Have you ever wondered when we officially became street rodders or how and when certain sayings within the world of rodding came to be? I know I do.
For starters, I thought I would explore how to identify the precise moment we went from being "normal" car guys to street rodders. In order to keep matters as simple as possible (since the criteria for being a street rodder is simplicity), I have listed a handful of telltale signs. Hey, at our age we don't buy green bananas, so it's a good idea to have this kind of stuff written down.
People now call at 9 p.m. and ask, "Did I wake you?" Having been to enough rodding events I know that this is true. Wake up calls have shifted from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. The dinner bell now sounds at 7 p.m. and not 10 p.m., unless of course, the local Denny's has a senior citizen special that starts at 4 p.m. (See, Dixey, that's why the parking lot empties early).
A personal favorite is when someone suggests, "Let's check out the cars in the parking lot." He means when the sun is up!
There is nothing left to learn the hard way. Boy, isn't that the truth. It doesn't mean we no longer make mistakes or stop learning, it just means we've already learned the hard way, but the early onset of rodders Alzheimer's has caused us to forget. However, this has its advantages, as our secrets are safe with friends because they can't remember anything either!
We quit trying to hold our stomachs in, no matter who walks by that nifty Deuce. I have personally seen this phenomena in action. It does have an upside: "Go ahead and have more apple pie, not a piece, the whole pie. Oh, and chase it all down with a couple of beers. Surely 6,000 more calories can be hidden under that belt buckle." However, that too has its advantages. It's reported that alcohol kills off brain cells. Now our supply of brain cells will finally be down to a manageable size.
Our eyes can't get much worse--people call us blind when we are welding, blind when we are driving, and blind when we are just standing there! You should see how many pairs of eyeglasses it takes me to negotiate my office and type this editorial.
While I may need eyeglasses, at least I know the origin of many a rodder saying. On more than one occasion I have heard SRM's very own techie, Ron Ceridono, ask, "Are you sure you are playing with a full deck?" Where the heck did that saying come from?
Apparently, in the earliest days at Muroc, cards in the common deck of 52 were taxed. This tax was applied only to the ace of spades (Don't ask me why; I haven't figured that out). Early rodders, in an attempt to avoid paying this tax (it figures) would purchase only 51 cards. I know I did. Since most games require 52 cards, it was uttered that we rodders were thought to be stupid or dumb because we weren't "playing with a full deck."
It has been said that many of today's street rods "cost an arm and a leg." Apparently, that saying came about because in the early days of hot rod journalism there were no cameras. If you wanted your rod featured, it was painted onto the pages. All of us have seen early magazines with one side of a car visible and only two tires showing. How much it cost to feature your car depended on how much of it showed--how many tires were pictured, if the top was up or down, and if the running boards and fenders were visible or not. (It was about this time that the highboy grew into prominence.) Tires, tops, fenders, and running boards were considered "limbs." Therefore, painting them cost the rod owner more. Hence the expression, "it'll cost you an arm and a leg." Which means, the next time I photograph your car, be thankful I am not charging you by the tire.
I know that in the past I have taken shots at my fellow rodders for their less than best efforts. I am sure you have heard one rodder tell another to, "mind your own bondo wax." I hear that all the time around the office. Supposedly, this saying came from a time when bodywork wasn't at its zenith. While young rodders were developing their talents, it wasn't uncommon for sanding marks to show through their best paint primer efforts. So, you might say their street rods suffered from a form of sheetmetal acne that would leave them with scars in the paint.
It's reported that rodders would bondo over their sheetmetal to smooth out their body panels. When speaking to each other, if a rodder began to stare at another rodder's sheetmetal, he was told "mind your own bondo wax." But it didn't end there.
When a rodder "hot rodded" around (a street rodding no-no), it would cause the bondo to crack; as a result, the term "crack a smile" was born. Also, when rodders parked too close to the open camp fires at the earliest Nats, the bondo would melt; this inspired the expression "losing face." I believe I heard this next saying at Detroit in 1973. Journalists needed feedback from their readers to determine what was considered important enough to put in the magazines of the day. Since there were no cell phones, faxes, e-mail, Internet, digital cameras, and on and on, these journalists spent the evenings at the local taverns, pubs, and bars.
I remember how we would "go sip some ale" and listen to other rodders' concerns. Many journalists traveled far and wide. "Chris Shelton would go sip here" and "Rob Fortier would go sip there." The two words, "go sip," were eventually combined, according to my memory, and we now have the term "gossip." Therefore, everything that you read in any car magazine is gossip. Uh oh, I think I just made a scribe's faux pas. It's okay, because at our age none of us will remember who wrote this story tomorrow anyway.