The Hey Day of Hot Rods

Nearly 150 hot rods and muscle cars cruised into the museum on Saturday, April 5, to launch Hot Rods: Wheels in Fields. More than 1,200 guests marveled at the new exhibits created by So-Cal Speed Shop of Sacramento, as well as Gus Gustafson, Rich Cleland, Bruce Woodward, Joe Heidrick, the Tuesday Volunteer Crew, and our dedicated staff and volunteers.  So-Cal Speed Shop of Sacramento engineered a historical replica of a garage and air tower like those found on rural properties during the 1930s and 1940s where amateur mechanics created hot rods. These high-performance customized cars reflect the qualities of innovation, resourcefulness, and independence we associate with the culture of agriculture. 

New cars were too expensive for many people during the Great Depression, so young car enthusiasts refurbished old cars rescued from junk yards, often swapping out engines, transmissions, and other components.  Innovations led to distinctive cars with more powerful engines and other improvements. 

Hot-rodding stalled with the outbreak of World War II, however, when many young men were drafted into the armed forces.  Gasoline was rationed and auto and tractor manufacturers turned from making peacetime vehicles to assembling tanks and warplanes. 

By 1946, decommissioned young men coming back from overseas brought the mechanical skills they had gained during the war, and returned to souping up cars in abandoned hangers.  Roadsters were all the rage, and by the late 1940s hot rods were popular.  1946-1949 is now considered the hey day of hot rods. 

See magnificent examples of this legacy at the Hot Rods: Wheels in Fields exhibit in the Heidrick Ag History Center. The East Wing is open to tours only so be sure to call in advance.  Watch for more surprises at the Heidrick Ag History Center!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *