It was the end. The end of WWII, the end of an epic world battle of blood, industrial machines, guts, heroism, and war torn casualties. Tens of thousands of young American men from the corn fields of Kansas, alleys of New York City, orange groves of Los Angeles, and beaches of San Diego drafted and volunteered to serve our country in defending our rights, liberties, and way of life. One of the byproducts of modern mechanized warfare was the mass use of machinery ranging from complex electronic radar systems, to engines and drive trains found in tanks, jeeps, motorcycles, submarines, and battle ships.  A whole generation of young men were trained by our U.S. Government in the use of oxy acetylene torch welding, wrenches, drills, presses, and how to service and break down engines from top to bottom.  Carburetor tuning was often directly correlated to a matter of life and death, survival or extinction, and victory or defeat.  Standard ’book’ ability and knowledge is only useful to a certain point becoming back ground text to the art of improvised field repairs. Repairs in the moment and out of necessity which when executed properly turn the seemingly impossible into the possible, a stop into a go, the broken into the functional, and the lost into the found.  Functioning and high performance equipment did not directly equate to survival but rather raised the odds of survival in a gruesome landscape of death, destruction, and mayhem.  The fragility of life and the seemingly nonsensical randomness of who survived and who did not were a part of the time. Everything including human life was used to its maximum and expected to perform at full throttle and beyond what was thought possible. And then it was over.
        As these newly minted young Americans with their wartime experiences and skills returned home there was a type of mechanical enlightenment which gave genesis to what we know as hot rods and hot rodding.  Dreams could be forged into reality by skillfulness, ingenuity, and resourcefulness. It was possible to build a car or a motorcycle that was better performing, lighter, cooler, faster and cheaper than anything on the shiny new dealership show room floors.   Hot Rods and hot rodding became a reality and a movement with a style, lingo, and social interactions all of all of its own. Ford model A’s (1928-1931) and T’s where plentiful, and better yet the 1932 Ford V8, and 1933-34 Fords were perfect canvases to have their fenders stripped, tops chopped, bodies channeled and engines souped up in the quest for better performance and style.  
        This story is more than just the history of a car type or a trend, it is personal. It is the story of many of our fathers,  grandfathers, and now our next generations’ great grandfathers. My grandfather, Victor ‘Vic’  Miller, was one of these WWII youths from English, German, Italian, and Scottish decent, a true cross mix of America, and the son of a widowed minister’s wife with ancestors fighting  in The Revolutionary War, and The Civil War.  The ‘post war’ story is about how my grandfather and his generation lived their lives and what they did with what was available to them. On any given Sunday with a plain white t-shirt, a wrench in his hand, and grease under his finger nails he worked under the hood of his car. Seeing him in the driveway or on his back under jack stands it would be almost impossible to guess Vic worked his way up from nothing to be the head of a WWII air field and graduate of Cambridge University.  His traits were the best of American traits; friendly, calm, straight forward, hard working, and honest with the only air being that of a simple Hemingway-esque clarity.  My grandfather Vic and his generations greatness was  in the back ground as the their children, the 60’s generation, the generation of social change, sex, drugs, and divorce took the headlines and altered many values for the better and some for the worse.  In recent times there has been a re-embrace of many of the good parts of our grandparents’ values, work attitudes, and styles. The allure of restoring and building period correct automobiles and motorcycles lies in capturing the best parts of the past and bringing them back and alive into the present moment and time.  For some it can be akin to a kind of zany war reenactment dress up, and for others of us who maintain vintage automobiles and motorcycles it is a part of our everyday routine and regular life.  Working on, appreciating, and restoring vintage machines gives us a type of serenity and a throw back to the calm straightforward hard working past of our grandparents generation where it either works or it doesn’t work.  The American hot rod mirrors the background of our country which is made up of a patch work of different years, styles, and makes and through thoughtfulness, skill, and innovation turn into something greater and more glorious as a working whole. When built properly these early machines are fast, sometimes dangerous, and just awesome and fun.

I’m not going to get into all the things that went wrong with TROG or The Race of Gentleman 2016 event held at Pismo Beach, CA because there were plenty of them.  The event at its best was an opportunity to celebrate a certain narrow slice of traditional themed American automobiles and motorcycles ‘post war’ to pre early 1950’s style, and an opportunity to pay tribute to a moment in time for a generation who started it, as well as making new memories for our generation. It is important to note most of the ‘traditional’ hot rod and motorcycle culture many of us love would most defiantly include panheads, whitewalls, and monster art which came a few years after the era TROG attempts to capture.  I guess TROG proves sometimes dredging up the past can be kind of good in some ways and not in others.


                                                                                     -MWM





 


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