The Second Wave
It was a combination of factors that caused a hiccup in the hobby in the late '60s, and another convergence of events that kicked off the revival. By 1972, the factory muscle car was disappearing, replaced by underpowered versions of their former selves and by tiny, unexciting compacts, soon to be labeled "econoboxes". The social and political turmoil of the day triggered a nostalgia for a perceived simpler time. The renewed popularity of '50s rock 'n' roll and the success of the movie American Graffiti reflected that nostalgia. So did the street rod revival. Starting in 1970, the National Street Rod Association gave the revival a place to play. And in 1972, a new magazine gave it a voice.

Tom McMullen and his wife Rose at TRM Publications were already successful with a motorcycle parts business, AEE Choppers, and a couple of supporting magazines, Street Chopper and Chopper Guide. Tex Smith was there at the time. "One day I announced to Tom and Rose that we needed to diversify the motorcycle magazines, and that the most obvious magazine would be in the emerging hobby of street rodding. Tom resisted. Rose was only concerned about how we would fund it. We did so by dropping our newest magazine, Hot Bike."

"Tom was not as enthusiastic about the program as we were," Jim Clark, SR's first editor, remembers. "We spent about six months lobbying him to give us the opportunity to start STREET RODDER before he finally agreed. We originally intended to call it Street Rod, but not long before we went to print Bruce Miller in Portland, Oregon, came out with Street Rod magazine. So we changed our name. It was released in May 1972. At the time I was listed as the editor, but Tex was my mentor. He had the expertise and was the driving force behind the whole package."

One of Tex's many contributions to the new magazine was hiring a staff, including a young enthusiast named Brian Brennan. "I found Brian working at Disneyland as a sweeper. He had worked for one of the area's hot racing enterprises and he could almost spell. Over time, the other early staffers just sort of wandered in, lured into a low-paying, highly stressed environment with the promise of great fame. It worked, as always in our business. They had no idea what the future was to hold: some modicum of fame, low wages, long hours, and a lot of fun."

Tex and Brian left after only a few issues to start Rod Action magazine (Brennan, returned in 1997 and seems to be here for good). Jim Clark—with a few stops and starts—stayed until 1978.


Cop Shop
The rivalry between cops and rodders is as traditional as dirt track tires on wire wheels, but the adversarial relationship usually turns to friendship when the policeman turns out to be a rodder too. STREET RODDER contributor Tony Kelly was both and used his monthly Cop Shop column to give us the perspective from the other side of the badge. He submitted stories, warnings, wisdom, and advice for 25 years and probably prevented thousands of enthusiasts from getting tickets.

"I've stopped a lot of cars, written tickets to some of them, found a few bad guys, been called things I don't like, and sometimes been told to do things that I didn't think were physically possible." —Tony Kelly, first Cop Shop column, September 1979 Street Rodding in Bill's Eye

Street Rodding in Bill's Eye
There will probably never be another SR contributor as colorful, outspoken, enthusiastic, or opinionated as the late Bill Burnham. From December 1980 until his death in August 1996, Bill shared his unexpurgated views with our readers, many of whom turned to the "Street Rodding In Bill's Eye" column before reading anything else.

Every month Bill offered his insights on the hobby. He promoted driving, ridiculed trailers, and related his nonstop adventures behind the wheel of "Old Blue", his beloved '29 Model A highboy roadster. He could be crazy, wise, encouraging, cranky, funny, and profound—all in the same sentence. Former editor Tom Vogele said it well in our Dec. '96 issue, "His columns were humorous and entertaining, but almost all of them had an underlying controversial message." His most popular columns were reprinted posthumously through 1977.

"You can imagine how I felt when my wife and some former friends conspired to load my pretty blue roadster on a trailer at a rainy rod trot, and then had the heartless gall to take photos of it! What a rotten thing to do to a neat old guy like me! Anyway, my poor highboy got so upset that it started handling badly, got into a wreck, and blew all the stuffings out of the righthand muffler." —Bill Burnham, Street Rodding In Bill's Eye, September 1985