Book review by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz
Don Montgomery is a tireless compiler and publisher of hot rod photographs and history. He has self published a series of hardbound books dealing with the car culture throughout the Southwest United States. Hot Rod Memories Relived Again is a hardbound book measuring 8 ¾ inches wide by 11 ¼ inches in height with Montgomery’s normal red, white and black dust cover jacket. Take precautions to protect the dust cover jacket as it enhances the overall look of the book. Hot Rod Memories Relived Again is a full 176 pages in length with 367 black and white photographs and ample text. Some of the captions are very detailed, though many of the people are unknown. There are no color photographs and there is no index. Without an index it is hard to find out just who is portrayed in the book without reading every page. The quality of the photographs ranges from fair to excellent. The writing is crisp and well researched. Montgomery has a large group of friends who raced at the dry lakes of Southern California and who were showing off their cars on the streets. He is a master historian and voluminous publisher of hot rod books. Hot Rod Memories Relived Again was published in 1991 by Don Montgomery Publishing and you can contact the author to see if he has any copies. His phone number is 760-728-5557. You can also check at Autobooks/Aerobooks at 818-845-0707, or the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum bookstore at 909-622-2133, for copies of the book. The ISBN# is 0-9626454-2-7. Montgomery wrote the introduction, dedication and the six chapters. His photographs come from his own collections and his friends and seems inexhaustible.
Montgomery has a system for producing his books on hot rodding, but he likes to joke that when a book runs out of room he starts another book. This has obvious merit, since it allows him to use up photo collections from various sources and get them on record before they are lost forever. Montgomery deserves our gratitude for preserving the early history of hot rodding in all of its variety. If you look at the people that he has access to, it becomes very apparent why his books are so popular and well received by the public. In Hot Rod Memories Relived Again, he acknowledges help and photographs from the usual list of well-known suspects. There is Don Waite, Bob Atol, Jim Carnahan, Bill Yates, Al Barnes, Bob Wright, Tony Baron, Jim Berger, George Bentley, Jim Gustafson, Roland Mays, Cal Tanaka, Doug Hartelt, Bill Phy, Fred Larson and many more. Doug Hartelt spans the time between the dry lakes time trials and the first official drag strip at Santa Ana. Gene Ohly and Barney Navarro are famous names from the past. Barney is still working in his shop in Los Angeles. Dave Marquez was a driver who made the roadster class famous in drag racing with his #880. The car is one of the 75 all time greatest ’32 Ford Deuces, but no one has been able to find out where the car is and Dave has since passed away. Joe Reath, Alex Xydias and Don Blair were famous for their speed shops. Doane Spenser created what many feel was the most beautiful ’32 Ford Deuce roadster ever built. When you have the quality of friends that Montgomery has, you can see why it is so easy for the author to make such high quality books.
Chapter One is called Hot Rods on the Streets and discusses why the young hot rodders of the 1920’s and ‘30’s developed the hot rod culture. They took old Fords and Chevy’s and turned them into works of art. They cut, chopped, channeled and customized the cars to suit their tastes. They revved up the engines and got more horsepower out of their cars than the police were able to get from the best stock cars from Detroit. These young men and women developed their own language and culture and the hamburger stands became their special headquarters. Montgomery breaks hot rodders in the 1940’s into three categories; racers, street rodders and street rod-racers. Chapter Two is named Hot Rods and Street Racing. Hot rodders were constantly being castigated by their local communities for using the public streets to go racing on. More responsible hot rodders traveled to El Mirage dry lake, near Phelan, California in order to do their racing. Eventually, drag strips closer to these young hot rodders would open up and take away the urge to go street racing. Chapter Three is titled Clubs and Associations and discusses the groups that were involved in hot rodding. Some of those groups, such as the Road Runners and Sidewinders, are still around today. The group photographs are priceless but many young people are not named in the photo captions, which is a great loss.
Chapter Four is called Speed Equipment Shops and talks about the places that were famous for speed equipment in the Southern California area. Bell Auto Parts was the center of hot rodding and racing since the 1920’s, until Roy Richter passed away in the 1980’s. Louie Senter’s speed shop; Ansen’s Automotive Engineering was another famous place. Don Blair’s Speed Shop vied with Alex Xydias’ So-Cal Speed Shop. Montgomery lists auto stores like House of Chrome, muffler shops like Smitty’s and machine shop’s like Cook Machine Shop as some of the places to find the best parts and service. Some of the manufacturers of speed equipment were; Navarro, Webber, Moon, Pink, Donovan, Carrillo, Potvin, Evans, Schiefer, Thickstun and Iskenderian. Chapter Five is titled How Fast Were They and tells the story of how early hot rodders souped up their cars and recorded fast times at the dry lakes. Speeds and acceleration times in the 1940’s are equal or better than most of the modern stock automobiles of today, which means that the young men of that era really knew how to develop horsepower. Chapter Six is named Street Rod of the ‘40’s and explains the terms used to customize and build up the stock cars of that time. Montgomery explains the terms; Carson tops, lowering, De Soto bumpers, fender skirts, ripple disc hubcaps and much more. Hot Rod Memories Relived Again is a delightful book and a must for any serious historian and lover of early hot rodding.
Gone Racin’ is at RNPARKS2@JUNO.COM.