The street rod culture is changing faster than you think, and you may not like it! Sometimes it is a good thing to get out and stretch your legs, try something with which you aren't comfortable, and take a look from another perspective at what's going on around you. By doing so you begin to realize things changed while you were enjoying yourself. And so it goes with street rodding.
For starters, when I was first exposed to street rodding it was called hot rodding. Vietnam was off in the future, tract homes were the rage, and the first generation of postwar cars and V-8s were hitting stride. The paths of hot rods and musclecars began to cross-hot rods became "old technology," and Detroit musclecars, with their warranties and copious amounts of horsepower, were king. The mid-'50s through the late '60s proved the heyday of musclecars and the demise of "muscled up" hot rods.
Something began to change in the late '60s into the early '70s, though, and the musclecar began to loose favor for a myriad of reasons. Many agree it was the safety and emissions standards that caused the musclecar to go the way of its predecessor-the hot rod. And guess what? Hot rodding experienced a rebirth. Of course, it wasn't exactly the same. No longer was it kool to use the term "hot rod," but rather new words made it into our lexicon: street rod and street rodding. Like many in nature's animal kingdom that shed their skin from time to time, so it appears to happen to hot rodding every decade.
Street rodding changed its appearance throughout the '70s, '80s, '90s, and into the new millennium. There was the resto-rod period of the '70s (which I could have lived without), and then came the mad rush to produce fiberglass cars and manufacture all parts so everyone could build cookie-cutter rides. The '80s saw the advent of the fat-fendered car; now it was kool to build anything between 1903 and 1948. The '90s ushered in the "smoothie" or "jellybean" appearance, and this gave way to the coachbuilt cars of the late '90s through today-street rods with ungodly budgets.
Today there appears to be an absence of common sense when building a street rod as budgets continue to grow. But as we have seen in the past five-plus years, there is a very real dividing line between rodders who will accept these cars and those who will not. Those who wish for simpler times are starting to distance themselves from the term "street rod" and go back to using "hot rod." With the use of the term hot rod comes a build style and a personal appearance, a dress code if you will. A portion of this dress code is actually clothing, but body adorning (i.e., Rat Fink tattoos, etc.) is also an accepted part of this personal appearance. The 21st century has seen hot rodding become more distinctly divided in build styles as well as individual personalities.
A quick look at the newsstand has seen a larger growth in "street rod" magazines than any other aspect of the automotive market. While few, if any, are the size of larger more established titles, they are finding their readership and are popular within their niche of the marketplace.
Street rodding is getting ready to shed its sheetmetal one more time. We are eyeball-deep in nostalgia-based, patina-hued, no-frills hot rods, yet there are many modern cars still running around. So what's going to happen? I am not sure. But I have to believe that the mega-buck cars have just about run their course; with interest waning, we will see these "never to be driven" coachbuilt cars begin to vanish from the rod run scene, and from the indoor car show circuit shortly thereafter. They will be replaced with more cars that were built to be driven. This doesn't mean they will all be nostalgia-styled, but a great number will. And, last but surely not least, street-rods-turned-hot-rods will also feature a continually growing number of '50s and '60s cars. These cars predate the musclecar, and, over the past 10 years, have found fame and desirability with rodders everywhere. Change is coming-do you see it, and, more importantly, are you ready?