Not content with launching just a publishing empire, Robert E. Petersen put on a series of car shows in the early ’50s that he called Motorama. The first one was held in 1950 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, but later shows were staged at the art deco palace that was the Pan Pacific Auditorium. Hot rods, Bonneville race cars, drag racers and custom cars straight from the pages of Petersen’s magazines made up a big portion of these Motorama shows, but they also included new cars, antiques, motorcycles and classics from the ’30s and ’40s.
In late 1963, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth was a busy guy. By that point in his career, he had built the Outlaw, Beatnik Bandit and Tweedy Pie—cars that established him as one of the premier (and wackiest) car customizers on the West Coast. Model maker Revell took notice of Roth’s creations and began offering scale versions of them as well as model kits of Roth’s freaky monsters, including Mr. Gasser, Drag Nut and Rat Fink.
The next big fad is GMC superchargers,” wrote LeRoi “Tex” Smith in the June 1964 issue of Rod & Custom magazine. He was talking about how blowers were moving from pure racing applications to the street, and the opening pages of the story included this photo of Tom Beatty in his shop in Sun Valley, California. “Mr. Supercharger himself,” as Tex called him.
The equipment may have changed, but many of the tips laid out in this October 1964 Car Craft magazine story on “Photographing Cars” are still worthwhile for anyone interested in taking better pictures of their cars (or trucks, hot rods, customs, sports cars, motorcycles, you name it).
The date on the photo job for this story was July 1964, making the subject Mustang a new car. The California hard license plate and Galpin Ford plate frame suggest that it was not a press vehicle but instead belonged...
Not to be confused with the billet grilles that took off in the ’80s, bullet grille treatments were a hot modification trend in the late ’50s. So hot, in fact, that Car Craft magazine put a custom ’55 Chevy with a close-up of its sparkling bullet grille on the cover of its December 1959 issue.
The how-to story inside demonstrated how easy the pieces were to install, thanks to several bullet grille kits that had hit the market. California Custom Accessories in Los Angeles offered three different kits, with 24, 36 or 42 bullets, at prices ranging from $30 to $55. (The 36-piece kit was used for the Chevy featured in the story.)
Hot Rod magazine’s LeRoi Smith took this photo in the spring of 1963 outside of Barr’s Muffler Shop in Studio City, California, for an article on building a cost-effective exhaust system for an Olds-powered hot-rod roadster. That’s Bobby Barr in the foreground talking to Jerry Eames by the tube bender. This photo is an outtake from the shoot; in the photo that appeared in the magazine, Barr and Eames are far more intent on their work.
According to Smith, the whole exhaust system—the open headers plus cut-outs to glasspack-filled pipes running under the car—cost just $150.
A car’s electrical system can be a challenge for a do-it-yourself hobbyist. That’s why car magazines—for about as long as there have been car magazines—have covered the topic to help enlighten shade-tree mechanics.
For instance, Hot Rod magazine published an article in its June 1963 issue called “Wiring Made Easy” to illustrate the basic tools, hardware and steps needed to wire a hot-rod project. But the car in the opening photograph wasn’t just any hot rod. The subject car was the XR-6—a futuristic, built-from-scratch roadster that was the brainchild of Hot Rod’s LeRoi “Tex” Smith to “investigate the uses of modern ideas in hot-rod design,” as Smith described it. The XR-6 would go on to appear on the cover of Hot Rod’s August 1963 issue and also nab the coveted America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award at that year’s Oakland Roadster Show.
Shelby American had a presence at the High Performance and Custom Equipment Trade Show at Dodger Stadium in 1967, the event that would go on to become the SEMA Show. It’s interesting to see what’s in the Shelby booth—as well as what’s not. Shelby’s iconic Cobra roadster and the GT350 Mustang are represented only by photos on the booth’s back wall. Note, too, the “wanted” poster on the easel soliciting for manufacturer’s representatives to handle Shelby’s parts and equipment.
The engine in the center of the booth is a small-block Ford outfitted with a Paxton supercharger. Shelby began offering the blower on ’66 GT350 models, though the expensive option found few takers. Only 11 GT350s left the factory as supercharged models.
Were you to park a ’14 Chevy Malibu next to a ’56 Bel Air and open the hoods of each, the contrast would be remarkable. The Malibu’s short, wide engine bay is so full of plastic covers, tubes, hoses, wires, bottles and other equipment that the car’s four-cylinder engine is barely visible—if at all.
The Bel Air’s Turbo-Fire V8, on the other hand, stands out in the ’56 Chevy’s spacious engine compartment, covered in bright orange paint and hooked to a canister air cleaner, a couple of radiator hoses and little else. Ask any shadetree mechanic why he prefers to work on old collector cars over today’s computer- and emissions-controlled vehicles and the answer usually comes down to: “They were so much simpler then.”
Were you to park a ’14 Chevy Malibu next to a ’56 Bel Air and open the hoods of each, the contrast would be remarkable. The Malibu’s short, wide engine bay is so full of plastic covers, tubes, hoses, wires, bottles and other equipment that the car’s four-cylinder engine is barely visible—if at all. The Bel Air’s Turbo-Fire V8, on the other hand, stands out in the ’56 Chevy’s spacious engine compartment, covered in bright orange paint and hooked to a canister air cleaner, a couple of radiator hoses and little else. Ask any shadetree mechanic why he prefers to work on old collector cars over today’s computer- and emissions-controlled vehicles and the answer usually comes down to: “They were so much simpler then.”