Glenn Miller - At Last!

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11/12/08

Small Talk on Traditional Hot Rods!



I always get asked what is a Traditional Hot Rod? Lets talk about it then:


A traditional hot rod is put together to look like it was built (or could have been built) decades ago, by using as many parts as possible that were made no later than the Fifties or the Sixties at the latest.


The first step in planning a project car is to decide on what you want to end up with when the car is finished. The goal is to pick a theme for the car and stay with it. My taste in hot rods leans toward cars that were built (or look they were built) between the early 1950s and the late '60s, especially in northern California. Roadsters, phaetons, cabriolets, coupes, sedans, sedan deliveries, and even pickups are all good candidates; but the "phantom" body styles that are often seen on street rods could be considered to be out-of-place on a traditional car. Whatever era of car you're building, once you have picked a theme for it, it's important to stay within that time frame.




For example, a '50s car would have had a generator, not an alternator. To do it right, you're going to have to use bias-ply tires instead of radials. If you're building a car with a '50s or '60s (or even a '70s) theme, you'll want to avoid using parts like small block Chevy center-bolt valve covers, or any other parts that weren't available at the time. Hence the term "period correct".


It's easy to miss the point in the eyes of purists. You have to stay with the theme. More than any other parts on a hot rod, it's the wheels that set the theme for the car. Here's a brief overview of some of the wheels that have been popular on hot rods over the years.




Going all the way back to the birth of hot rodding and oval track racing in the 1920s, most hot rods were early Fords that used early Ford steel wheels that were stock or modified. By the early '50s, Ted Halibrand's magnesium wheels became the standard choice on Indy cars, sprint cars, and midget racers. Some, but not many, of his wheels were also run on the street. Chrome steel wheels and spun aluminum Moon discs were introduced later in the 1950s. In the early '60s, the magnesium Halibrand Sprint provided the inspiration for the aluminum Ansen Sprint, which looked similar to the magnesium Halibrand but with a fully-machined face that eliminated the raised lips around the slots. The early '60s also saw the introduction of the aluminum American Racing Torq-Thrust five-spoke, and the Cragar S/S composite steel and aluminum five-spoke. In the mid-'60s, these were followed by the American Racing Torq-Thrust "D" for new '65 Corvettes with disc brakes. The late '60s saw the introduction of the E-T III. These are some of the wheels that are discussed in more detail on this site's page about classic racing wheels.


If you're building a traditional early Ford hot rod, especially a '40s or '50s car with a flathead, Mike Bishop and Vern Tardel have written an excellent book that shows what's involved in selecting parts and getting them to work together. The book lists for $24.95 normally.


The sites that follow have been selected as being representative of a growing trend in hot rodding: a return to rodding's roots, with cars being built by using a lot of original parts, and built by their owners, they way they were decades ago. And unless they're on their way to the drag strip or the salt flats, you won't see them on trailers.


These cars are built to be driven and enjoyed.

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