Think back to the hot rod that got you to where you are today. Maybe it was more than one car-for me it's four. I'm talking about favorites. What was your favorite hot rod, the car that captured your interest, the car that kept your rodding fires burning, the car that gave you the incentive to try your own hand?
For starters, if you were like me (hypothetically), the hot rod that got my thermostat to pop open was a car that I saw on TV and in car magazines. Yep, I had never seen the hot rod that got me to rev up in person.
Fast-forward to this year's GNRS-there was the car of my dreams as I walked into the preview reception for The 75 Most Significant '32 Ford Hot Rods. I wasn't disappointed; in fact, I still wonder why I haven't tried to emulate this car. In my world of adolescence, my first hot rod of impact was (and still is) the Tony La Mesa '32 Ford fenderless and channeled roadster. Of course, when I saw it on its lone appearance on the "Ozzie and Harriett" television show, my impression was in black and white. Later, the brilliant green paint, white interior, and lots of pinstriping made its impression on a pre-teenage boy.
Next up is the Deuce highboy known as the Doane Spencer roadster. Of course, to me I will always remember this car as Neal East's ride. Neal and I worked together in our early years in publishing. However, what made this jet-black hot rod stick in my memory was the fact that Neal and I were L.A. Roadster club members and I would see the highboy at least once a week. The "older" guys would tell me the history of the car, as did Neal, and in time, I began to appreciate its subtleness and timeless beauty. One historic fact: Doane drove the wheels off this roadster, and he drove it cross-country back in '46. In the mid-'70s, I had the opportunity to accompany Neal on our drive to the Street Rod Nats in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and experience the joy of driving such a classic hot rod.
Following is my first modern hot rod, cutting edge for its time (still valid today), and built by a longtime friend and mentor, Richard "Magoo" Megugorac, making the Deucari even more special. I had always heard of Ferrari engines but had little or no opportunities to get up close and personal and see just how beautifully intricate Mr. Enzo's 12-cylinder truly is. Brian Burnett (son of hot rodding's premiere illustrator Rex Burnett) was the owner who supplied Magoo with the 12-cylinder. It was the first stretched (4 inches) hot rod, the first hot rod with an original DuVall windshield, and the first hot rod to win the America's Most Beautiful Roadster award at the Oakland GNRS in '79 that I had watched from inception to its crowning moment; I was also fortunate enough to photograph it. This is a special car built by a special person, and I was part of it. Doesn't get any better.
The last, and possibly most significant on several levels, is the Tom McMullen '32 highboy roadster. I was absolutely captured by this roadster when I saw it on the cover of Hot Rod in '63. Some eight years later, I found myself working for Tom, having been hired by journalist supreme Tex Smith for Tom's fledgling publishing company. By the time I met Tom, he had already sold the roadster and had moved onto chopper motorcycles-an endeavor that allowed him to start his publishing company. His company was orchestrated by Tex and still exists in an altered form today, responsible for publishing STREET RODDER and 40 other automotive titles.
While I began working for Tex on Tom's motorcycle magazines, I spent many a lunch or late afternoon talking to both Tex and Tom about hot rods, and our conversations would eventually drift to the outrageously flamed roadster. I have that cover of Hot Rod visible in my office, a 1/8-scale model of the highboy sits on my bookshelf directly behind me, a record album (with record) framed and hanging on my office wall, and lots of photos and personal memorabilia from the early years with Tom and Tex. They serve as a constant reminder of what a dream can turn into. Having been there in the beginning and to sit in this chair once occupied by the likes of Tom and Tex, well that is very, very special.
Tony La Mesa's '32 Ford roadster...
Tony La Mesa's '32 Ford roadster became special to me once it was painted in its current emerald green with white interior and Corvette V-8.
Driving cross-country in a...
Driving cross-country in a hot rod is good. Driving to the Street Rod Nats is great. Doing it all in the Doane Spencer/Neal East Deuce highboy roadster is priceless.
The line between sports car...
The line between sports car and hot rod was erased with the advent of the Deucari and hot rodding has never looked back.
If there can be such a thing...
If there can be such a thing as a quintessential hot rod, then the McMullen Deuce highboy roadster will be found as the definition in any rodder's dictionary.