hot rod magazine cover

I memorized Hot Rod magazine from March 1960, when I first subscribed, until sometime in mid-’65 when I went off to college. Or at least I thought I did. So I was quite surprised when I pulled this July 1965 edition out of my collection a couple weeks ago, and thumbed through it looking for the color feature on Doyle Gammel’s pearl orange ’23 T that figured largely in my last column. First of all, I should have known this issue because it’s entire cover was given to Ford’s new Single-Over-Head-Cam (SOHC) version of its 427 big block, and I wrote a book (Ford Performance) in the late ’70s devoted to such engines. But this was actually the second full cover–just in ’65–for Ford’s new wonder engine, having debuted it in January.

But what really surprised me about this issue was what was between the covers. As I paged through it looking for Doyle’s T, I kept exclaiming under my breath “Wow, that’s in here?  That’s in here? Holy Moly!”  I’ve always thought (and taught) that what makes a good car magazine are the cars in it. The more the better. And the better, the better. This issue not only had lots of cool hot rods, on lots of pages, plus an increase in color, but even a couple of cars I’d call historic.

Now before I get to the examples, let me make one subjective “op-ed” point. Just because a rod or custom  was featured in Hot Rod (or any other car mag, but especially Hot Rod), does not make it a great or significant car per se.  Even some cover cars. It does not bestow intrinsic provenance. There have been plenty of dogs, and some downright ciphers, in these pages through all the years, down to today.

OK, but let’s look at all the good stuff I found in this one 1965 issue. I’ll go in chronological order. Following road tests on a stock and warmed GTO and a 413 Chrysler 300-L, plus new LSR jet dream cars by Art Arfons, the big cover photo was justified by this 1-page B&W feature on Dyno Don Nicholson’s latest A/FX (Factory Experimental) Comet, which mounted four 2-throat Weber carbs on the hemi Cammer to feed each port directly through the ‘glass fresh-air scooped hood.thirsty comet

hot rodNext up was a 3-page (3-yr. old) feature on Doyle Gammel’s T sporting Blue Streaks and cheater slicks on chrome-reversed rims, plus the engine de jour for street hot rods, a dual-quad Corvette smallblock.




hot rodBut what I liked best was this rear view  showing not only a chromed rearend and T spring, his L.A. Roadsters plaque, but my favorite of the era: four bell-tipped “cheater pipes” (aka “scavengers”) mounted just below the axle.





In the ’50s/’60s Hot Rod ganged all its car features in the middle of the book in what was called the “Roto Section” because it was printed on a better rotogravure press using light green or blue tinted ink. But by mid-’65 it had four pages of color at each end, which was even better.

hot rodSecond up was this bright red ’28 A sedan delivery (which we surfers then revered and hot rodcalled a “panel”). From SoCal, it sat on a great rake with pie crust slicks on chrome wheels in back, painted wheels in front, all with “baldy” caps. The well-dressed flathead engine was old-school then (well before old school was “in”). But what made my jaw drop when I saw it, was that maybe ten years later I saw this same delivery, in exactly the same condition–slicks, to mis-matched wheels, to flathead mill–sitting on a trailer with a very affordable For Sale sign on it at the Pomona swap meet.. Somewhere in my files I have a photo I snapped of it. But what still kills me is that then, being a cub magazine reporter, I couldn’t come close to affording “affordable.” Another decade or so later I saw that it belonged to an automotive artist in the middle of the country who painted on sandpaper and whose name totally escapes me. Maybe he still has it.

hot rodThis is what was on most of the next color page. It was Norm Ries’ new drag machine, classed as an A/Competition Roadster, from Cincinnati, OH. Not famous, but certainly feature-worthy. Best part, I thought, was that blond, curvy Joy Fernandez was not the usual car photo prop, but was this car’s co-builder and crew chief. That’s her name, first, painted on the cowl. The green and yellow roadster rail got four pages.

hot rodhot rodI didn’t realize until just now that I should have scanned the rest of these “roto” pages in color so you could see the memorable light green tint. Sorry. But next, on just two pages, is this tasty and period perfect ’34 Victoria from San Diego built by a father and son in the home garage for $2000. It runs black wheels with baby moons with medium whitewalls, and note white painted under the fenders to match the white top. The interior is blue and white to complement Bahama Blue paint. But my favorite part is the 312 Y-block T-Bird engine with tri-carbs and tube headers. Nice.

hot rodThe copy on the “Howard Cam Shifter” dragster claims that it won Top Eliminator nine straight weekends at hometown Phoenix Dragway, plus it proclaims the trophy girl “pert Jackie Jameson, a local desert wildflower.” Typical. Besides obvious light weight, the unseen secret weapon of this A/Gas digger running a small 301-inch, 4-71 blown Chevy, was a highly unusual (for then) ’48 Cad-LaSalle 3-speed transmission.

hot rodThe name Jack Ditmar was only moderately familiar, but this altered-wheelbase, tilt-body B/Altered ’34 coupe from Harvey, Ill was immediately recognizable. Called Lil’ Screamer II with its Hilborn-Injected Chev, this Midwest storming coupe ran a Corvette 4-speed and was credited with 10-somethigs at 130+ mph. It got four full pages.

hot rodThis is another one I never saw run, but knew well from the magazines. Finished in white with gold leaf and named the Tazmanian Devil out of Oceanside, NY, this 1830-lb. AA/A on a Chassis Research frame was credited with 9.63/159.86 times from its 6-71 blown 454-inch ’92 Chrysler. Hmm. Minus the blower and several cubic inches, this one’s a lot like my old Low Buck car…’cept mine was faster (am I allowed to brag, a little?).

hot rodAnd as I turned the page I was delightfully surprised to see my long-time pal Andy Southard, Jr. with one of his well-known red street roadsters (and one of his ever-present hot rodpert photo models). From Salinas, Andy was not only a Bay Area Roadsters fixture, and a prolific free-lance photographer for many magazines, but also a talented pinstriper. The copy says he striped this car in white and gold, and they liked his photography so well they gave this deserving roadster four pages, including a full page just for the engine shot seen at right. Oh I love those pointy beanie hubcaps. Inside it had perfect black rolls and narrow pleats by Mangers of Castroville. The single-bar Model A bumpers were one unique touch.


hot rodT-Buckets were still running button-tuck interiors, not to mention carriage-lamp taillights. I think Bud Lakeman is still building high-end hot rods in his large Fullerton, CA, shop. The full-color 2-page spread doesn’t say, but my guess is that this one  is candy apple red. The driveline, obvious in the body-off shot, is a ’58 Chev punched to 301 with the ubiquitous dual 4-barrels, a polished aluminum 4-speed, and a Halibrand quickchange. The wheels were American 5-spoke mags with drag slicks. All pretty standard stuff, but finely detailed to win big show trophies (as shown in one photo).

hot rodAnd the final color page was devoted to this truly historic piece–one of a series, actually–Jack Chrisman’s new proto-Funny Car Comet, now powered by a blown, injected, and nitro-fed version of that SOHC hemi seen on the cover. Probably the samehot rodcar as the initial white Sachs & Sons version (with wedge-head 427) forced by NHRA to run as a B/Fuel Dragster the previous season, this steel-bodied car ran fiberglass hood, fenders, doors and trunk, with plexi windows, with a claimed weight of 2500 pounds and times of low 10s at 150+. Creatively titled Elapsed Time Bomb, it finished the roto feature section with one color and four B&W pages, showing plenty of details, including construction shots. Of course it was less than a year later that Nicholson one-upped Chrisman with his next red Comet–with its all-‘glass, tilt-up, one-piece body floating above it’s SOHC-powered all-tube chassis on Hot Rod’s April ’66 cover–the first “flopper” Funny Car as we still know them today.

Yes, it was a heady time for hot rodding, and a fulfilling era for HRM. You got plenty for your 50 cents. That’s 11 good–or great–hot rods in 38 pages, with no ads after the first three pages. But wait, there’s a little bit more.

Remember these? It was called Hot Rod Mart, and not only did it include great deals on dozens of rods, customs, race cars, and parts in its day, but looking at them now makes you covet a time machine. Out of 21 photo ads (62 ads total), I selected just these three as both indicative and particularly tempting. You’d think the chopped Merc owner could at least wash the car and put some hubcaps on it–but for $550? The T body is of questionable origin (Model A doors?). But the best deal could be that slick looking A Vicky going for “make offer.”

Of course there was even more in 125 fully packed pages between the July ’65 Hot Rod covers. I’ve already stated my views on the current state of print publishing in a previous column. Support any of the good ones left if you want to keep them around. Otherwise you can shop for these good old ones at the swap meet. Cheap. Fully packed.