So-Cal Speed Shop: The Fast Tale of the California Racers Who Made Hot Rod History By Mark Christensen

So-Cal Speed Shop: The Fast Tale of the California Racers Who Made Hot Rod History By Mark Christensen
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Book Review By Tom Henderson

February 2006

This is a great book about one of the founding fathers of the sport/hobby we call Hot Rods.

The ability of U.S. car enthusiasts to satisfy their need for speed changed dramatically in the late 1940s as car-crazy veterans returned home from World War II with formal mechanical training, courtesy of Uncle Sam. This is the story of how one such veteran, an ex-B-17 airman named Alex Xydias, established the SO-CAL Speed Shop and helped transform hot rodding from a scruffy, underground, outlaw sport into a defining part of postwar American culture.

This book starts out with a young Alex Xydias growing up in Hollywood, CA with a love of cars from a very young age. It continues on after WWII with the young vets that had learned to maintain and work on exotic war machines of the times. They returned to a much slower life style, much different than the life they became accustomed to during the War.  And after the War, Detroit was back in the car business, so  A’s and T’s were cheap and plentiful. Anytime there were two or more of these guys and their cars at any given location at the same time, the talk usually came around to whose car was the fastest.

Before the war, hot rodding could only boast a few highly skilled technicians--Vic Edelbrock, Eddie Meyer, Ed Winfield -the list got short after that. But war bred rapid progress, and Alex Xydias, like legions of other young Americans, was the beneficiary of a war effort that required highly sophisticated government education for the engineers and mechanics who would maintain the quickly evolving squadrons of fighter and bomber aircraft.

Alex in the Airforce was a B-17 Flight engineer & gunner, he was educated to hardware he could not have imagined before he enlisted. He was schooled in the operation of the highest quality tools.

On the street, it was the guys who could make their own speed equipment that had the fastest cars. These young speed demons would also make parts for their buddies.

Alex could see that a lot of other young men lusted after these parts, so he made a deal with the young Vic Edelbrock to buy his high compression heads at wholesale. This led him to Kong Jackson’s ignitions. The So-Cal Speed Shop was born !

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The first So-Cal Speed Shop. The three roadsters out front belonged to Bill Faris; Ray Charbonneau & Dean Batchelor

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Vic Edelbrock                                 Randy Shinn’s ‘27 T racing on dry lakes                   Typical Dry Lakes meet

 

All the young racers would meet at the dry-lakes and have at it.  So-Cal Speed Shop sold most of them parts.  So-Cal Speed Shop was instrumental in many of the record holders of the time, from Belly-Tankers, roadsters, streamliners and the very famous Double Threat Coupe.  It was one of the last Ford Flatheads to compete at the Drag Races and Bonneville under the So-Cal banner.

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The Streamliner                                                                                  Restored Belly Tank

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Double Threat Coupe                                                                                So-Cal Roadster

 

The remaining chapters are about the resurrection of the So-Cal Speed Shop and some of their new high tech cars. It was a remarkable transformation from those great old days of racing to the hobby we enjoy today !

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Modern rendition of Alex’s original belly tank                                 Mike Rinaaldi’s rendering of the new GM Ecotec Lakester

Anybody that talks about “Old-School Hot Rods”, must read this book. The pictures are worth the price alone. I loved this book. You can almost hear the nasty-crackle of a high compression Ford Flathead, a sound you will never forget. 

Tom Henderson Hotrodhotline.com

Exclusively from SO-CAL Pomona the SO-CAL Speed Shop book will be officially signed by Alex Xydias. Only available to be signed at www.so-calspeedshop.com.  Unsigned copies available at local book stores.

Be sure to get it before it's too late!!