I Like Street Rods Better Than Hot Rods

 After I win the Mega Millions lottery, I am going to buy a new car. It won’t be an Obama-de-ville, but rather a custom built street rod. I will begin with an older U.S.built car from the 1934 through 1959 period.  I will have it designed and built to my specs. It will be as stylish as anything from today’s car makers. The reliability will rival cars from Japan. The design will include all the modern technology that makes a 2010 car what it is: Electronic ignition, fuel injection, four wheel power disc brakes, automatic transmission with overdrive, power steering, and more. The cabin amenities will include air conditioning, power windows, keyless ignition, heated leather power seats,and more. In other words, it will be a 2010 car with a slightly used and reconditioned body.

Today’s street rods are an offshoot of the  hot rods that are made for speed, and drag racing.  Street rods are  totally drivable.  I am amazed at the design ingenuity of hot rodders that build their own cars. I recently met a man who has customized a 1939 Buick (shown below). He’s been building, and re-designing car for twenty years.  

Why does it take so long? Well, one reason is money. The builders usually have a day job with limited money to spend. A second reason is time. Most of these guys are family men and spend time on their cars after family and work obligations are met. Some of them run body shops, so they can work on their cars when business is slow.

The hobby of custom hot rod building is a huge business in America. There are many organizations dedicated to supporting  the builders. The  National Hot Rod Association, Good Guys, National Street Rod Association are a few of them. One of my most popular weblogs is  I Prefer Hot Rods With Fenders. This simple report keeps my BLOG alive with viewers.  Hopefully this post will be enjoyed as well. I photographed the cars in this collection at the Tinley Park, Illinois Cruise Night on a Friday in August, 2009.

All of these cars were saved from the junk yard. They all look pretty and go like hell! ENJOY.

After this post, I may even buy a lottery ticket.

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I Prefer Hot Rods with Fenders

1932 Ford DueceThe yellow thirty-two duece hot rod in American Graffiti is the icon of hot rodders across the states. It is mine too. I love hotrods, especially street rods.  The car that drives me wild is a thirty-four Ford three window coupe that has been channeled, chopped and modernized with a hot fuel injected engine, power disk brakes, and air.  I prefer my hot rods with fenders. 

Every summer the Frankfort Car Club sponsors “Cruise Night,” in the historic area. Cars come from all around the south suburubs and fill the streets. Owners sit by their vehicle and answer questions. The evening brings out the locals to gawk. Most of the hotrods elicit  memories of our father’s car, or the first car we owned.

 I grew up watching a kid who was just a few years older than me build a hot rod. It was my habit, to ride my bike to the alley where he rented a garage. Dick lived in the house next to the alley. He could see the garage from the kitchen window of the second floor apartment where he and his mother rented. I watched the garage door, if  it was open,  Dick was working.  The thirty-four coupe he built was his second hot rod, and it is the one I fell in love with. Someday, if I win the lotto, I’ll buy a thirty-four Ford.

Each time I visit cruise night, I find another car to love. I can’t make up my mind as to what I really want anymore. Is it the thirty-four, or should it be a thirty-nine roadster, or a fifty Mercury? Confusion, confusion, confusion. I”ll have to win a big lotto, so I can buy one of each, and afford a place to keep them.

The beauty of a street rod lies in the builder’s vision to take an antique car, and re-style it into a sleek modern vehicle. They have all the features of a two thousand nine Chevy.  Each is a unique work of art designed by the builder who  is  usually the owner too. They are craftsmen with a pocket book, often spending over fifty thousand dollars to complete a project. Many owners limit the use of the car by driving them only to cruise nights or to other shows.

There is nothing quiet about a street rod. Not the rumble coming from the powerful engine, or it’s squeeling tires, or from it’s paint. Some of the most eye appealing colors are applied on hot rods. Some have very ornate flames and pinstripping. Other’s have multi-colors with silver and gold sprinkled in.

1934 Ford Sedan Street Rod1959 Mercury Sedan1950 Mercury Coupe with Sculpted Hood and Fenders1934 Chevy Three Window Coupe1937 Ford Coupe1934 Ford Tudor Sedan

315 mph in 3.9 seconds, WOW!

dscn0064It all began with a simple e-mail to my stepson and his daughter. Sometimes the power of suggestion is overwhelming. I received a spam message f rom Firebird International Speedway in Chandler, Arizona.  Why not, I asked myself? I sent a simple message to these two very important people with the following:  “Are either of you up to going? ” The event was the  NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) Pro Time Trials. I was half kidding, but then again I was hoping for an escape from winter.

It actually happened!

My grand daughter replied,  “are you serious?”

“Why not?” I replied.

The phone rang. She asked me again. “Yes, I’m serious.”

“Okay, I’ll make arrangements.”

Last Saturday we left for Midway airport at noon for a three o’clock flight to Phoenix. Tracy had an agenda. First we were to go to an “In and Out Burger” for the best hamburger and fries we ever had. Then we checked in at Red Roof Inn. Afterward, we shopped at Wal Mart for weather appropriate clothes.

Bright and early on Sunday morning we were at Denny’s eating breakfast. The goal was to get to the track when it opened. We made it. Our car was about the twentieth in the lot. Since she had pre-paid for our tickets, we practically walked through the gate without a pause.

ShoppingThe first order of business was to buy souvenir tee shirts. Tracy spoke to many of the vendors by name. She’s been at so many of these things, they know her well. With the shopping completed, we were free to roam the pits.  We passed a line of semi-tractors, six in a row. All belonged to the John Force team. The trailers were all lined up and crews were busy assembling the cars. I couldn’t believe that they were actually putting them together at the track. She explained that they are practicing for the real thing on race day. After every run, the crew disassembles the car and checks every component for wear and damage. Suspect parts are replaced before the next run. The teams practice their tasks, while the driver practices with the car.

Force Team Semi's

Unloading Fuel Dragster

Unfinished Funny Car ChassisUnassembled DragsterAfter a car is assembled, the crew starts the engine. The car is on a jack stand with wheels above the ground. Some of the crew huddle around the engine with electronic measuring devices. Others are probing the hoses. Still others are looking at the clutch,  transmission, and tires. The fumes from the nitro fuel is obnoxious and burning my eyes, and throat. The noise is deafening even with my ear plugs in. I watched from the side at a safe distance. I wanted a closer look, so I switched to the other side. Right in the middle of my walk, a crew member gunned the engine. I nearly dropped to the ground. The noise scared the hell out of me. I felt the exhaust heat thirty feet behind the car.  At another trailer, I watched as veteran Don Prudhomme, quietly moved away from next to his dragster to stand behind a new Dodge Challenger parked next to it. he was not about to stand in front of an eight thousand horsepower engine as it was started for the first time. After witnessing him back off, I stood a little farther back at test firings.Top Fuel DragsterDid I mention the weather? The sky was blue, the sun was bright, the temperature in the morning was sixty, and it shot up to seventy-nine degrees by afternoon. I wore sun block and long sleeves to keep from getting burned. The locals walked around in tee shirts and shorts. Some walked in flip flops.

By ten thirty the cars began to arrive at the starting line for trials. There was no side by side racing, just one car try outs. Some of the cars shot off the line only to shut down the engine after a second. They coasted across the finish line at eighty five miles per hour. Later in the afternoon, the same car would run the distance and cross the finish line at 315 mph in 3.9 seconds. WOW! 

John Force

Lucas OilAlAnabiBernsteinSnake RacingGEICOHartley RacingKalitta Motor SportsMATCOThe quarter mile stretch was shortened  last year to give the drivers more stopping time.  Even though the total race distance has been shortened from 1320 feet to 1000 feet,  the speeds are the same as before.

By four o’clock, Tracy and I began the trip back to cold country. We arrived home at 12:30 a.m. I was totally exhausted.  The twenty four hour sojourn into the desert washed away my winter doldrums.

I dreamt of biting into a nice big juicy tasty In-and-Out Burger with fries.

The clock rang at seven a.m. It was time to get up to go for my stress test. What fun this weekend was.