Hot rodding in the United States has long been synonymous with California and the West Coast, with hot rods from this region famously being streamlined, fenderless, and flashy. Much attention was paid to these hot rods and the culture as well, chiefly because they could be readily found in major magazine writers’ and photographers’ own region of southern California, leaving little need to look to other regions for feature hot rods. However, while the spotlight shined brightly on this “SoCal” culture, lost in the shadow was New England’s own deep-rooted and influential hot rod culture. Based off traditional East Coast styled hot rods, typically unchopped and channeled late 1920s to early 1930s Fords, New England hot rods were built with blue-collar ingenuity and heavily modified to make them standout and be completely unique from the rest of the country. Quietly, New England became a hot rodding epicenter. These hot rods could hold their own against the best from the West. They were notably more versatile than those built in the best California shops, making them Leaders of the Pack from the East Coast during the East vs. West hot rod era.
Throughout the country, hot rods from New England were known as “The Beasts of the Northeast,” which was fitting for their owners, as some New Englanders believed their hot rods did not need to be pretty, they just needed to be powerful and function well. In New England, hot rodding was more than just going fast in a straight line; their hot rods also needed to go from performing on a cornered track to cruising and styling down main streets. Lighter means in the Northeast meant New Englanders hand-built their cars in their own garages rather than employing services of speed shops. Inspired by the beautiful builds that graced the covers of Hot Rod Magazine, New Englanders did their best to incorporate their own similar designs into their hot rods by hand making parts and taking pieces from other vehicles, even going as far as using coat hangers as welding rods. Grille swaps, custom hoods and bumpers, bicycle fenders, chopped tops, and a focus on low-slung aerodynamics, were among the many traits that made New England hot rods stand out from the rest of the pack.
Thanks in part to this spirit, creativity and imagination, hot rodding is arguably the earliest form of individual artistic expression in motoring. This exhibit, “Lookin’ East,” will not only feature hot rods that have been created in the spirit of early New England hot rodding, but will also highlight the little-known role that New England hot rodding culture had on the rest of the country.
EXHIBIT OPENING RECEPTION
Thursday, May 10, 2018
$25, Members | $35, Non-Members