Might as well start off with something to stir the troops. The hot rod roadster is America’s first (and only) real sports car! I know forthwith of which l mumble, having been involved in both camps since way back. I know the claims of Corvette. Yes, it can be turned into a rather ragged road rager, but not in showroom guise. It needs some massaging, some hot rodding if you will, before the cake mix special runs with the big dogs. Same for those econo Fords Shel built. Same with just about any production American car, or most any world production car. If they don’t get hot rodded, they may as well stay on the porch and scratch fleas.
But I said a hot rod roadster. Not a coupe, not a sedan, not a convertible. Nope, only a genuine no-top, maybe interior, stab and steer roadster.
How’s that? Got your attention?
So, how’s about we try to arrive at a definition of sports car. It is many different interpretations, I fear, but if I follow the generally accepted definition arrived at over half a century ago, as defined by the English. The sports car is a rough riding, poorly appointed, and if it is English, completely hopeless pile of pre-destined rust designed by a hopelessly self-deluded stiff upper lip ego maniac. A kind of wanna-be hot rodder from the wrong side of the ocean. In short, a vehicle for sport motoring. Even an early on sports car from German can be iffy.
A true sports car does not have a heater (English heaters seldom work well anyway), it does not have air conditioning, it does not have roll-up windows, it may have only a very rudimentary folding top, it may or may not have windshield wipers, and it probably leaks rain all over your pants leg. You should be getting the idea by now. If a true sports car has any additional refinements, it is probably actually a sporting car. A sports tourer as they became known, or a sports coupe, or even a sports sedan. All depending largely on the advertising and sales departments of the larger manufacturers.
But a real red-blooded American hot rod roadster fits those old European definitions quite well, thank you. And if you need affirmation of any of this tirade, just hunker down for a bench session with any of the many roadster owners that hang around most contemporary hot rod building emporiums. You go to a rod run and you have to dig them up, usually over behind the 3300 red 32 roadsters masquerading as hot rods. The true American sports car drivers usually have sunburned faces, wind knotted hair (or no hair at all), twitchy throttle feet, left arms burned black, and sometimes racoon eyes. And they take no guff from any mere mortals. After all, they are members of a very rare, and seldom ever numerous, breed of mortals who consort with the gods. Else why do so many car enthusiast worldwide clamour to emulate them?
By now, you understand that a hot rod nee American sports car is not a street rod. But, neither is it a rat rod. Much too sophisticated for a ratter. Far too unsophisticated to be a show/street rod. Like the man says, when you ride in one, you know it. When you drive one, you REALLY know it!
Now, I need to confess that my Junk Yard Dawg is not, currently, an American sports car. Nope, a decade ago, I added a top so I could have shade for my wife Pegge. Then as she sickened from cancer, I called Jack Chisenhall and lined out an air conditioning package, which I hustled to get in place prior to a trip with Ron Ceridono down to the R&C cruise to Lincoln, Nebraska. I tested it after it was charged, and have never turned it on again. Pegge didn’t need it, and I don’t like it in the roadster. Now, as I prepare to rebuild the soft Pontiac OHC inline six with more grunt I think I may just leave the AC out of the package. So I can have a sports car again. But I may have to drill a hole in the cowl so water can run on my leg.