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Forgotten History

Originally on Whistlin' Jack Smith 2013


You ready for a shock, Hot Rod racing is hitting a major landmark and nobody knows about or perhaps cares. Hot Rod racing is closing in on its 50th year anniversary and the promoters have made no effort to highlight this occasion. I realised last year how this date was approaching and I thought that the promoters were keeping it close to their chests to release something exciting – I feel so silly for having hope.

Original Hot Rod

In 2004 F1 Stock Cars was the same age, Brisca didn’t just have a one-off meeting that coincided with the date but a whole year – they attempted to race at the original tracks which saw the big cars even returned to Great Yarmouth. Hot Rods got in on the act with the George Polley v Barry Lee show which later morphed into the Classic Hot Rods we have today. It was a huge effort by the organisers of the sport and all the promoters of the tracks – Hot Rods have the opportunity to do the same or do better yet they’ve dropped the ball or perhaps the ball wasn’t even brought to the pitch. The nearest event is the Hednesford 50th anniversary but this doesn’t match the important dates or formulas.

It is the clear the start of Hot Rod racing and the man who had the vision – Bill Morris. When Stock Car racing came to the UK it was different to the American version which is non-contact. Bill wanted a scaled down version of Daytona where the racing was more similar to our U.S counterparts. Hednesford Hills was the chosen destination for Bill’s dream and racing for Stock Cars began in 1962 before the original Hot Rod class begin Easter Monday 1963. The actual date was the 15th April, an important day in history even stepping away from the ovals– Abraham Lincoln died after being shot, the Titanic sunk, the Hillsborough Football disaster and it’s my mother’s birthday.

The original Hot Rods had a similar look to the Stock Cars (i.e. having their wings removed) but the all important element of ‘contact’ was not allowed. Over time the Hednesford track changed and Hot Rods become quicker evolving into what we have today. What hasn’t changed is the 15th April 1963 is the most important day in the sport of Hot Rod racing – the introduction of the Vauxhall 16 valve engine, converting to rear wheel drive, the World Final, using a Toyota Starlet do not come close to the birth of a sport.

I briefly alluded to the Hednesford anniversary meeting earlier which doesn’t actually appear on the correct time or with the correct formulas. Bangers – I’ve not a problem with the class and I enjoying watching them (the time clearing them up is an issue though) but I think that sport started in the late 1960’s – they are not ready for a 50th anniversary meeting (I’m ready to be disproved as my Banger history is not that good). If this meeting was put together to signify the 50th anniversary of Hednesford I think its 13 months too late.

Where now? To be honest I’m not sure if the likes Spedeworth, Incarace, Autospeed, NHRPA, etc. actually care about running an event (the 15th is a Monday but not a bank holiday by the way). Is it significant to them that the Earth has rotated exactly 50 years around the sun and is now back in the same place it started on the 15th April 2013 or do they think that 18,293 days of a sport doesn’t have the alluring presence that will force the public to spend money and watch hot rod racing.

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