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History The dark side of hot rodding?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by trevorsworth, Sep 22, 2021.

  1. trevorsworth
    Joined: Aug 3, 2020
    Posts: 1,085


    Hey guys, as a young dude who missed all the fun back in the day I've always wondered about the pop culture/Hollywood portrayal of greaser gangs in the 50s running neck and neck with the mob and other seedy elements.

    It's such a common trope in media that I'm curious how many hot rod gangs there really were going about sticking folks with switchblades and whatnot, and how much of that is just the result of media frenzy about kids styling themselves as toughs and having a dangerous hobby.

    All I've ever seen of hot rod flavored organized crime was in fiction, or apocryphal. Was it a thing? How big of a deal was it? What's the scoop?
    dana barlow and chevy57dude like this.
  2. oldiron 440
    Joined: Dec 12, 2018
    Posts: 2,932

    oldiron 440

    Things have gone full circle with Street Outlaws and all the other street race events.
    I remember bock in the eighties thinking street racers weren't drag racers.
    Even now I look at the junk they're running with a little disgust.
    But I think it was all movie/ TV hype in the 50 like Godzilla.
  3. Bob Lowry
    Joined: Jan 19, 2020
    Posts: 976

    Bob Lowry

    Growing up in Phoenix, AZ and getting my license in '64, driving a hot rod that I had already been
    working on for 2yrs., I can attest that for the 10+ yrs. that I did street racing, I never met any bad
    dudes. Most everyone just wanted to have the reputation as having a fast street car, and being known
    as THE guy to beat. My older brothers and sisters were teenagers from 1955 so our whole family grew
    up with Elvis, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Beatles, Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and more. Had "ducktail"
    hair do's, greasy hair 'cause it was cool, and horseshoe taps for your shoes. Levi's and T-shirts were just
    what you wore all the time. The only "bad" dudes hung out, and stayed, in their own neighborhoods.
    Never heard of gun shots or knife fights like the movies portrayed.
  4. Dooley
    Joined: May 29, 2002
    Posts: 2,799

    from Buffalo NY

    Except the black widows who were feared throughout the land.....

  5. Almostdone
    Joined: Dec 19, 2019
    Posts: 742


    And those ruffians from the Pharohs that broke into pinball machines.

  6. Joe Travers
    Joined: Mar 21, 2021
    Posts: 696

    Joe Travers
    from Louisiana

    Hot rodding was just a friendly competitive sport like baseball and really perpetuated by highly educated individuals, many engineers and mechanics coming out of the aeronautic industry after the war. There was a little of that 'blowing off steam' thing after wartime but very few gang types seriously in the hobby. TV wasn't called the 'Boob Tube' for no reason. To this day, everything is sensationalized for dramatic effect. 'Reality TV' has to be the worst offender here.

  7. 19Eddy30
    Joined: Mar 27, 2011
    Posts: 1,565

    from VA

    I have been around Hot Rodder that Street raced , Guys that track raced, dirt, asphalt even @ National leave ,
    70s -present , Yes there is Fighting most with fist ,some times knife some guns even a vehicle. Things have change alot since mid late 90s almost ever one has a phone ,before most had a cell you could show up after 11 night & be as many as 200 plus people , most where 1k to 5k race over 25 yrs ago. Va Md Dc WVa Pa
    It still happens & It can turn into a big brawl , alot almost every week year round ,50 -75 air mile radius of the House 14hundred Pa.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2021
    mad mikey, trevorsworth and Just Gary like this.
  8. Deuces
    Joined: Nov 3, 2009
    Posts: 22,130

    from Michigan

    Your right!.... I can't stand reality TV!!!!!.. And they keep shoveling that shit down our throats..... :mad::mad::mad:
    reagen, fauj, wicarnut and 9 others like this.
  9. 19Eddy30
    Joined: Mar 27, 2011
    Posts: 1,565

    from VA

    Not Tv what I seen been in ,
    Alot of the ones seen on tv , be fore they Known now Nationally,
    ( TV has PG 13 them ) this was under ground off radar and less you knew who to get in contact with. Not every fast Street Racer are trying to be on TV ,
    Their are To this day rivalry behind sceen in NHRA all class's , NASCAR , & ext. there tracks all across USA even Hawaii , In front of Sponsors ,Tv things are hush hush , Now you have to try keep your cool grit teeth watch what you say,
    Things are being canceled out because of $ on this topic all forms of Racing .
    But back to Op question Yes Just not every car club or racer hade a Blade , but their was more then you would think.
    I guess Just what part of county you are in / was.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2021
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  10. Fortunateson
    Joined: Apr 30, 2012
    Posts: 4,657


    I agree but I never open my mouth!
  11. Special Ed
    Joined: Nov 1, 2007
    Posts: 7,252

    Special Ed

    Are you suggesting that 'Hollywood' would embellish and exagerrate something in order to sell tickets to their productions? :rolleyes: Fear sells.
    I'm not suggesting that several of these guys didn't exist back in the day, but not to the degree that the public is/was led to believe.
  12. ..........The Truth.
  13. Michael Ottavi
    Joined: Dec 3, 2008
    Posts: 179

    Michael Ottavi

    They weren't all angels, there was one of the "hot shoe" street racers in Baltimore in the 60's who was a thief and capable of stealing 4-speed transmissions from cars parked on the street. More thieves than brawlers. However when I worked at AI Fiberglass during that time, we had some really scary street racing dudes from Brooklyn/Queens buy lightweight parts from us. It was always tense dealing with them.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2021
  14. trevorsworth
    Joined: Aug 3, 2020
    Posts: 1,085


    Of course… I figured it was just Hollywood (and given the era, radio show) BS.

    I didn’t really have modern reality TV in mind. I was talking more about organized crime. A lot of old movies and radio shows feature greaser gangs, often trying to muscle out the old money mob types on protection schemes and rackets. I was pretty sure this was fanciful, I was just wondering if there was a shred of truth in it.

    I figure you will get the occasional brawl in any hobby. I have even seen model train dudes get animated. You haven’t seen a fight til you’ve seen a dude wailing on another dude with a steam engine while the Fat Controller tries to hold him back.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2021
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  15. BJR
    Joined: Mar 11, 2005
    Posts: 7,611


    I street raced in the 60's and early 70's. Never saw any knives or hardly ever even a fight. And this was in Minneapolis.
    mad mikey, Tman and Joe Travers like this.
  16. doug3968
    Joined: Sep 13, 2014
    Posts: 38


    Haven't heard that in a long time, have a set of new Ai 31 Chev fenders in my basement. Get around to use someday. 45yrs?
    Tman and lothiandon1940 like this.
  17. mickeyc
    Joined: Jul 8, 2008
    Posts: 1,363


    Their were a couple of guys from my neighborhood who fancied
    to be street racers. In reality they were both criminal heinous thugs
    of the severest ilk one could imagine. Neither had any mechanical
    abilities or cared to develop such. That being the case they were
    constantly seeking help with tuning their 55 Chevy sedan. The
    neighborhood did have a plethora of accomplished hot rodders
    and street racers. Most fellows tried to avoid the two thugs, but
    some times were harangued into lending them a hand. All the
    street racers avoided running them if possible simply because
    of the violence that might result from any confrontation with
    the pair. The whole neighborhood was relieved when the "leader"
    of the two went to Angola Prison for a stretch and dreaded
    his release date, which was approaching. He never made it out
    and was killed in jail. The other was killed in some nefarious
    act late one night not long after. This was New Orleans in the
    late Sixties. The street racing was intense during this era.
    Mostly due to the fact fast muscle cars were inexpensive
    new and dirt cheap used. Sometimes it got a little wild and
    crazy but nothing like drama T.V. or the reality of the two
    thugs mentioned.
  18. bct
    Joined: Apr 4, 2005
    Posts: 3,107


    The dark side of hot rodding is addiction .
  19. hemihotrod66
    Joined: May 5, 2019
    Posts: 659


    I guess it just depends on the neighborhood you grew up in...Never had much trouble when street racing,,to worried about the cops showing up but found most of the trouble at the cruise joints...Always carried a gun in the car and still do.. This started in the early 60's...
  20. choptop40
    Joined: Dec 23, 2009
    Posts: 4,368


    stealing stuff...when were young we dont realize that taking what isnt ours is violating what its like to be human..i think it has to do with thinking there isnt enough to go around...
  21. LOL there actually is a NE based MC called the Black Widows, they originated pre-war and are very well respected in that community. ;)
  22. RJP
    Joined: Oct 5, 2005
    Posts: 2,163


    when I was doing the street race thing, money, location, and reputation determined whether I went armed or not. Always preferred to be the guy that brought the gun to a knife fight. Hotrodders/street racers weren't the real problem. Most times it was their 'backers' you had to watch. Lot of drug money floating around.

    Saturday night pits at any dirt track could turn into a 'battle royal'. More so if you were competitive, and not a local. Never understood the thinking behind tossing your helmet on the ground in preparation for a fight. I preferred to keep mine on, and reach for a breaker bar.

    If it involves egos or money, there's always the potential for trouble.
    41 GMC K-18, Hnstray, Tman and 5 others like this.
  23. Atwater Mike
    Joined: May 31, 2002
    Posts: 10,917

    Atwater Mike

    1958, San Jose, CA:
    There were a few guys with real hot rods that I knew (and mostly avoided) that lived on the East side, and central San Jose.
    These guys would momentarily 'show up' at Grandma's house, as there was a usual 'hang outing' Friday afternoons and Saturdays. Hot rods both sides of the street, it was cool...
    The 'hardasses' would show up, usually 2,3, or 4 cars: (Ronny had a '34 Tudor, Ricky had a '29 on 'A' rails, flathead, Pete had a '34 Fordor that I wired, and Ray had a Buick nail-powered '32 Five window, full fendered.
    There was a bearded guy named Jim, '29 Roadster pickup, too.
    Ronny and Ricky were the worst, Ricky had a vendetta against a S.J. Motorcycle cop and boasted about 'setting him up' by pouring a 90w gear oil 'slick' across an intersection on a cross st. intersection, then getting him to chase them in Jim's Rdstr/P.U., SBC powered. (fast)
    They led the cop into the intersection, 'square-cornered' a left turn, put the cop into the oil slick...Cop and Harley went onto the front porch of the corner bungalow. Cop was put into the hospital, never rode again.
    We found NO humor in that, but a weird outcome of this was Ricky had one of the guys drive his roadster while he would throw paint bombs (in water balloons) at cop cars. (!)
    One afternoon they pulled this, cop gave chase ('58 Ford cruiser) and Ricky's driver cut a left turn and crashed near headon into a lady, Ricky was thrown out of his roadster and killed when his body slammed thru her windshield.
    Headlines in newspaper gave creedence to said Hollywood 'Hot Rod' movies of the time...
    So, these guys DID exist, we just shined 'em on when they showed up.
    Have to admit, we DID listen to their stories. Then heard them on the evening news!
    Never saw them or their cars at the drags, but they cruised the Main downtown...
  24. We were still hoodlums in the later '60s. Did chit to the local constabulary and street raced and ect.

    I was a member of a club who called themselves "The Cam Busters". I joined when in was 14 they were all older and out of school. The initiation was that you had to boost a set of wheels. I boosted a set from a club member and then gave them back. No one ever kept the wheels that I know of.

    They were not actually thieves, just ornery. Liable to do anything for a laugh or fun. Everyone had a job or some sort of income. No dope dealers or pimps. The problem is that the people in the square world don't get it and it pisses 'em off if you are having fun and they are not. So hot rodders become hoodlums.
  25. mickeyc
    Joined: Jul 8, 2008
    Posts: 1,363


    You make a very good point RJP. I had not thought about
    the local Saturday night short track in this area. I spent many happy
    and exciting Saturday nights there. Tempers often flared in the pits
    and the stands as well. Especially later in the evening as copious
    amounts of adult libations having been consumed began to to loosen
    already fragile inhibitions in spectators as well as racers and crews.
    I also pondered the wisdom of removing ones helmet just before
    the grappling and fisticuffs began! Great fun indeed!
    olscrounger likes this.
  26. Dooley
    Joined: May 29, 2002
    Posts: 2,799

    from Buffalo NY

    There was talk about guys running real pro stock cars in Brooklyn... And one race car got stolen. Heavy stuff
  27. 19Eddy30
    Joined: Mar 27, 2011
    Posts: 1,565

    from VA

    Not Rumors!!
    & Hollywood on this subject is not make Believe / script written.
    Things started heating up mid late 50s.

    If you happen to watch TV racing , Think Reality TV and its all scripted & you are interested , Take a look @
    Yellow Bullet ,
    The Milk truck , Her mouth , its a , you Know!!
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2021
  28. olscrounger
    Joined: Feb 23, 2008
    Posts: 4,565


    In the late 50's and early 60's a lot of street racing went on. When it started getting serious for money things could sometimes get a little scary. You had to be careful racing in certain towns because there were bad actors. Broadway and Snake road in Fresno in particular late at night. Know several that were known to be armed etc but never heard of an actual shooting.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2021
  29. RJP
    Joined: Oct 5, 2005
    Posts: 2,163


    Most times 'knowing to be armed' was enough to diffuse a situation.
    Deuces likes this.
  30. Truckedup
    Joined: Jul 25, 2006
    Posts: 4,500


    I did a lot of street racing in north east NJ in the late 60's.. Some of the gathering spots had rough characters and you better not flash a roll of money.There may have been guys with guns but I never them.
    Guy Patterson, Deuces and olscrounger like this.

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