I have been a car person all my life. It started when I was ten years old and saw my first auto race. Out of that experience an appreciation for sports and racing cars grew to the point where I educated myself about nearly all aspects of racing history, all aspects that is except the genre of hot rodding.
It is only in the last ten years with the advent of Crusin Grand in Escondido that I have become aware of the diverse wonders found when examining the hot rod scene.
The only rule governing over hot rod creation seems to be that there are none. Well, perhaps the one rule that presides overwhelmingly is that a hot rod should be home grown, that is comprised of parts and components that are American made. I should point out that there are some exceptions around that prove the rule. There are ’32 roadsters with Jaguar v 12s and even a few Ferrari v 12s living in duce bodies and sundry other foreign engines powering odd examples of the most traditional rods, but by and large most combinations of engine and chassis are made in the USA.
If you walk down Grand Avenue during cruise night and fail to hear someone use the term “big block” then it is possible that this because too many cars are running and you could not hear any verbal dialogue. Terms common to the hot rodder are: slammed, chopped, channeled and blown as well as a few unprintable words that creep into conversation when guys talking about their automotive exploits start to wax enthusiastic.
Ford guys put down Chevy guys and vise versa. Mopar men walk around with impunity and the sight of a Japanese car honing in on the festivities brings all the motorheads together in a beautiful unity of shared discontent quicker than a dragster can pop it’s shoot .
A few years ago there was a movie called The Astronaut Farmer in which Billy Bob Thorton played a man who was a former member of the NASA space program who attempts to launch a manned rocket into orbit from his home. I remember thinking as I watched that film that it was the sort of story that young people read in the 1920’s and thirties. Stuff right out of Tom Swift books that were popular during that period. As the story progressed I became caught up in how fanciful it seemed and then it dawned on me that a man in the California dessert named Burt Rutan had just accomplished the very feat being depicted in the silly movie. The real life circumstances were only slightly different from those in the Thorton flick. In that instance it struck me how close science fiction can sometimes be to reality. I mention this in connection with hot rodding because a properly executed rod is now so stunning a thing to behold it seems to be a fusion of fantasy and reality incarnate. And best of all, these trick cars are likely the product of part time craftsmen machining away on a labor of passion. The old jalopy that blazed through the mind of a youngster is now an iconic show piece dazzling enthusiastic passers by.
Milling around Grand Avenue during Cruise night can generate in me the same feelings of amazement. Old cars with beautiful lines retaining their classic style and equipped with up to date engines, tires and components that yield fantastic performance. It is a type of science fiction come to life, American Style. The next time you attend Crusin Grand, see if you don’t agree. Anyone who feels that the comparison of hot rodding to science fiction a bit strange should be reminded that Star Wars creator George Lucas first came to prominence with his classic entitled American Graffiti.