May/Jun 2022 edition
Issue #22 Automobilia Resource Magazine
Written by Jerry Lettieri
Hot Rod Magazine, large format. The original size was 9"x12", and early issues were black-and-white; the magazine later changed to color and reduced the size to 8.5"x11". Some sizes varied slightly. The large-format, B&W issues are the most collectible. The articles in Hot Rod Magazine provide some of the best provenance for period hot rods today. Prices currently vary from $5 to $100 per issue.
The term “hot rod” has no definite meaning, according to my research. My understanding is that a car could be called a hot rod if it was modified to go faster than how it was originally produced.
I would even go so far as to call some cars going back to the early 1900s “hot rods” in their own right. During this early period, many stock cars were modified into “speedster” configurations by removing the body and adding a couple of bucket seats and a gas tank. The car would be lighter, and thus obviously quicker. Special speedster bodies were factory-made in the Teens and Twenties for Model T Fords and other cars – they would definitely be hot rods of the period. [Editor’s note: “T-bucket roadster” and “T-bucket hot rod” immediately come to mind.]
Small-format magazines were printed at 5.5"x8" size. A few were even offered for 15 cents each, which soon went to 25 cents; most eventually changed to large-format 75-cent handbooks, which were usually 6.5"x9.5" and had 100 to 150 pages, with very few ads. These were sold on newsstands, with no specific cover dates. Prices for these now range from $5 to $100.
There were some modified cars, similar to what we now refer to as hot rods, built in the 1930s and just before WW II. Midget, sprint, and stock cars of the 1920s through the 1950s were actually hot rods. They ran at fairgrounds and other racetracks, where they provided Saturday night excitement.
Event Programs. There were no cruise nights during the period. Hot rods were shown at indoor and outdoor shows along with other cars. Shows were professionally organized or were sponsored by hot rod clubs. The best place to see hot rods then was at drag strips or land speed events; drag strips were especially popular, since they were often not too far away for many people. Prices today for these types of vintage programs range from $10 to $250.
We now commonly define hot rods as those built from the post-WW II period, 1945 to 1965. These cars, a number of which are hitting the show circuits today, are known as “period hot rods.” They were built during that time and, if documented, can be very collectible. The paper items I mention in this article relate to that time period.
Speed parts catalogs were usually available by mail order from ads in magazines. Many were free, others for a nominal charge. The majority came from the West Coast, but they also came from a number of other areas around the country. These were rodders’ dream catalogs, where hard-earned cash was often parted with. Values today are in the range of $10 to $100+.
The most influential factor in hot rods of the period was Hot Rod Magazine, first published in 1948. This magazine is where we learned about hot rods, hot rod clubs, speed equipment, drag racing and anything else that was related. I was around in the 1950s and could not wait for the next issue of Hot Rod to hit the newsstand. Other magazines followed and were just as relative to hot rodding during that time.
Cards, tickets, and event passes. Hot rod clubs became very popular during the 1950s, and most used NHRA model charters; some had membership cards and courtesy cards. Courtesy cards were given out by club members to stranded motorists as a good will gesture – the basic club rules were to promote safe driving on the street and racing on the drag strip (we were teenagers with hot rods, and many drag races were held on local streets). Cards, tickets, and passes can range from $10 to $100 each today.
I will follow up in a later issue with other hot rod collectibles.
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