Although hot rodding arguably began and flourished in California, it quickly spread cross-country, coinciding with the explosive growth of Hot Rod Magazine, which started in January 1948. Ten years later, a February 1958 Hot Rod cover story featured prominent East Coast hot rods.
“We don’t care how they do it in California,” was the rallying cry.
East Coast rods always had a distinctive look. Because their hop ups weren’t raced at the dry lakes, hot rodders who lived east of the Misssippi often opted for enclosed cars, and they could perform many streamlined alterations without concern about being moved up in competition classes. East Coast guys wanted roadsters, but given the severe winter weather, coupes and sedans were more practical; channeling a car (cutting out the floorboards and lowering the body down over the frame) was cheaper and more expedient than chopping tops and frame Z-ing. Hoods were optional, no matter what the weather. The East Coast even had its own hot rod magazines like Rodding and Re-styling and Rod Builder & Customizer. The mid-50s, aka the “Happy Days,” were the peak... and that’s the period being showcased in Saratoga.
Thanks to its proximity to the heart of the automotive industry in the 1950s, the state of Michigan also produced some great hot rods. The Detroit Autorama, now in its 58th year, is still going strong. So we’ve included a few Midwest-based cars, first because they were sensational, and also because the two regions competed against one another at the famed Joe Kizis Autorama shows in Hartford, CT, Springfield, MA, and many other venues.
Saratoga Automobile Museum curator Ken Gross, author of The Art of the Hot Rod, and Hot Rod Milestones, has gathered up a select group of historic East Coast and Midwest hot rods, many of which have been restored or are very well-preserved. Several of these cars have not been seen together in half a century. For nostalgic East Coasters, as well as hot rodders from all over the country who remember them, the Saratoga show will be a trip down memory lane.
A.B. Shuman’s book, Cool Cars and Square Roll Bars, chronicles and celebrates East Coast hot rodding. Shuman, along with Jack DeWitt, author of Cool Cars, Cool Art; and Ken Gross will be part of the Museum’s “Living Legends” series, and will headline a seminar during the exhibition.
The 1932 Ford, better known as the “Deuce,” remains hot rodding’s favorite car, and this forthcoming exhibit, while not all ‘32s, is skewed toward these iconic machines. Call ‘em East Coast cars or Right Coast Rods, they’re unique, iconic, loud, fast and hot.
Confirmed cars include:
’32 Ford roadster; ex-Norm Wallace
’32 Ford 3W Coupe, ex-Andy Kassa
’32 Ford roadster; ex-Fred Steele
’33 Ford Roadster, Barn Find
’32 Ford 3W Coupe, ex-Bill Kelly
’31 Ford ex-Bill/Don Leslie “Starlite” coupe
’34 Ford coupe, ex-Andy Granatelli
’32 Ford Roadster, ex-Tommy Foster
’32 Ford 3W Coupe
Hot rods are American icons. Ingenuity, craftsmanship, power and speed underscore the provenance of these historic hot rods from the last mid-century. If you thrill to the roar of steelpack mufflers, delight in the rumble of a flathead V-8, hate fenders, love chopped tops and think any stock Ford is ripe for modifications, you won’t want to miss this exhibit.
RIGHT COAST RODS “Historic roadsters & coupes from the Fabulous '50s” exhibit will open to the public now through May 8, 2011. For more information, visit www.saratogaautomuseum.org.
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