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Folks Of Interest RIP ... Don "Rockerhead" Montgomery

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by HEMI32, Feb 20, 2019.

  1. Don't recall meeting Mr Montgomery but then I don't remember very much now a days. Do have some books tho. May he RIP & my condolences to his friends & family.
    Burn Out Bob latest roadster.jpg
    pitman, mad mikey and Stogy like this.
  2. For those that don't like to click on links:

    hemmings daily logo.JPG
    Don Montgomery, hot rod chronicler, dies at 88
    Daniel @Foul Strohl on Feb 21st, 2019


    As the monochrome-and-billet excesses of street rodding began to give way to the stripped down, back-to-basics aesthetic of traditional hot rodding in the late Eighties and into the Nineties, one voice of authenticity rose above the others: that of author Don Montgomery, who died earlier this week at 88.

    Montgomery’s authority on the topic came from decades of experience with hot rods and racing. As he told the American Hot Rod Foundation for its profile on him, he started hanging out in L.A.-area garages and speed shops just after World War II as a 15-year-old yearning to get his hands dirty and learn how to make cars go fast.

    While he found a Ford Model A for his first car, he soon sold it for a 1941 Hudson Commodore Eight four-door sedan that he hopped up with a Buick in place of the Hudson’s original engine. In 1948, he began racing at the Southern California dry lakes, running as fast as 129 MPH in the Hudson. His choice of an overhead-valve engine amid a sea of flathead Fords led the other racers to nickname him Rockerhead.

    If the Hudson was an unusual choice for dry lakes racing, his next ride blew it out of the water. The 1936 Cord sedan he began running in 1952 featured a rear-wheel-drive conversion using another Buick straight-eight, Buick transmission, Pontiac rear axle, and Dodge front axle. It ran well – well enough to capture a Russetta Timing Association record at 135 MPH and a quarter-mile sped of 107 MPH at Pomona – but in 1953 he swapped out the Buick engine for a GMC six-cylinder with a Howard 12-port aluminum head.

    As he transitioned from the dry lakes to the dragstrip with the rest of the hot-rodding world during the Fifties, Montgomery bought Larry Shinoda’s “Chopsticks Special” 1932 Ford coupe shortly before Shinoda traveled Back East to go to work as a designer for Ford. Montgomery swapped the GMC six-cylinder from the Cord into the Ford and raced it as an A/Fuel coupe until the NHRA’s fuel ban came down in 1957. After that, he sold the Ford and bought a junkyard 1941 Willys, which he re-powered with a blown Chrysler Hemi and ran in Gas Coupe classes through 1972, lettered with his Rockerhead nickname.

    With a family to raise and a career in electronics, Montgomery decided to watch from the sidelines as the hot-rodding world evolved through the Seventies and Eighties. Then in the late Eighties, as he told Gray Baskerville for a Hot Rod magazine profile on him, he had enough.

    “What really got my attention was how inaccurate those few historical articles were,” he said. “Either the writers were not doing their homework or they were misinformed. I decided to set the record straight.”

    He started with a few magazine articles of his own and then, in 1987, put together his first book, “Hot Rods in the Forties,” which featured his own photographs alongside photographs he convinced his friends from that era – Dean Batchelor, Jack Calori, Alex Xydias – to send him.

    The first book proved a success, so Montgomery returned to the formula for “Hot Rods As They Were” in 1989, “Hot Rod Memories: Relived Again” in 1991, and “Authentic Hot Rods: The Real ‘Good Old Days’” in 1994. He followed those with books that highlighted his drag racing days, among them “Those Wild Fuel Altereds: Drag Racing in the Sixties” and “Supercharged Gas Coupes: Remembering the ‘Sixties’.”

    Montgomery’s books, especially the hot-rodding ones, ended up a sort of guide to the then-nascent traditional hot-rodding scene, illustrating how Montgomery and his fellow hot rodders actually built cars before the national media attention and the hot rod exploitation films of the Fifties layered their own interpretations of hot-rodding culture atop the actual history of hot rodding. As Ryan Cochran, founder of the traditional hot rod-focused Jalopy Journal, wrote, “In my mind, he is absolutely the single most important figure in the rebirth of real hot rodding.”

    Montgomery died February 18.
  3. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle

    Thanks HEMI32. It's easy to click on a link but I didn't. Nice Hemmings tribute.
    mad mikey, lothiandon1940 and Stogy like this.
  4. TRJ
    Joined: Oct 4, 2003
    Posts: 329

    Alliance Vendor

    It's hard to overstate the influence Don Montgomery and his books had on the world of hot rodding. He was a racer, rodder, historian and—above all—a gentleman. We were lucky to call him a friend. Our condolences to his family. We're sure going to miss him.
  5. Wow.....really sad loss....condolences to the family.
  6. dan griffin
    Joined: Dec 25, 2009
    Posts: 472

    dan griffin

    Shinoda went to work for GM and later for Ford.
    mad mikey and Stogy like this.
  7. longgoner
    Joined: Apr 15, 2007
    Posts: 77

    from western ny

    Thanks to his books, he and the early days will never be forgotten.
    mad mikey and Stogy like this.
  8. Petejoe
    Joined: Nov 27, 2002
    Posts: 10,540

    from Zoar, Ohio

    Can’t find anything new to add here other than my respect and adoration for this man. Never had an opportunity to meet him. An obvious loss on my part.
    My sincere condolence to his family and friends.
  9. Sue Ellingson
    Joined: Mar 5, 2019
    Posts: 8

    Sue Ellingson
    from Milo, Iowa


    My name is Sue Ellingson, and I’m Don Montgomery’s daughter. I just want to say thank you for the tribute and all the wonderful comments. My family and I have read each and every one, and it means a lot to us. Particularly, my Mom – she and Dad were the epitome of what a married couple should be, and all the kind comments mean so much to her. Even knowing how involved he was in hot rods, drag racing and his books, it’s still amazing to us to see the reach of his influence.

    He enjoyed his time talking with all of you on this forum, and the bench racing with fellow hot rodders while selling his books at the shows. He often said that was the best part of writing his books – getting to meet with and talk to so many about hot rods.

    I’m lucky to have him for my Dad – he was the best.
  10. Hyfire
    Joined: Jun 18, 2004
    Posts: 1,232


    Beautiful write-up for a great guy! He gave a lot to our hobby.
  11. KKrod
    Joined: Jun 20, 2010
    Posts: 1,118


    Great write up for Don. We will miss him.
    mad mikey, Sue Ellingson and HEMI32 like this.
  12. Don @Rockerhead Montgomery served as a Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance Judge for many/most of the "Historic Hot Rod" & "Historic Custom" classes that have been a part of the Concours (almost) every other year since 1997.

    Brock, Gross, Xydias, & Montgomery - Historic Hot Rod Class Judges @ 1997 PBCd'E.jpg
    The 1997 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance "Historic Hot Rod" class judges inspecting the flathead in the
    Jack Thompson 1927 Track-nosed T Roadster: (left to right) Ray Brock, Ken Gross, Alex Xydias, and
    Don @Rockerhead Montgomery

    Don Montgomery judging at the 2007 PBCd'E (Orosco's Llyod Bakan '32 3wd).jpg
    The 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance "Historic Hot Rods: 1932 Ford 75th Anniversary" class judges
    (including Don @Rockerhead Montgomery) discuss the Lloyd Bakan 1932 Ford 3wd Coupe (restored & owned by Don Orosco)

    Don Montgomery judging at the 2010 PBCd'E (S-G Roadster).jpg
    The 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance "Hot Rods: Lakesters & Bonneville Racers" class judges Don @Rockerhead Montgomery (red tie),
    Ken Gross (white hair), and @David Grant (yellow tie) scrutinize @Ernie Nagamatsu's restored
    1925 Chevrolet Spurgin~Giovanine Roadster

    Don Montgomery judging at the 2010 PBCd'E (Eddie Miller).jpg
    The 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance "Hot Rods: Lakesters & Bonneville Racers" class judges Ken Gross (white hair), @David Grant
    (hand on photo album), and
    Don @Rockerhead Montgomery (red tie) discuss the 1950 Eddie Miller Streamliner with owner Don Ferguson
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2019
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  13. Sue Ellingson
    Joined: Mar 5, 2019
    Posts: 8

    Sue Ellingson
    from Milo, Iowa

    Thank you for these pictures. Hope you don't mind that I saved them.
    mad mikey, loudbang and HEMI32 like this.
  14. @Sue Ellingson -

    Please save any & all ... and please feel free to share more pics of your father and his cars ... I especially like this "photo of a framed photo" of him posing with his original Rockerhead Willys:

    Don & his Rockerhead Willys.jpg

    I plan to keep adding photos to this tribute thread ... and encourage my fellow HAMBers to do the same.

    Again, sorry for your loss ... and I hope this little tribute to your dad gives you, your mother, & your family a bit of comfort knowing that Hot Rodders from around the world had so much respect for him and his many contributions to our hobby.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2019
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  15. What is also cool about this photo is that is Jim Miller kneeling down checking out his dad's restored streamliner.
  16. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle

    Thanks again to all for keeping this very important tribute active. These Pebble Beach photos are priceless.
  17. A total loss for all. We have to just build on what we gained from all that he gave us. Just want to say sorry to the family's loss.
    mad mikey and Sue Ellingson like this.
  18. Recent American Hot Rod Foundation podcast renewed my interest, in this incredible man. Old timer, here in Orlando, let me borrow his books. Reading them cover to cover, starting with #1
    Highly recommend listening to the program. Best 1:59 you’ll spend
    Even burned a copy on CD to give to Butch, for letting me borrow his books.
    (if anyone wants a copy to give to an old timer, I’ll help you either do it or burn you a CD)

    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
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  19. Sue Ellingson
    Joined: Mar 5, 2019
    Posts: 8

    Sue Ellingson
    from Milo, Iowa

    I started a topic, and it seems I made a mess of it. So I'm going to repost here...

    I know that many of you are not local, or not even in the USA, but if you are...

    Please join us for the Celebration of Life of Don "Rockerhead" Montgomery.
    Saturday, June 15th, 2019
    5:00-7:00 PM.

    NHRA Museum
    1101 W McKinley Ave
    Pomona, CA 91768

    This is Father's Day weekend, the same time that the L.A. Roadster Show is going on at the Pomona Fairplex. If you're in town for the roadster show, please join us if you can.

    Thank you,
    Sue (Montgomery) Ellingson
    Last edited: May 25, 2019
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  20. pitman
    Joined: May 14, 2006
    Posts: 4,953


    A great tribute, thanks Hemi32 & Sue E.
    mad mikey and Sue Ellingson like this.
  21. Stogy
    Joined: Feb 10, 2007
    Posts: 16,608


    Sue...nothing wrong with your Thread you posted...its quite appropriate and reads well and it had a pretty cool pic I suspect is you and your Late Father...
    mad mikey and Sue Ellingson like this.
  22. Thanks Sue, you did just fine. I'll definitely be there to pay tribute to your Dad and hopefully see your Mom too. I didn't get to see them often but I always enjoyed every minute I spent with them.

    Sent from my SM-G900V using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
  23. Sue Ellingson
    Joined: Mar 5, 2019
    Posts: 8

    Sue Ellingson
    from Milo, Iowa

    Thank you again, I got the image fixed.

    Actually, that pic is of my Dad and Mom. We're not sure when or where it was taken, but I found it going through old photos and scanned it.
    mad mikey, KKrod and Stogy like this.
  24. Stogy
    Joined: Feb 10, 2007
    Posts: 16,608


    Very Cool...yes it's all good now and thank you for clarifying my incorrect identification...oops.
    mad mikey and Sue Ellingson like this.
  25. A few pics from Saturday's "Celebration of Life of Don @Rockerhead Montgomery":

    Celebration of Life of Don 'Rockerhead' Montgomery - June 15th 2019 (1).jpg
    Celebration of Life of Don 'Rockerhead' Montgomery - June 15th 2019 (2).jpg
    Celebration of Life of Don 'Rockerhead' Montgomery - June 15th 2019 (3).jpg
    Celebration of Life of Don 'Rockerhead' Montgomery - June 15th 2019 (4).jpg
    images by Chick @barebones32 Koszis

    NHRA Motorsports Museum (June 15th 2019).jpg

    image from Claire Montgomery's Facebook timeline​
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019
    j-jock, BrerHair, mad mikey and 4 others like this.
  26. I never met Don, but it was the guys like him and his generation that were responsible for the rapid spread of hotrodding throughout the US and Canada. It is a hobby that I got hooked on in 1956, and have continued to enjoy all these years.
    Thanks, Don, and all the other pioneers of our hobby.
    I also send my condolences to the family.
  27. The Celebration of Life for Don was a great tribute to man that meant so much to all of us. Seeing his grandchildren and hearing the emotion in their voices when they spoke of Don's interest and devotion to each of them was very touching. Even though I saw them infrequently, Claire gave me a big hug and I was barely able to give my condolences and converse with the emotions I was feeling. She is such a strong woman and was an equal partner in all Don's adventures and was a major part of producing the books we love. I'm so glad I was there to witness the love for Don in that room, and Claire planned it that way so all of us that come for the Roadster Show could be there. Thank you!
  28. Here's a rare color photo of Don's Cord at Pomona in 1952:

    Don Montgomery Cord at Pomona - 1952 (David Sorenson archives).jpg
    image from the David @296ardun Sorenson archives​
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2020
    Sue Ellingson, KKrod, j-jock and 10 others like this.

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