The rise in American car culture gives way to popular hot rod culture in the 1950’s.
Automobile ownership boomed in the 1950’s which created a car culture. Americans became enamored with automobile travel and as people moved to the suburbs more cars were needed for commuters. Due to the fascination with cars, there became a mainstream popularization of hot rod culture in the 1950’s.
Hot rods had been around for a while but the term was coined in the 1940’s. But even since the Depression, young men had been modifying cars and tinkering with the engines, learning about the new piece of machinery. It is generally agreed that hot rodding began in Southern California, where men would race their customized cars in dry lakes and desert salt flats. Early hot rods were mostly built from the Ford Model T, which was inexpensive and widely available. When World War II started many men were shipped overseas and their hot rods sat on blocks, the popularity died. But soldiers at war exchanged stories and bragged about their hot rods back home. When the war was over the craze began anew and spread across the country as so many young men had learned about hot rods.
The hot rod culture in the 1950’s grew, helped by the National Hot Rod Association which was started in 1951. The NHRA worked to create a better image for hot rodding, taking it from secret races to organized events with the cooperation of local police. Along with hot rods, custom cars and street rods became very popular as young men with spare money and knowledge of mechanics turned cars into racing machines and stylish rides. By the mid-1950’s hot rod and customized car competitions were extremely popular and the fad reached its height. But shortly after this hot rod activities started to lose popularity and by the 1960’s muscle cars were all the rage.