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A Hot Rod Dictionary is Born

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

A Hot Rod Dictionary is Born

Hot Rods and Racing Cars #10
June 1953


"When I was a youngster," reflected Mr. William Anderson rather wistfully, "I wanted to be a railroad engineer. With the other kids in the neighborhood we would go down to the freight yards. And the greatest event was to sit in the cab of the yard engine with old Pete. Once he even let me put my hand on the throttle. But this generation is entirely different from mine. Not only do they dream but they have enough guts to put their dreams into action and turn them into reality. When Frank wanted to form a Hot Rod Club in this town, I was really skeptical. But now they rebuild cars and do wonders. Ah, to be young again!"

"While you decide whether or not you want to be twenty or fifty," snapped back Mrs. Anderson, "I have got a tough problem for you to solve. The refrigerator has been raided again. Half of that spring chicken is missing. And so is a portion of mince pie. Are you guilty?"

There was a hurt look on Mr. Anderson's face and his wife at once realized her hubby was completely innocent. That meant the culprit had to be Frank.

"Guess our son takes a bite down to the warehouse when he works on his car. Wish he would ask me first. Sort of upsets my plans for tomorrow's meal."

Mr. Herbert Levin, of the Carl Levin Transportation Company, permitted the Hot Rod Club of Hightstown to use his old freight warehouse as their meeting place and garage for their cars. Just now, Frank Anderson was studying the masterpiece produced by Slim Stevens.

"She was born a '34 Ford," explained Slim for the log, "and it has been chopped 4 inches, channeled 5½ inches, with a '48 Mercury engine; 4:11 rear end; '41 Ford hydraulics; 600 x 16 rear tires; chrome front fenders; and '30 Cadillac spare tire covers cut to fit. Nice job."

"Then permit me to utter additional words of praise," added the voice of Pop Benigan. "I shall put everything down in the log and be a good secretary at tonight's meeting."

It seemed that one evening, from nowhere, a figure in overalls had appeared at the old freight warehouse. The man's age was indeterminate. His hair was graying and he had a short beard. He made a bargain with the boys.

"I'll watch this place while you are away. Take down your records for you. Help you in your rebuilding jobs. All I want is a place to sleep and some food."

So the boys "hired" Pop. It was agreed that each member of the Hot Rod Club would take turns in raiding the kitchen and that was the great puzzle facing the mothers of Hightstown. How and when did food vanish from kitchens, refrigerators, and freezers?

The meeting of the Hot Rod Club was called to order and the boys gave their various reports.

"About that Jowett Jupiter sports car," began Teddy Cave. "I find that it made its first appearance in the spring of 1950 at the British Automobile Show held in Grand Central Palace, New York. Here are the statistics on her: Wheelbase 93 inches; track front —51 inches; rear —49 inches; tires —5.50 x 16; weight —2100 pounds; turning circle —31 feet; capacity —1486cc.; compression —8.1; and performance —0 to 60, 16.5 seconds. It will hold the roads at 80 mph like running on rails. My uncle is thinking of buying one as soon as he gets his hands on some cold cash."

"Yesterday I went over to pay a visit to the Hot Rod Club of Center Moriches," said Tony Argonto. "Jerry Lurie bought one of those plastic body kits. I know you fellows want the low down on it. In terms of weight, the sports car that Jerry built weighs 1050 pounds. That makes it 400 pounds less than the Crosley station wagon from which it was built. With lowered chassis, the car stands 31 inches high at cowl. Plywood panels were installed as flooring. Then molded-plastic wheel housings were bolted to the trunk-compartment floor. The radiator was lowered six inches and was bolted with a strap-iron bracket welded to the new body-support bracket. The engine, transmission and axles were left in their original position. Jerry deserves credit for the neat job he has turned out."

"I got the final report for this evening," said David Dolmetch. "I contacted the other five Hot Rod Clubs in this county about the words for the Hot Rod Dictionary. BALDY: A tire from which the treads have worn away, leaving the carcass as smooth as a hairless man's head. CHANNEL: To modify the body so that it can be dropped below the frame. DOG CLUTCH: A positive clutch that is either fully engaged or completely disengaged. It cannot slip. It is used only in racing. FRENCHING: A form of molding by which headlamp rims are smoothed into the fender line. The rims are usually eliminated. Next week I'll have more from the different clubs. Good idea that we have uniformity in our terms."

Frank Anderson closed the meeting and then announced that the arrangements had been made for the dragmeet to be held on Saturday on field seven of the airport.

"I think we fellows owe Pop a lot. So I'm going to let him race in my car at the meet. Just to see how he makes out. And now if you fellows don't mind, the meeting is over. Anyone who wants to work on his car can stay for an extra hour. My girl is waiting for me outside and she says it is important.

Ethel McCaffrey wasn't the kind of a girl to conceal her feelings. One look at her face as Frank drove his car along the highway told him something was wrong. He stopped when they came to Point Lookout, which was the highest point on the road.

"Something is bothering you Ethel and I know it. You sounded awful mysterious over the phone. If you areas because I want to stick to automotives as a future, there is little I can do about it."

"When a girl loves a fellow," replied Ethel, "she makes up her mind that what makes him happy will make her happy. You may not make that million in cars, but then I'll be an economical housewife."

When a girl makes a statement like that there is only one sensible thing to do. And Frank did it. He kissed Ethel and forgot that the rest of the world existed. However, minutes later, Ethel opened up her purse and handed her boy friend a picture.

"I went to the Post Office yesterday to mail a package to my Aunt Miriam in Chicago," she explained. "I saw this 'wanted' notice and asked if I might have it. Look carefully at the picture of the man on it. Doesn't he look just like Pop Benigan? And he's wanted for burglary, counterfeiting, kidnapping and murder. What do we do?"

Frank took the notice from Ethel and studied it carefully. He couldn't believe what his eyes told him was true.

"Could be that there are two people who look alike. I guess we'll have to play safe and notify the Chief of Police. But I think we should let Pop race my car."

Field seven of the airport was crowded. There had been a rumor in the air that something unusual was going to happen. Chief of Police John Rutherford was there with about a dozen of his men and several patrol cars were on the highway.

"I've had my eye on him since the day he landed in this town," was what the police official told Frank. "Thanks a lot for notifying me. You're a good citizen."

The boys raced their cars and there was excitement when Pop raced in Frank's car. He handled it like an expert. When the meet was all over, the members of the Hot Rod Club lined up against the administration building. Chief of Police John Rutherford escorted Pop over to Frank and Ethel.

"He has to return," said the police official "and there is something you both should know. After all, he is my own brother-in-law and I am responsible for his safety. Meet Professor Walter Benigan, head of the State Automotive Research Bureau and dean of the newly founded School of Automotive Work at the State University. He has something to say to you."

"I was working on a project of writing a Dictionary of hot rod terms," explained the man once known as Pop. "And you boys certainly helped me get the material for it. Frank, you can come to the university on a scholarship and continue your work on Hot Rods." And then he looked at the girl holding Frank's hand.

"I'm certain we can find a job for little Ethel either in the library or as my assistant so that you two can be together. But stay out of Post Offices. Do I really look like Horace Russel, the man on that picture?"

And at that moment, there wasn't the slightest resemblance. But then who cared? Everyone was happy.

The End

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