Book review by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz
One of Don Montgomery’s earlier books is called Hot Rods As They Were, Another Blast from the Past. Don raced his cars at the dry lakes and on the early drag strips in Southern California and his love for hot rodding never waned. He developed friendships with other drag racers and hot rodders that gave him the ability to mine a great treasure trove of photographs and memories from his fellow racers. His reputation for quality books and honest writing opened doors for more stories and photo collections and Montgomery found it necessary to produce more books. We can only hope that hot rodders from that long ago era continue to provide Don with more stories and photos and encourage him to continue to write more of his excellent pictorials. Hot Rods As They Were, Another Blast from the Past is a hardbound book with 160 pages on high quality, glossy-waxed paper. The book measures 9 inches in width by 11 ¼ inches in height. The dust cover jacket is Montgomery’s standard red, white and black cover and enhances the style of the book. Always keep the dust cover jackets in good condition. Hot Rods As They Were, Another Blast from the Past was written, edited and published by Don Montgomery Press and the ISBN# is 0-9626454-1-9. The first printing was in 1989 and the demand for the book was so great that a second printing in 1990 was followed by a third printing in 1994. All 304 of the photographs in the book are in black and white and the quality is exceptional, considering their age. Montgomery provides a great deal of text to tell the story of hot rodding in the 1930’s and ‘40’s and beyond. His writing style is straightforward, crisp and informative. To find this book call Autobooks/Aerobooks at 818-845-0707, the gift shop at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum at 909-622-2133, or the author.
Hot Rods As They Were, Another Blast from the Past is dedicated to the hot rodders of the past and the street rodders of today. The book contains an introduction by the author, an acknowledgment, eight chapters and a section on the author. It lacks a bibliography and an index. Many writers of hot rod books decide not to include an index of names in the mistaken view that pictorial coffee table books are meant to be looked at and not studied. Over time, these books become extraordinarily valuable as historical texts and the lack of an index truly harms their worth. Indexes are purely clerical functions and the time it takes to create them are well worth the effort. Montgomery makes an effort to separate his many books by giving them different titles and emphasis, but it is almost an impossibility. Each book covers basically the same topics as he uncovers new photos and interviews new sources from those by-gone years. This is perfectly fine, as the more that Montgomery finds, the more history he saves. While each of his books cover the same subject, they are all capable of standing alone as a separate history. The list of contributors to Hot Rods As They Were, Another Blast from the Past is impressive. Some of the better known hot rodders and racers are; Dean Batchelor, Don Blair, Jack Calori, Chic Cannon, Norm Grant, Holly Hedrich, Creighton Hunter, Kong Jackson, Dave Marquez, Roland Mays, Frank Morimoto, Bill Phy, Bob Pierson, Jack Plymell, John Riley, Bud Van Maanen, Alex Xydias and Don Zabel. Many other noted hot rodders also contributed photos or stories to this book. Many of these contributors have since passed on and the record of their deeds in hot rodding may only exist in these pages.
Chapter one is called Hot Rods and discusses the term and where it originated. Many hot rods were called Gows or Gow Jobs. Another term used was ‘hopping-up’ one’s car. A hot rod was a stock car that was customized and altered and the powerplant enhanced for greater performance. Chapter two is named Engines and goes into all the different types of equipment and engines used by the early hot rodders. The most common powerplant used by hot rodders was the Ford Model T 177 c.i. engine. Parts makers included Cragar, Winfield, Riley, McDowell and many others. Gradually the V-8 engines began to show their dominance. Chapter three is titled Roadsters and discusses how the stock coupes of the day were customized and altered to make lightweight, topless and fenderless roadsters that were sleek and fast. Roadsters were the models by which the generation of young people in the 1930’s and ‘40’s were known. Ignore the fact that roadsters provided no protection from rain, heat, cold or the elements. Roadsters were the in-thing of that day and age. Chapter four is entitled Coupes and Sedans. A reaction to the roadsters set in during the late ‘40’s as young hot rodders began to exert their individuality and hop-up coupes and sedans. At first the car clubs and organizations refused to allow coupes and sedans to participate. The Russetta Timing Association formed to let coupes and sedans race at their events. Gradually, a grudging acceptance of coupes and sedans broadened the views of what hot rodding was all about.
Chapter five is called Modifieds. Modified roadsters, sedans and coupes meant that they were not simply altered by removing parts or adding them, but totally customized by adding or subtracting length or moving parts around. Cars became narrower and longer as the stock bodies were made more streamlined and aerodynamic. Chapter six is named Streamliners. The ultimate design in modified cars were the streamliners. Unique in appearance and aerodynamic in shape, they riveted the hearts and minds of land speed racers. Low and sleek, some of the cars were built in bullet shapes and others kept a semblance of the roadster look, while other streamliners followed a sports car flattened appearance. Chapter seven is titled Track Roadsters and discusses the hot rods that were involved in oval track racing. It wasn’t unusual at all for young people to adapt their cars to go to the dry lakes to race, then return home and compete in a race at the local oval racetrack. Specialization in racing was not as common in the 1930’s and ‘40’s as it is today. Hot rodders participated in all times of activities. Chapter eight is called The Early Drag Racers and tells about the beginnings of a new sport that would alter and modify hot rods beyond anything ever conceived before. Montgomery ends his book with a short autobiography of his life and why he chose to write his series of books on hot rodding. Hot Rods As They Were, Another Blast from the Past is a great addition to your library as a history, pictorial and coffee table book.
Gone Racin’ is at RNPARKS2@JUNO.COM.