The '90s
Everything was getting big. TRM Publications had become McMullen Publishing in the '80s and in the '90s was McMullen & Yee, then K-III, then McMullen-Argus. Cruising moved beyond the local street to the Interstate through programs like the STREET RODDER Road Tour, and thousands of rodders were now enjoying what guys like Andy Brizio, Magoo, and the early SR staff had been doing all along. Trailer sales were growing too, as "trailer queens" and show rods became something of a separate category. The budgets on some of these cars would have astonished rodders from 20 years earlier.

Instead of running from law enforcers, street rodders were now working with lawmakers, through SEMA primarily, to protect our hobby, which was by now, a huge industry as well. Underhood, the electronic fuel injection that frightened us in the '80s was more readily accepted. TPI systems and injected crate motors were filling the engine compartments of high-tech cars just as fast as digital instruments, A/C, contemporary seats, and modern sound systems were filling the interiors—and huge wheels with low-profile tires were filling fenders. The pinks and turquoises of the '80s were replaced by golds, maroons, and shades of orange as the decade progressed. Tear away graphics, tribal flames, and other new-style graphics were starting to catch on.

The 21st Century
Who could have foreseen in 1972 that street rodding and STREET RODDER would enter the new millennium as strong as ever? Earlier this century, McMullen-Argus was purchased by Primedia, which then purchased Petersen Publishing. Even original SR staffer Brian Brennan was back, editing the magazine. In the past 10 years, STREET RODDER (now owned by Source Interlink) has returned to its original concept, abandoning the '48-and–earlier rule (this time, the NSRA followed us).

The dominant trend of STREET RODDER's fourth decade has been a revival on traditional styling. This whole thing started back in the early '70s as a nostalgic pushback, and history repeated itself (somewhat) with the current shift away from high-tech contemporary style to the old familiar styles we've liked since the beginning. Nobody pushed back harder than the so-called "rat rodders". Some of them might have gone as far as to abandon good looks and safety altogether, but the movement as a whole has had a huge influence. Another segment of rodders has dedicated itself to skillfully and authentically restoring their rods to the styles of the '40s and '50s.

In most cases, today's styles "Respect Tradition" (to borrow Hollywood Hot Rods' motto) while blending it with modern conveniences. Today's street rods look vintage, but work and drive better than ever. No one (hardly anyone) flinches anymore at the thought of computer controls or modular engines, and today's latest developments (like wireless technology for rods) are regarded as exciting, not frightening.

As Tex Smith told us earlier this year, "The roaring success that STREET RODDER magazine is today can be traced entirely to perseverance and a solid faith in the hobby—and my belief that you, the reader, would embrace a publication beamed directly at your interest. Did we succeed? SR is today one of the strongest automotive-interest publications in the world. Almost despite our early staff. Fun, huh?!"

STREET RODDER didn't publish a response to Tom Bigby's letter from Vol. 1, No. 1, but if you're still out there Mr. Bigby, yeah, we made it. Thanks.


Car Art
Artwork in many forms, from cartoons to concept illustrations, has always had a place in these pages. Dave Bell's pen-and-ink drawings appeared from the first issue, and have illustrated the various column heads to this day. The Adventures of Rodney Rodder by W.T. Hatch appeared in early issues, and George Trosley and Darrell Mayabb have also contributed illustrations for first page "lead art" for countless articles. The concept illustrations of Harry Bradley, Thom Taylor, and Steve Stanford—to name a few—have inspired many readers to pick up a wrench, and some to pick up a pencil. Bob Hovorka's Fix 'Ems columns uses drawings to explain tech tips every month. Quick On The Draw, a recent addition showcasing the talent of Jimmy Smith, Eric Black, Eric Brockmeyer, Jeff Norwell, and others, follows in the tradition of the Showcase features and the Readers' Art columns of the past.

The Road Tour
Nothing has done more to express SR's 40-year commitment to driving than the Road Tour, which completed its 17th year in 2012.

"My wife, Mary Ann, and I have a very solid original '34 Ford Fordor sedan that had been restored in the '70s. Tom, Barry Lobeck, of Lobeck's Hot Rod Shop, and I came up with the idea to turn the car into a street rod—not a resto rod and not a Pro Street rod, but something different. The series on the Presto Rod was well received, and I put more than 5,000 miles on the car its first summer.

"In the fall of 1994, I approached STREET RODDER with a concept: build a street rod using advertisers' products and drive it to all 11 National Street Rod Association events around the nation. We would promote the safety and reliability of the products we used while showing how much fun it was to drive street rods. They loved the idea—but who was going to drive the car to the events all summer and write the articles? I smiled and raised my hand. As Paul Harvey used to say, ‘now you know the rest of the story." —Jerry Dixey