Authentic Hot Rods: the Real “Good Old Days” by Don Montgomery

Authentic Hot Rods: the Real “Good Old Days” by Don Montgomery
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Book Review by Richard Parks, Photographic Consultant Roger Rohrdanz

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Authentic Hot Rods, the Real Good Old Days is the fifth book in the series by noted hot rod writer Don Montgomery. The author has been compiling the history and heritage of hot rods for a lifetime. He has developed friendships with a wide selection of hot rodders and racers and these friends lend him priceless photos and memories. Montgomery’s books are well done, not fancy and priced reasonably. This is the best way for a fan of hot rods to get a captioned album of the best hot rods with a bit of text and history thrown in. Don does for hot rodders what Dick Wallen does for oval track racers, turn out pictorials and histories that record the rich story of their respective fields. Authentic Hot Rods, the Real Good Old Days is a hardbound red covered book, measuring 9 inches wide by 11 ½ inches in height. The book has 208 pages and all 501 photographs are in black and white. The book cover jacket is styled in the red, white and black color pattern that Montgomery favors. Keep the jacket because it really enhances the look of this book. There is quite a lot of story and text and the captions are excellent. Montgomery doesn’t waste time or space.

He puts all the important information that he has into the story without any further embellishments and his research and thoroughness are well known. Authentic Hot Rods, the Real Good Old Days is self-published by Don Montgomery and his books can be purchased through the author at 760-728-5557, or at Autobooks/Aerobooks at 818-845-0707. The ISBN# is 0-962-6454-4-3 in case you want to look it up. The author dedicates the book to all hot rodders, but it is we who should thank Don for his dedicated efforts to save our history. There is a two-page introduction and a one-page acknowledgment, followed by five chapters.

Montgomery doesn’t provide an index and this makes it harder to find a photo of your friends or family who may have raced at the dry lakes. Of course, his main audience are dry lakes racers and they will instantly recognize faces and cars from that the 1940’s. It does make it harder on the new fan of hot rodding and dry lakes racing, because they will have to painstakingly pour over each page and try and remember where it was that they saw something familiar. The acknowledgments tell us just where the author found his photographs and source material. Some of the men and one woman may not be as familiar to us, or might have simply been spectators at the events listed in Authentic Hot Rods, the Real Good Old Days. But others were part of the very movement of hot rodding and dry lakes racing and they have to be recognized. Veda Orr is the one woman listed and there is a generation of men who went away to war in the early 1940’s who will recognize her name and her importance. Veda Orr kept the racing newsletters flowing to our servicemen during World War II. She was also one of the few females who raced at the dry lakes in the 1930’s and then after the war ended. She was fast and the cars built by her husband Karl, set many records. Montgomery gives special credit to Bart Bartoni of Modesto, who provided pictures throughout California showing great hot rods. Ed Hagthrop is credited with providing pre-WWII photographs, which are rare and very valuable. The photographs are generally outstanding in clarity and quality, although a few are very old and taken under difficult conditions and can be forgiven the graininess. Overall, Montgomery has brought together a spectacular collection of photos and text that take us back to the heyday of dry lakes racing.

Others mentioned are Dean Batchelor, George Bentley, Chic Cannon, Art Chrisman, Don Ferrara, Blackie Gold, Norm Grant, Fred Hadley, Holly Hedrich, ‘Racecar’ Kenny Howard, Charles ‘Kong’ Jackson, Bob Pierson, John Riley, Doane Spencer, Bud Van Maanen, Ken Walkey, Gene Winfield and many, many more. The chapters are titled 1) Prewar Activities, 2) Postwar on the Streets, 3) Postwar Lakes Racing, 4) Early Fifties on the Streets, and Early Fifties Lakes Racing. The book ends with a short two-page history on the author. Montgomery has been around for some time and has raced against many of those listed in Authentic Hot Rods, the Real Good Old Days. Don raced on the dry lakes in the 1940’s, then went drag racing in the ‘50’s and back to street rodding in the 1970’s. He has never left the sport and his knowledge of these days is imperative to the success of his books. As important are the friendships he has made, which allows him to tap into a wealth of photo archives among his former racing buddies. There is a large volume of photographs representing the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA), which is the oldest and largest of the sanctioning dry lake groups. The book also has a good selection of Russetta Timing Association (RTA) photographs, which we don’t always see much of. The SCTA would allow only roadsters to race at their meets in the early years, while the RTA would accept coupes and motorcycles. The SCTA believed that cars had to be made aerodynamic and weight had to be removed. The RTA proved that full-fendered coupes could run times equal to the roadsters and eventually the SCTA accepted stock and altered cars into their organization. Montgomery provides a wide range of classic hot rods, including coupes, in Authentic Hot Rods, the Real Good Old Days. It’s a book that the serious hot rodder must have for his library.

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