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MuscleCars and Hotrods are made for cruises

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Hotrod History shows Muscle Cars and drag racing influenced the building of these custom high-performance cars.

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A lot has been written about the origins of the hot rod and the development of the culture that gave rise to those craving more then a ride to the grocery store from the automobile. At the end of WWII, a legion of young men returned to America with cash in their pockets and a sense of freedom and excitement bred by their experiences in the war. With a period of peace and the steadily increasing prosperity of the country as a backdrop, these young men had a "can-do" attitude and a desire to express themselves in ways that their time in the military had stifled. And, all of a sudden, there were a lot of inexpensive used cars available.

For years Detroit had basically been in the business of supplying the military and now all that production capacity was turned to creating a stream of new cars to satisfy the pent-up demand of a civilian population that had scrimped and saved throughout the Great Depression of the 1930s and the sacrifices of the war years. Men who'd stayed behind to work in America's offices and factories had a lot of savings and they were ready to ditch their aging cars from the 1920s and 1930s for gleaming new models offered by the Big Three. Their cheap trade-ins became the starting point of the hot rodders, and came to define the way they were rebuilt, how they looked, and above all they performed.

These factors dictated the classic American hot rod. It was the later Model Ts and the plentiful early-30s Fords and Chevys that became the raw material for the young men, who created hot rod souped up engines and hot rodding culture. The basic performance and engineering elements of the hotrod came together in these cars: More power, less weight and a look derived from these things leading to chopped tops, channeled bodies, pinched frames, dropped axles and, eventually wide slick tires, huge block Musclecar engines, blowers and fuzzy dice dangling from rearview mirrors .

Southern California became the seed-bed for so much cultural change in the second half of the twentieth century. Part of it was Hollywood, part simply that the western part of the country had reached a critical mass of prosperity and population sufficient to establish itself as a new center of culture distinct from the old center in the northeast. But a few factors made southern California the right place for the birth of hot rodding. One was the climate: with year-round perfect temperature and little rainfall, young men of little means could work outside on cars that had few creature comforts themselves. More important, Los Angeles was the first city truly shaped from its beginnings by the automobile: There were more roads, and new ones there. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, was "the lakes," the dry lake beds just east of L.A. that became a magnet for the chopped and stripped-down speed machines. Here the hot rodders found miles and miles of hard, glass-flat surface upon which to run their machines.

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Today the Hotrod culture lives on with Dads, Grand-Days passing on their custom rods to a new generation all seeking the annual Classic car cruises. Click here to view a complete nationwide calendar of Hotrod and Muscle Car cruises and show events.

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1938 Buick roadster convertible

Taking many rodders by surprise is the street rod potential which all early model Buicks have for the chopshop set. The 1937 and 1938 Buicks are high on the list of many collectors. In addition, Buicks rightfully possessed the reputation for being the fastest cars on the road during the 1940's. The overlooked Buicks are also credited with being among the first to introduce the pillarless hardtop in 1949. This of course is the most sought-after body style for the street machine set of custom Hotrodders.

1937 and 1938 were to Buick what 1932 was to Ford. These two years are often considered Buick's best by restorers and rodders alike. Clamshell fenders had more to them at the rear of the wheels, as they sloped down, gracefully rounding off and dropping to the running boards. Headlights nestled between the fenders and hood while the grille angle and curve to the bars gave Buick a high priced look. Chrome vents ran down the hood side and bumpers have a rib in their center, running horizontally. All convertible tops folded down into the package tray, eliminating the cluttery look which soft tops had been noted for. Despite this, open cars were meeting their demise as three and five window coupes were increasing in popularity. Front and rear stabilizer bars were incorporated into the 1937 suspension system, but that's not all. The following year coils replaced the leafs in the rear as styling became even sharper. The 1938 Buick does resemble the previous year's styling. The change was in the reduction of the number of grille bars, therefore they are spaced farther apart. Dynaflash Eights supplied the go for the amazingly fast Buicks, the most powerful of which was the 248 cubic inch block, cranking out 141 horses at 3,600 rpms. This high output engine was available in the Century, Roadmaster, and Limited models. The Special had to make do with a 107 bhp version of the 248 engine. 168,689 Buicks were produced in 1938, carrying tags anywhere from $1,200 to $2,400.

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1953 Buick Skylark convertible

The man of the 50's sought some extra speed in his life outside those prim and proper home. The second car became a buick roadster for these folks. Even with their watermelon appearance they are surprisingly fast haulers. They became even faster when Buick celebrated their 50th year in 1953 with the new overhead valve V-8s, in two versions no less! These engines were capable of producing 188 horsepower at 3,000 rpms from a 322 cubic inch block, fed by four barrel carburation. These engines also had the highest compression in all of Detroit with an 8.5:1 ratio. Style remained the same, with the exception of cluttered headlight shrouds and new taillight configuration. To really celebrate their golden anniversary Buick introduced America's first family-sized sporty car, the Skylark. Built in convertible form only, they had a short run of 1,690 for 1953, selling at a flat $5000. The Skylarks resembled the other Buicks of the same vintage, yet their soft tops, wire wheels and fully radiused rear wheel wells were all that was needed to set them apart. In 1962 there was Buick's new 198 cubic inch V-6 and the following year there was the luxurious sporty Riviera. 1965 saw the debut of the Skylark Gran Sport, Buick's muscle car, and the rest is the legacy Buick gave to the auto industry.

Click here for the Official Woodward Ave Dream Cruise event site

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FAQ #1 What is the WDC? The Woodward Dream Cruise (WDC) is the grass roots phenomenon that has grown into the world's largest one-day automotive event. On the third Saturday in August, it attracts more than 1.5 million people and 40,000 muscle cars, street rods, custom, collector and special interest vehicles. The cars cruise a legendary 16-mile strip called Woodward Avenue in one glorious, celebratory, homage to America's love affair with the automobile. Spectators line the streets and many family-oriented amusements and attractions provide entertainment and excitement. This year marks the 10th anniversary of this event. It takes places in the nine cities that line Woodward Avenue in suburban Detroit, Michigan. for more info Hot rod were first build by young men seeking more from their used car purchases then just transportation. In S. California a hot rod car culture started after WWII where chopping, big engines,wide slicks and horsepower transformed the old cars into a young mans expression of automotive art.

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