It’s kind of hard to believe that traditional hot rods haven’t always been popular. There once was a time (so I’m told) when whitewalls were out and those big-’50s overheads were nothing more than boat anchors. Even though the price of Vintage Tin continued to rise, complete flatheads could be had for pennies on the dollar—same with axles, wishbones and old-timey speed equipment. Out with the old, in with the new. Update your pre-’49 machine and drive it across the country. Street is neat!
Then things changed with guys like Jim “Jake” Jacobs and his restoration of the AMBR-winning NieKamp Roadster. Ron Weeks did the same with the “Highland Plating Special,” and Rod & Custom’s Bud Bryan of course had his project ’29. These were old (and old-style) hot rods, revived and— most importantly—built to use. It was the dawn of a new era.
I’ve been studying that early-’70s time period quite a bit as of late, and to be honest I’m intrigued. Different factions of our hobby were budding, and traditional hot rodding as we know it was definitely one of them. Now, this isn’t to say that there weren’t guys carrying the traditional torch through the Wide-Oval/CB-radio era, but it seemed like it was starting to build momentum thanks to the pages of magazines like R&C.
Let’s turn back the clock to the dawn of 1970. The first Street Rod Nationals are a couple months off, and more state-of-the art builds are bursting onto the scene than ever before. Early cars are getting driven cross-country while the aftermarket industry continues to grow at a rapid rate. Components from Detroit’s best muscle cars are making their way into hot rods—things are moving quickly.
As I was flipping through the April ’70 issue of R&C, I came across something that seemed a little different. It was a Model A roadster—an A-V8—perched atop a set of chromed Deuce rails. Deep paint, dual-quad smallblock and…a quickchange? You bet! Low and behold, there was a Halibrand center section bolted to some ’48 Ford axle bells and supported by a Model A spring. The whole setup was polished to a mirror-like finish. The more I looked, the more early hot rod cues I found:’39 Ford teardrop taillights, Firestone bias-plys, chromed steelies with baby Moon caps, the list goes on.
There was no doubt about it; this was an old hot rod with an updated drivetrain. The car belonged to Jeff Black of Visalia, California, which is located in the San Joaquin Valley. I had never seen it before, but something seemed familiar. Model A roadster, Deuce shell, California car, chromed frame…wait a second! Is this Ken Fuhrman’s car? I pulled out my copy of Best Hot Rods (Fawcett Book 189) and turned to the article on “Fuhrman’s Fishbowl.” Plenty of similarities. But I thought Ken held on to that car for years, eventually updating it with magnesium five-spokes?
After some close examination, it looks like these are two different cars—both of which are exceptional in their own right. Either way, it seems as if traditional hot rodding was doing just fine in the spring of 1970. Wouldn’t you say so?
Photos by Dick Mendonca, Rod & Custom, April 1970