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Hot rodding is not a phenomenon that appeared after World War II. The earliest beginnings were at the dawn of the automobile when the first two horseless carriages raced — that’s when hot rodding came into existence. It was the decades that immediately followed World War II, with America experiencing an incredible upward trend of economic growth and millions of veterans returning home with industrial abilities and skills, that fueled the Golden Age of Hot Rodding.
And today, in the second decade of the 21st Century, the Golden Age of Hot Rodding lives on. On July 1, 2022 at the Lyon Air Museum, located on the west side of the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, “War Surplus on Wheels” opened and will run until September 15, 2022. As a special bonus, on July 16, 2022 only “Hot Rods On The Tarmac” took place on the flight line. The press arrived at 8 a.m. and commenced photography in a light overcast of coastal fog, and by 9 a.m. such a large crowd of spectators had amassed in front of the Lyon Air Museum a decision was made to open the doors early.
The cutoff date to participate at Hot Rods on the Tarmac with a pre-war car or pickup was 1942, and later year models with modifications to convert into a hot rod or sled had to be period correct and no newer than 1965. As evidenced by the photos, old Fords were and still are the staple of early hot rods and most of the engines were Ford Flathead V-8s.
To coax more horsepower out of a Ford or Mercury Flathead V-8 the trick was to add multiple carbs, a hot cam, and high-compression cylinder heads. With the knowledge gained during WWII and the machine shops and foundries dedicated to WWII production, after the war it was a natural progression for hot rodding pioneers like Phil Weiand, Earl Evans, and Vic Edelbrock, among many others, to adapt these facilities to producing hot rod parts. Even better than hot rodding a Ford or Merc Flathead V-8 for someone with a little more money on their hand was to acquire an early Oldsmobile, Cadillac, Buick or Chrysler OHV (overhead valve) engine. And the formula for hopping up an early OHV V-8 engine was the same: hotter cam, more carbs, and higher compression.
Hot Rods on the Tarmac was a great homage to the heritage of hot rodding. The pure nostalgia was overwhelming. Special thanks go to the Lyon Air Museum for hosting it and Old Crow Speed Shop for curating the show.