Modern Rodding STARTING OVER

If You Don’t Have a Hot Rod You are Missing Out on a Lot

By Brian Brennan Photography by The Author
“If you don’t have a hot rod, you are missing out on a lot.” Those words were uttered during a recent phone conversation I had. Yes, I went old school and picked up a phone rather than IM, text, email, or any other of today’s non-verbalizing forms of communication. I am reminded how rewarding, fulfilling, and exact a human voice can sound on a phone. Especially when compared to non-vocal communication.

My grandkids tell me, “Yo, you are so retro.” But I find human conversation much more rewarding than texting. Besides my carpal tunnel syndrome is acting up so it’s time to put the miniature keyboard aside.

I was speaking with our techie Ron Ceridono who to this day is one of the few who still uses a phone first and everything else second. Of course for Ron, the world, especially the world of hot rodding, pretty much came to an end in and around 1967—if you push him, he will nudge up to 1969. I can tell you he is mellowing. He recently, albeit begrudgingly, admitted there are a few things from today’s modern technology that have enhanced our performance world.

Our conversation began as they all do. I tell him he screwed up and then in turn he tells me it’s my fault. This banter continues until we both realize there’s plenty of finger pointing to go around. From here we moved onto our “go-to” topic. “What’s a hot rod and how many is enough?” Ron and I decided owning a hot rod is more than just owning another car. It is owning something that can help us fill in the “blanks” in our everyday lives. Once you own a hot rod your personal “bucket list” begins to shrink (in a good way) and life becomes more fun.

As for how many hot rods is enough, well, that answer was easy. How much garage space do you have and will the neighbors mind if you store a couple of “future” projects alongside your house or out back? It was at this moment that Ron and I hung onto our formula that has never failed us.

All of us start with the same budgetary constraints. These limits can be increased or decreased depending on your current stage of employment. Do the kids really need three meals a day, and what are the odds of you winning the Lotto?

A Vintage Photo of the Grand National Roadsters in 1973
For those who don’t think hot rods and hot rodders can cross over generational divides, look at this photo and absorb. It was taken back in 1973 at the Grand National Roadster show and that’s (you guessed it) Bill NieKamp (left) and Jim “Jake” Jacobs (right) standing behind the venerable roadster that took home the first America’s Most Beautiful Roadster Award. Jacobs owned the roadster at the time of the photo and would continue to own it for decades before selling it to the Petersen Automotive Museum.
So don’t ever forget this: “What’s available is affordable and is buildable.”

Every decade or so the imaginative rodders among us see something the rest of us miss. It began with roadsters, coupes, and engine swaps. Then how about big cars, factory muscle cars, station wagons, and all sorts of “who would ever build that?” and then someone does and it becomes the latest trend.

Along comes the mid ’50s and the modern overhead valve V-8 moved the proverbial performance ball forward. Now, it wasn’t necessary to have an engine swap to gain large amounts of performance. You could buy it off the showroom floor; car with an engine swap from the factory.

While all the manufacturers got into the V-8, especially by the late ’50s, it was Chevy, Chrysler, and Ford that sparked the interest in the youth market that was coming of age. Performance was gaining in popularity fostered through the likes of early hot rod publications. It would be the early ’70s when another publication would take the performance market in another direction when “street rodding, street rods, and street rodders” became household words.

What’s a hot rod? I’m one of those who believes any car or truck that someone builds to reflect their likes and is done to improve performance (engine or handling) can be called a hot rod. There is also the world of customs where the changes are really made for aesthetic values more so than performance. In the end you can have a hot rod that is also a custom—how’s that for blurring the lines?

As for a year cutoff for hot rods, customs, and so on, I am not a fan. A hot rod can be any make, model, or year. I remember the big stink that existed a while back and possibly still exists in some minds that street rods have a cutoff date. I asked the question “Why?” When a hot rodder is done building his car it will tell you what it is. The car will “speak” to anyone looking at it what the intentions of the build were/are. And that’s what hot rodding is all about. Let expressions run freely.

Modern Rodding

VOLUME 4 • ISSUE 33 • 2023