- Hero Image by: Dennis Breeden All other photos, text & errors by: Chris Breeden

Know your Cars! Street Rods

***Editors Note***

Check the bottom of this article for links to the entire KYC! series!

Now back to business...

The beginning:

In order to understand where Street Rods came from we have to journey back to June of 1970. In that months issue of Rod & Custom magazine the editor proclaimed that all roads lead to Peoria, Illinois! Wait... What?

Foreground: 1946 Mercury Convertible, Behind: 1948 Chevrolet Truck

I know that's a pretty strange statement, but there is a reason for this madness. You see, the Muscle car was dead! I know some of you are going to say, "but what about this and this manufacture wouldn't make this car until" I'll concede that factories would produce 3 or 4 more good Muscle cars in the early '70's, but in reality the Muscle car era started in 1964, peaked in 1967 & was over by 1970. It had been a good 6 year ride, but pressure from insurance companies, Federal Emissions Regulations & Ralph Nader had almost ended the party. The fuel crisis would be the nail that sealed the coffin on the first era of factory horsepower.

Left: 1940 Ford truck, Right: 1932 Ford Roadster

What's next?

Since you couldn't buy a powerful new car the only option left was to build one. The only problem was no one wanted to hop-up a overweight big bumper Nova or Charger. Gearheads did a pretty common thing when any group is faced with adversity. They looked to the past to figure out a way forward.

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A '29 Ford Model A 2-door Sedan, with a super sweet sounding Flathead V-8 engine.

Those beautiful Hot Rods!

What they found was what had came before Muscle cars: Hot Rods & Customs. All of those beautiful T-buckets, Model A's, Deuce Coupes, '36 & '40 Ford Coupes and the '49 to '51 Fords & Mercury's were still around. The best part about it was those cars were all still plentiful & cheap to boot. You see, Hot Rod's & Custom's never really die! They just go underground when a new era of factory horsepower comes around.

1932 Ford 2-door Sedan

Lessons Learned!

The Hot Rod Scene of the 1950's & early 1960's had been a deathly thing. Kids were driving recklessly in cars that were never designed to have high horsepower engines in them. The mechanical brakes that most pre-WW2 cars had in them were dangerous when new. Those brakes would become an even larger hazard when, heavier more powerful engines were placed in the engine bays. Street Rodders set off with the lessons of the Hot Rod scene at the forefront of everything they would do. No one wanted to repeat the carnage that had happened then. In order to combat that image, this new breed would operate under the idea that safety was paramount! They would change the very idea of what it meant to drive a "Hot Rod".

Foreground: 1934 Ford 3-window Coupe, Beside: 1934 Ford 2-door Sedan

The era of disk brakes & seat belts:

The days of big cubic inch engines in cars with mechanical brakes were over with. Unsafe window glass, tires, wiring & headlights would be shunned in favor of newer, safer equipment. Frame rails would now be boxed to take the torque of these newer, stronger engines. A good many 4 and 5 year old Muscle cars were gonna get cut up to make this new breed of Rods!

I can not remember what kind of car this is... Probably a '30's Dodge product.


Oh, that business about Peoria? The very first Street Rod Nationals would be held there in August of 1970. It would be popularized by Rod & Custom Magazine, but it would be ran by a new organization called the National Street Rod Association or NSRA.

1937 Ford 2-door Sedan

Roddings Renaissance:

Rodders came to Peoria from all over the United States & Canada. They didn't descend on the town like some mad pack of wolfs. There was no tearing up the streets,, no long smokey burnouts and no red light drag racing. You see Street Rodders know that those kinds of things are really not a test of any kind. The real test of a home built car is mile after mile of problem free driving.

1936 Plymouth Truck

Street Is Neat!

I guess this is really the long way of telling you that a Street Rod is a car manufactured in 1948 or before. That typically has a newer V-8 engine, transmission, front and rear suspension. They utilize a 21 point safety inspection and they are not driven recklessly. They usually include things for driver comfort, like heat & A/C and Audio equipment

The long way around?... I'm pretty sure a Street Rodder would appreciate that!

Excuse me while I Keep on Cruisin'!

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A little Street Rod action from the GoodGuys Nashville Nationals.

Please remember...

Art by: Chris Breeden

Links to the rest of the Know Your Cars Series:

Thanks for reading!

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Comments (8)
  • Really liked this read, I'm excited to read through the rest of your articles you sent!

    4 months ago
    3 Bumps
  • Do a lot of these street rods really have air conditioning ? I've always thought of them as minimalist when it came to comfort. I guess there is probably both.

    5 months ago
    6 Bumps
    • I would say that 75% of them do have A/C. Minimalism is something that is a trait of Hot Rods or Beaters(Rat Rods). Street Rods have always strived for an experience as close to a...

      Read more
      5 months ago
      4 Bumps
    • There was a time when that was true, but Vintage air and Southern Air solved that problem a few years ago. The smaller evap units allow you to add heat, A/C & defrost even to a Model A...

      Read more
      5 months ago
      3 Bumps


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