culture worldwide, (of course) especially in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Sweden. The hot rod community has now been subdivided into two main groups: street rodders and hot rodders. Hot rodders build their cars using mainly original equipment parts, whether from junk yards or NOS , and they follow the styles that were popular from the 1940’s through the 1960’s. Street rodders build cars (or have them built for them) using primarily new car parts which are not in association with any vintage automobile parts at all.
The dawning of the Space Age and Space Race were reflected in American automotive styling. Large tail-fins, flowing designs reminiscent of rockets, and radio antennas that imitated Sputnik 1 were common, leading to the efforts of design opportunists such as Harley Earl, infamous for his detailing and work on these beautiful machines.
All in all, hot rods will forever continue to be an everlasting piece of history spanning through time, past, present, and future for the rest of eternity. They have earned their spot, permanently in this world. Car lovers worldwide will continue to find this part of automobile history captivating. From the larger than life engines these cars are fully loaded with, to the hot and shocking detailing that pops in just the right places, and the idea of driving around in a piece of automotive history, owning a hot rod, or even attending a hot rod convention is a great way to view some absolutely amazing and completely unique, one of a kind cars along with an unforgettable experience and memories that will last a lifetime.