If you’re reading this, I’m sure the name “Hot Rod” conjures up some sort of recollection or emotion. It’s all about feelings. I rarely remember or store memories that have no emotional impact on me. If it didn’t make me feel something, I rejected it.
Luckily for me, my initial “Hot Rod” recollections are filled with emotion. These recollections stem from my grandfather’s farm on our family’s property. I was the oldest of four children and spent most of my summers with him. We conducted chores, checked irrigation lines, kept the cattle in check, and played cards at the local German Club. It was a good time with an all-American. He was my hero from Korea.
The fleet of tractors and tow rigs we had taught me basic mechanical abilities. I learned how to take care of something that had to last. These gadgets had to work properly. To keep something running, you must serve it with good parts. This is where I think my love for mechanics began and never ended!
We drove FORDS on this farm! Some were even Fords. My grandmother adored Fords. From the very new 1958 Ford Sedan my grandfather purchased her, to the later model Supercharged Tbird, and the current Ford Escape. He bought a 1958 Ford sedan to take up my grandmother and my new baby Aunt! One of my favorite stories about him.
Ford has a unique heritage that has been passed down to me. My father still works on the family farm. Can you guess his favorite beater truck? Yes, an old Ford F150.
Some would say that because I largely worked on tractors as a kid, those aren’t Hot Rods. I’d be up for an argument on that. Especially when it’s the first four-wheeled machine I was allowed to drive alone at eight years old, and I can scream down a dirt road with abandon. It’s a Hot Rod! Although my parents could be prosecuted today for allowing an eight-year-old to run a tractor, something from my past impacted who I am now.
In their defense, I could only drive a quarter-mile to our cornfield’s first drive. At eight years old, 10-20 mph felt wonderful! The sound of the engine revving and the exhaust flapper flying up was enough for me, at least for a short time. The wind whipped over my hair and I couldn’t stop smiling, the go-fast bug had already entered my blood.
The reality would hit when I had to slow down and turn. It was work time! I’d do anything to finish the task and go back on the tractor. I just wanted to rip up more gravel. I lived for it. A car ride with Grandpa was the second best thing in my life.
I wouldn’t dare to speak about or even mention that story in public in my grandmother’s supercharged Tbird! My grandfather said that he would never buy ‘such and such’ brand tires again because they were so short-lived. HaHa! Car and life stories? I got them.
I could write a book about the machines I learned to drive and operate at a young age. I also heard many anecdotes about my grandfather and his life. My grandfather started a farm with nothing and it still exists today. Or that he had scores of War Medals for his accuracy.
But his most famous narrative shaped everything I feel makes a Hot Rod a Hot Rod. My grandfather bought a brand new 1949 pickup from the local Ford dealership. From that day until 1971, he worked hard on the farm with this truck. Do the math: 22 years of service.
The engine was a “powerful” 8BA Ford Flathead V8. My grandpa drove this 1949 Ford Truck for twenty-two years with regular maintenance and no issues. That’s no blow-by, overheating, or cylinder head concerns, and he didn’t even replace one He regularly replaced the oil and air filter. He worked hard, maintained it, and repeated it for almost two decades.
After all, my LS-powered 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ dropped a valve at under 100,000 miles and “loses” a quarter of an oil change! This Flathead narrative and a few specific Flathead-powered Hot Rods I encountered shaped my feelings about these motors and the term Hot Rod in general.
It only took hearing a significantly modded 8BA confirm my passion for these motors. This motor ripped, had cams, and loud pipes! That combination made me love the Flathead V8 even more. I’ll never forget that thrill and the sound of that machine revving.