Modern Rodding STARTING OVER
Brian Brennan headshot
By Brian Brennan
The Future
to Brian

confess I may have borrowed the title for this editorial directly from the late LeRoi “Tex” Smith. To be on topic it was from his editorial as it appeared in the Nov. ’89 issue of Hot Rod Mechanix. The title and, maybe, the premise of the editorial may be borrowed but the collection of words and ideas to follow are sorta mine.

I’m guessing in some ways I’m no different than any number of hot rodders who peruse old magazines. It’s fun to see what was popular back then and how our hobby has morphed into what it is today. Frankly, much hasn’t changed, yet a great deal has. That brings me to the crystal ball segment—trying to guess what’s next.

In gathering my thoughts (and Tex’s) I sought another ancient one, Jerry Dixey, who was able to help me with the issue of HRM in question for my research. Dixey is now full bore with The Hot Rod Paper Company, buying and selling all manners of vintage magazines, catalogs, posters, and more. (Thanks to Jerry and should you want to sample his offerings, call 800-676-3026.)

Tex and I would spend countless hours talking all manner of rods and what it meant to be a “magazine guy.” To us one is obligated to participate, observe, report, and entertain. Through our typewriter we would translate onto paper our observations by recounting in an informative and entertaining fashion. It’s our purpose to report on what has, is, and will happen (best guess) down the road for your enlightenment. Nowadays you the reader enjoy what we do in both print- and digital-formatted magazines, videos, websites, social media, and several other venues I still haven’t figured out. No longer are the typewriter and camera our sole instruments of reporting. We now employ keyboards and monitors, digital photo and video cameras, direct links to websites, and all manner of social media.

Tex’s 1989 editorial spoke about what was coming down the road. He thought the massive rear tires and the skinny fronts would give way to a more-balanced ensemble and the entire Pro Street thing would be dead by the year 2000. Well, Pro Street has come and gone and come back, all the while morphing. Yet we have developed very powerful cars with a more balanced footprint in the course of action. In his mind he saw Pro Street leading to improved street performance. And that’s exactly what has happened with the advent of the LS engine and the aftermarket chassis with its superior ride and handling attributes. He also thought big cubes would drop and more efficient small-cube motors would take over. Turns out he was right, sorta. Monster cubes, while still popular, there’s no denying that the under 400ci modular motor can produce staggering horsepower and torque numbers all the while yielding extraordinary driveability and durability.

He also told us that performance cars from the ’50s and ’60s would pop up. Lo and behold fullsize Detroit Iron is regularly being renovated into amazing performance machines with potent powerplants and state-of-the-art chassis swaps.

But the most riveting comment he made centered on street rods. Tex keystroked, “Street rods as we know them now will start to disappear from the streets by 2000.” He based his futuristic observation on, “In short, as the age of the participants increases, the participation will decrease.”

Well, he missed it by seven or so years. No question by 2007-2009 the upward trend in pre-1949-built street rods had plateaued and in 2021 there can be little doubt there are less of these cars being built. The trend has moved onto cars of the ’50s-’70s and I predict into the ’80s, and, yes, dare I say, the ’90s. But the most predictive and positive comment I can make is: “Our hobby will continue to grow as long as we are more inclusive as to the years of cars that we embrace. This will bring the youth movement sought after by all.”

I also envisage, “There will be a reasonable resurgence in pre-1949 rodding material as these once stratospherically expensive rides drop precipitously in value and into the hands of new and younger enthusiasts. They will take these hot rods and swap out various odds and ends, making these rides their own. This new pride will stimulate our industry for the next 20 years and beyond.”

Modern Rodding
VOLUME 2 • ISSUE 4 • 2021