It's late at night as you open the driver's door and climb in behind the wheel. The silence of the night is broken by the thump of the car door as it closes. As you settle into your seat, you are greeted by a perfectly mixed aroma of gas, oil and burnt rubber. You feel the tumblers in the ignition move out of the way as you slide the key in. With a slow turn of that fragile little key, the coil becomes energized.
You quickly reach over and turn the radio off. The local station is always playing classic rock music this late at night. Nothing that was written by Elvis or Buddy Holly nor the Beach Boys or the Beatles, nope not even Pink Floyd or the Rolling Stones could hope to match the sounds you are about to hear. (well... maybe Holly).
You pump the gas pedal one time to set the electric choke and then press the starter button. The electric spin of the starter motor soon gives way to the thunder of 450 angry horses cracking back to life. They've been under the hood for the last five decades and time has done nothing to assuage their anger. A stab at the gas pedal releases the choke on the big bore carb. The engine settles down to 900 RPMs.
You reach over to the headlight switch and pull the knob out to the first stop. The parking lights and dash lights begin to burn. A quick survey of the gauges shows: 40 pounds of oil pressure, the temperature gauge hasn't moved yet and the alternator is charging at 14 AMPS. The fuel gauge shows a hair under full. You pull the headlight switch all the way out, illuminating the road in front of you. The rear view mirror is shaking under the vibration of that big block engine, it's cam has so much lift you can hear every cylinder fire.
After pressing in that stiff mechanical clutch you grab first gear, blip the throttle, release the clutch and you are off into the night.
A night that was once populated by Flathead Ford V8 powered Model A roadsters, complete with huge superchargers and Desoto Hemi powered '33 Willys Coupes. Then the Hot Rods had to share the night roads with cars powered by overhead valve, V8s. There were Oldsmobiles powered by an engine called the Rocket, Buicks had Nailheads and Fords had Y-blocks. Then, in '55, a Chevy (with something called a small block engine) started beating everything it went up against. A few years later (when Chevy started making something called a big block engine) one was put under the hood of the old Rod. Hello, angry horses.
Then, one night, the Muscle cars arrived.
The old Hot Rod battled it out, one red light at a time, with Olds 442s, Mercury Cyclones, Plymouth Barracudas, AMC Javelins, Dodge Chargers, big block Camaros and Mustangs even a Buick GSX once. One night, in the late '60s, the old Rod even embarrassed a Jaguar XKE. Screams of, "On the track, the Jag would eat your lunch!" were met with taunts of "If you wanna play games, kids, go to the track! This is reality!" Those days are long gone and the memories are as shaky as the reflections in that rear view mirror.
After those glory days were gone, the old Hot Rod spent a stretch of time in the back of a garage. Forgotten. For thirty years it was a home for mice. It became the centerpiece in the pile of stuff that people can never seem to get rid of. That's how it was when you found it. Neglected and rotting. It took a few years to get it back into running shape. Rotted leather seats were replaced, mice chewed wires were torn out, a bad fuel tank was replaced and a blown head gasket was determined to be the reason the Rod was parked the first time.
As you drive through the empty streets of town a traffic light clicks to yellow and then immediately to red. You pull up to the white line and stop. A quick glance at the temperature gauge... 190 degrees... everything is right. Fifty, thirty, heck even as recently as twenty years ago, there would have been someone come up to the light and challenge the old Hot Rod, but not anymore. The days of street racing on a Wednesday night are gone. As you start to wonder if that's a good or a bad thing, you see the lights for the cross traffic start to change. Finally, your green light comes on and then with a little throttle, followed by a little tire squeal, you are quickly out of town. As you drive along, with that heavenly exhaust sound piercing the black of night and radiating back in through the opened window and directly into your soul, a smile spreads across your face. You are living in the moment.
Aren't you glad you went to the store for some milk?
If this isn't close to the experience you have when you drive your car, then you are driving the wrong car!
Keep on Cruisin'!
STREET RACING IS BAD! DON'T DO IT! THIS IS JUST A STORY!
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."