The 1932 Ford, the car that brought style and performance to the mass market and went on to become the quintessential hot rod nicknamed the e"Deuce,e" is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2007.; The August 19 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance is marking this important automotive anniversary with a class of ... Read more
The 1950s were the Golden Age of hot rodding and, for a while, there was only hot rodding -- not the different strains of car-craziness that it gave birth to. In the beginning, there was no distinction among the cars that kids played with as a form of street-running self-expression, the drag racing car, the customized work of art; there was just the hot rod, the amateur automobile artform. But the seeds of hot-rodding's progeny were growing during that time.
With one notable exception -- the Corvette -- American car manufacturers had largely ignored the hot rod phenomenon. This was typical of Detroit's marketing insensitivity that would lead to the disasterous period of decline for America's automotive industry in the 1970s and 1980s. But for a time in the 1960s and early 1970s, Detroit listened. The result was the musclecar. Heralded by the 1964 debut of the Mustang, this era marked a period of about ten years when the Big Three tried to tap into the current of youthful energy in the 1960s and the various elements of the hot rod culture. A new generation of mostly-male teens were imprinted with images and an aesthetic of speed and power based on current or near-current car models. This latter element of the musclecar phenomenon distinguished it from the original hot rod culture, which had focused almost entirely on cars that were at the time ten to twenty years old.
But in their time, the musclecars were a landmark at the end of an era. With the first Arab oil embargo of 1972 came a new era in the economics of owning personal automobiles and, worse yet, a time when the space under the hood of a car became a confusing maze of vacuum hoses, pollution filters, castrated engines and crowded front-wheel-drive transaxles. By the time the 1980s had roled around, average people -- even your average i"car guyo" -- couldn't really work on their own cars any more. Americans' love affair with the automobile was going through a rough patch, and hot rodding basically went into hybernation for a generation.