This is going to be fairly simple because I don’t know much about it. And I can’t find anybody who does. But it really doesn’t matter, because this is a picture show about a significant period in hot rodding that just happens to be one of my favorites.
As you can see, this is an indoor car show. Not a big Motorama, but the small local type held in an armory or school stadium. And if you know your hot rods well, you can pinpoint the time as the latter ’50s, judging from an abundance of white tuck-and-roll upholstery, medium whitewalls, and black painted wheels with baby moon hubcaps. You can probably also tell that these are West Coast cars. And though I spot two restored “Antiques,” I just realized that all the rest are hot rods, with no customs in sight.
So here’s briefly what I know. For several years I was a member of a large club called Street Rods Forever. Loosely based in the San Gabriel Valley, it had a couple hundred members, several of whose names you would know. Club night was always a mini car show. One such night Tom Connors, who drove an excellent black ’40 coupe at the time, handed me a 5×7 envelope with these photos in it, and said, “Here, you should have these.” They were color prints of photos he had taken with an Instamatic-type camera at a car show “put on by Pasadena High School” but held at the Arcadia Armory in 1958 (or possibly ’59). That’s Tom’s white ’40 coupe in the photo above. I just assumed Tom went to Pasadena High when he gave me these about 15 years ago, but now I’m not even sure of that. I just learned that Pasadena High was on the campus of Pasadena City College at that time. Plus a bigger, more inclusive car show called the Pasadena Motor Pageant was held at the larger, nearby Civic Auditorium in April ’59. So I assume this small–maybe 40-50 cars total–show was sponsored as a fund-raiser by one of the high school’s clubs or student associations, and the also-nearby Arcadia Armory was available and affordable.
But what really surprised me were the several “name,” magazine cover-type cars this small show attracted. Whatever school group staged it had some energetic and effective PR-savvy members. This of course is Tony LaMasa’s well-known channeled ’32 L.A. Roadsters car, already famous for its Ricky Nelson TV appearance. It’s seen in full Von Dutch pinstriping and Chevy power. You probably don’t immediately recognize the even more famous Deuce hiboy next to it. It’s the classic Hot Rod cover Bob McGee roadster, bought in 1955 by Dick Hirschberg, who painted it yellow and installed a new Corvette V8. It was acquired this way by L.A. Roadsters president Dick Scritchfield in ’57, who obviously hadn’t repainted it at this point. Both LaMasa and Scritch lived in Pasadena-adjacent Eagle Rock.
The next car in line was Dale Gould’s 6-carb, Olds-powered, tall-top ’27 T roadster, also seen in several magazines of the time. The yellow ’40 coupe with white interior and black under the hood is Rich Woodford’s, and with a magnifier I spy a McCulloch blower on a Chevy engine.
And wouldn’t you know that even Grabowski’s Kookie T was there. The question mark under his name is typical Norm, but might it mean he already had it sold? Also note that the shift knob (unidentifiable in this photo) is not a bloody skull. (I think the TV show made him remove it.) No info on the red ’29.
Tom wasn’t real good at pointing his camera. But this photo stunned me when I saw it. Ike Iacono was much more interested in racing his orange GMC dragster than showing it, but here it is looking just like it did on the Jan. ’59 HRM cover (and as I have restored it now). And next to it is another of my all-time drag favorites, the blown-Olds-powered, very much chromed Geraghty-Crawford “Grasshopper” from the Oct. ’59 cover, but seen here for some reason without its mint-green #13 body–possibly because it wasn’t done yet?
I have no idea whose bright blue ’29 sedan that is, but I absolutely love it, especially the blue tuck-n-roll stripe down the middle of the white top, the seats, and even the running boards. With its full-fenders, good rake, medium whitewalls, and “Baldies and beauty rims” on black wheels it epitomizes the late ’50s era (when I was building models like it). You get a better look at the black ’32 Fordor next to it in the high-angle lead photo, but through some magnifier sleuthing I was able to match the license number to Larry Banker’s sedan, better known as half of the Banker Brothers twin Deuces, featured (with Walt’s 3-window) in Hot Rod in ’61. And just to illustrate how specific and trend-driven this ’58-’59 rod era was, by ’61 both Deuces had chrome wheels, dual-quad Corvette engines and drivelines, and Larry went so far as to have his sedan fully reupholstered in sculptured black narrow rolls and pleats over bucket seats.
Consequently you’d probably guess this is brother Walt Banker’s very similar, black lacquer, all-white T&R, full-fendered 3-window, but it’s not. This one has a filled grille shell and no cowl lights, plus a different license. Unfortunately, it remains unnamed. But I thoroughly love it. I also have no I.D. or info on the metallic blue ’34 5-window next to it. But we can see white upholstery, red grille, and some interesting fender scallops (Ala Kart-inspired?). You can also spot a girlfriend-knitted, white angora “mirror warmer” inside. Remember those?
Apparently Billy Foster’s bright pink, channeled ’29 roadster pickup with a chopped and raked ’34 truck grille was quite well-known in Pasadena since it sat inside the front window of “My Auto Upholstery” on Foothill just a couple blocks from Blair’s Speed Shop. Check the heart-shaped pink rolled inserts in the seats. Here it has older wide whites and ’53 Stude ‘caps, not to mention a white undercarriage. A couple years later it ran chrome rims and bed-side-pipes.
This was the only other competition car among Tom’s pics. The sign card say it’s Al Friend’s and the engine is a 59AB Merc, but what exactly is it? It looks to me to be a narrowed ’27 T one-time Lakes Modified. But that class was long-defunct by ’58. It doesn’t have slicks for drag racing, nor a roll bar to make it legal, nor even any cooling method for the nicely detailed flathead. Maybe it was competing against the Grasshopper in an “Unfinished” class. What grabs my attention more is the “pert” (that’s a Tom Medley word) Titian Red, also flathead powered, ’29 highboy roadster next to it belonging to Mike Suchia. Not only does it have a filled ’32 grille and shell, but so is the entire gas tank/cowl, and even the door hinges are “faired in.” The white, 3-carb flatty is listed as 3/8 x 3/8, and what look a bit like chrome wheels are early Dodge Lancer caps.
In fact, here’s a similar set of Dodge Lancers, painted candy gold in the center (a la Barris how-to’s). I also wouldn’t mind having the white Naugahyde concession in this area/era. Just about everything that isn’t metallic blue or chrome on this ’35 Fordor is white, from top to ‘boards to firewall, to chassis. Too bad we don’t have names of the T&R upholsterers. This surprisingly unlowered sedan appears to be running a dual-quad Corvette 283. The possibly candy red Forty coupe next to it has a Roth-style name (in quotes) lettered on the front fender–remember that short-lived fad? But this one, which looks like “Tesian Terror!” makes no sense to me.
And here are two more 5-windows that were cool then, but not appreciated nearly as much as they would be today. The dark metallic blue Deuce with white top, inside, underneath, and grille runs a Nailhead Buick with finned aluminum valve covers and has the only ’50 Merc hubcaps to be seen. Baby Moons ruled, as on the silver-gray ’34 next to it with a tan or peach pleated seat, black firewall, ‘boards, and elsewhere, and a name-hidden card proclaiming the gold Olds engine “full race.” It looks like there are six scoop-topped 97s on it, and of course an Engle Cams decal in the quarter window. The white scallops on just the hood are unusual.
Our then-young photographer Tom Connors’ own ’40 Standard Coupe was all-white inside, and outside, too. Of course it wears baby moons and medium whitewalls on black wheels, and its relatively high stance still exhibited the California Rake, with the rear higher than the front. This would be reversed in the “next trend” ’61-’62 nose-up era.
Since Tom was our high school photographer, we’ve got some bonus shots of his clean Forty. These coupes were meant to sit on a rake, looking especially good from this angle. You can also see that the white has just a tinge of some creamy shade.
Of course there’s plenty of all-white rolls and pleats inside, on everything except the gloss black ’40 Standard dash. Full chrome window frames are a classy touch, especially for a high school ride.
And look what’s hiding under the hood–a straight-from-the-dealer 270-hp, dual-quad Corvette 283, still painted factory orange, and wearing the finned Vette valve covers and my favorite little round louvered Vette air cleaners. Also note the clean brass tank on the radiator and the Volt-A-Drop on the black firewall for the stock gauges. Nice piece for ’58, no?
Oh, but it gets even better. This is in front of the Connors family house in what’s an obviously middle-class Pasadena neighborhood. Tom wasn’t some rich kid. He worked summer and after-school jobs to fix-up his ’40. And I can’t remember the exact story, but I think he said he talked his dad (the one trimming the hedge in the background) into buying the shiny, black, brand-new Chevy Impala.
It’s the all-new, top-of-the-line “custom” hardtop Chevy with the six taillights and the faux roof scoop. You can see that even stock it sits on a bit of a rake on its medium whitewalls, to which Tom has already added a set of real ’57 Plymouth pointy wheelcovers (not the cheap Cal Custom copies). Of course it’s got a V8, but I can’t remember if Tom said it was a 283 or the big, new 348.
Well, that’s it. Just a simple picture story of a So-Cal high school car show taken by someone who was not only there, but participating, back in a memorable, moderately colorful hot rod era of 1958, or so. Wish I had more info or stories to tell, but to me the pictures are all we need to bring back fond memories of a time that was pure fun. And can be replicated, and appreciated, by those who might have missed it at the time. Thanks Tom.