When there were far fewer people around, far fewer laws and regulations, when the legal speed limit was 75 mph, when gas was cheap, when driving was a pleasure, if you owned a hot machine you could point the grill down an empty road and go!

Overtures to Motion

In this collection of 46 essays, many of which were previously published in Old Cars Weekly and Goodguys Gazette, Drake examines a boy's desire to be mobile. He takes the two great themes of the 20th Century, motion and competition, motivation of the great builders of the Industrial Age, and brings it to a personal level. These essays, some memoir, some lyrical, start with the chemicals that imprinted brains -- gasoline, hydraulic brake fluid, exhaust -- and caused young men to wrap their lives around machines as surely as any drug. Next comes the Wheel: the baby carriage, the scooter, the sidewalk flyer. Before there was power there was gravity and the soap box racer, when every driver had to reinvent the Wheel. And of course, a moment that looms large for every rider: that first bicycle.

There are essays analyzing reading material: anthropomorphic fables, the Motor Boys books, the comic strips, True Magazine, wartime reading fare. Some define a time period: buying a squirrel knob, painting tires white, overhauling an engine in the driveway on a weekend in order to get to work on Monday, painting a car with a brush. Some are unsentimentally frank: a boy and his father getting a 1934 Terraplane home on a winter night, the father who refuses a gift, the boy riding home on a runningboard, the group of naked high school boys who discuss the merits of new cars after a shower in the locker room.

Some highlighted historical moments: a piece on a new 1941 DeSoto and a 1942 Mercury, the problem of rationing gasoline and rubber, the use of old cars as bomb shelters in case of an atomic bomb attack. Among the memoirs are essays about a family camping in 1937, traveling to North Dakota in a 1935 Packard and to California in a new 1941 Chevrolet; it is not possible to separate the machine from family history or even global events. An essay on the Fisher Body Craftsman Guild Competition, where boys were asked to build models for a scholarship, brought reality to dreams.

130 pages, 10 x 7 x 0.3 inches, perfect-bound (April, 2011)
Stone Press; ISBN: 0-936892-20-X; Signed copy...

Or, order from Amazon.

Northwest Rods Magazine

A number of people have inquired about a rodding magazine that was published in Portland, Oregon in the late 'Fifties. It was a "little" magazine with a short life. Only four issues were published; the first two were called Northwest Rods while the last two were called Northwest Rods and Sports Cars. The dominant word in both titles was "rods". The magazine published features on motorcycles, dragsters, sprint cars, customs, etc., so I assume that the change in titles was not simply to identify any shift in content but to attract a larger audience. The magazine was published from October, 1957 until April, 1958, a period when the interest in sports. cars sky rocketed. But that was also true of custom cars and car shows.

The magazine was the creation of Peter Sukalac, who contributed photos, stories, elbow grease and money. Sukalac was a photographer and journalist who contributed hundreds of articles to automotive magazines between 1954 and 1980. His work put Oregon on the map in the hot rod world. He understood design and workmanship, and the examples in Northwest Rods are quality machines. His publication is much closer to the small size Hop Up or Rod and Custom than to the East coast small mags in layout and editorial matters.

There was a large audience for this regional magazine, and it should have continued. It didn't fail, it ceased publication, and the reasons were complicated. Although Sukalac died in 2002, there's an article on his magazine in my book, Fifties Flashback, and an interview with Sukalac, perhaps the only interview he granted, in my book Hot Rodder.

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Squirrel Knobs

We used to call these Squirrel Knobs, Suicide Knobs, or Necker Knobs. I have an essay about them in my new work-in-progress "Overtures to Motion." They were a cheap and easy way to add style to your car.

Zocchi’s 1939 Dodge Coupe

I took this photo of Richard Zocchi’s 1939 Dodge coupe when it was in the 1992 Oakland Roadster Show. Who could of thought that a ’39 Dodge could be so beautiful? The top has been chopped, the car lowered front and rear; the grille is from a 1940 LaSalle and the headlights are 1958 Lincoln. The car is so smooth: no louvers, no spot lights, no striping, no flames.
Copyright 2010, Albert Drake and Flat Out Press.