In January of 1948 a new magazine went on sale at newsstands in the US. It was produced by Robert Peterson and there is a good chance you've heard of it:
Photo courtesy of: The Custom & Hot Rod Life's vast historical archives.
Oddly enough, an actual Hot Rod didn't appear on the cover of Hot Rod magazine until October of 1948. That Rod belonged to Bob McGee and was a stripped down 1932 Ford Roadster. More on that here:
Magazines, like websites, generally only put things in them that are popular. So as early as October of 1948 a Hot Rod Ford was a popular thing. But why were those cars in particular chosen over other makes of cars at the time? The answer is really pretty simple.
Photo by: Chris Breeden Photo from: The Redneck Rumble in Lebanon, Tennessee
Fords already contained the most easy to modify engine in the country: The V8 Flathead. It is true that Cadillac was making a engine, that is arguably just as good as the Ford, but the Cadillacs they came in were huge cars. The Caddys did not lend themselves to drag racing and top speed record setting.
Above: (left) typical Cadillac with a flathead Caddy V8. (right) typical stripped down Hot Rod Ford with a flathead Ford V8.
The above pictures demonstrate the difference between to two cars available to young people interested in the Hot Rod scene of the late '40s and early '50s. The Ford was the obvious choice!
The idea that a Ford was the only car capable of being Hot Rodded had become so ingrained in people, that when other manufacturers started producing better engines than the Flathead Ford, Hot Rodders just started putting those engines in their Ford cars. They couldn't imagine a Hot Rod '28 Chevy or a Hot Rod '33 Plymouth. In reality, they didn't need to. The vintage Fords were everywhere and could still be purchased for cheap prices
Photo by: Chris Breeden Photo from: The NSRA Southern Nationals in Knoxville, Tennessee.
When the steel bodies became scarce, or too valuable as original cars, people began making the Fords out of fiberglass. They even began stamping new steel bodies off of re-tooled old dies.
Fancy a new, fully licenced by Ford Motor Company, 1940 Ford Coupe? Photo from: denniscarpenter.com
The idea that only Fords make good Hot Rods has eased a little over the years. Like anything, you'll find stodgy purists that will insist otherwise, but they really can't be taken too seriously. At any modern Hot Rod show you'll find a varied array of different makes Hot Rodded. The pursuits of speed and cool can't be pigeon holed!
A wild 1948 Chevy coupe! Photo by: Chris Breeden Photo from: The Redneck Rumble in Lebanon, Tennessee.
Keep on Cruisin'!
Art by: Chris Breeden
About the Author:
"Chris Breeden is a Social Media content creator for Custom & Hot Rod Life on DRIVETRIBE, YouTube and Facebook. After spending 5 years in Southern California, a.k.a. Hot Rod Heaven, while serving as a jet engine mechanic in the United States Marine Corps, he moved back home to Tennessee with an even greater love for Hot Rodded Vintage Tin. Since then he has worked in retail sales and the transportation and logistics industry. In 2018, seeing a gap in Hot Rod and Custom Car coverage on DRIVETRIBE, Chris began advocating for their inclusion on the platform. During the summer months, he can be found all over the Tennessee region covering car shows, meets, and cruise-ins. During the winter months, he can be found in the garage working on his custom 1949 Ford two-door sedan and 1954 F100 truck."