APRIL 14, 2014: REMEMBERING WHAT YOUNG HOTRODDERS DID TO THEIR RIDES BACK IN THE 60S

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I watched a car cross the block at the Barrett Jackson Palm Beach auction and it brought back a few memories from the impressionable segment of my childhood because it had a 60s hot rod look.

 

The front tires were considerably skinnier than the rear tires and the car had a different wheel philosophy for the front and back wheels.

 

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The front wheels were classic Cragar mags from the Sensational Sixties while the rear wheels were classic chrome reverse and wide.

 

In fact the rear wheels were so wide the car had another classic feature from a bygone hot rod era: cutout wheel wells on the rear quarters. The knives came out a lot in the 60s, particularly when it came to 1955-57 two door Chevies.

 

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These models were a good match for the extra wheel cutout space because the body contours of the Tri-Five cars were suited to a little cosmetic metal surgery.

 

The Chevies looked tougher after they were radiused to gain extra rounded-out space for the fat tires and chrome reverse wheels.

 

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The lean of a hot rod was also part of the equation in the 60s. The biggest question was “Do I jack up the back end or the front end of my ride?” and the answer depended heavily on the vehicle.

 

 

Most pre-war hot rod projects tended to end up with the back end of the car jacked up closer to the sky, although the gasser look with a jacked front end was an exception to this rule.

 

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Typically the 20s and early 30s hot rods followed the jacked rear end philosophy in mild form and the gasser style of raised front ends was found on vehicles that more closely resembled the 1940s look from Detroit when the car styles went through an evolution.

 

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Street vehicles that came out of the factory in the 50s and 60s could lean both ways in the decision to jack up the front or rear end. The decision was largely based upon NHRA ¼ mile race classes translated to the street look because some NHRA classes ran front end high and some classes ran rear end high, while the street guys just wanted a cool look.

 

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The decision by a young hot-rodder to jack up the rear end may even have been based in the roundy-round NASCAR race circuit because guys like King Richard Petty drove track cars with mildly jacked rear ends to give more down force to their cars.

 

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Cosmetics also extended to decals on cars in the 60s and they usually represented a famous after-market speed equipment supplier. The most popular decals included the cartoon eyes of a “MOON-equipped” 60s-era hot rod and the angry cousin of Woody Woodpecker on a Thrush muffler decal.

 

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These two icons of the 60s hot rod culture could be found on the side glass or even the side of a young hot-rodder’s ride during that era, but there was no guarantee his investment in Thrush or Moon equipment went beyond the decal because of his limited budget.

 

The 60s was an interesting time to be a wide-eyed kid who witnessed the bygone hot rod culture on some very cool rides with some of the aforementioned features during that time frame.

 

Jim Sutherland

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