One of the best parts of putting together The Rodder’s Journal each quarter is sifting through scrapbooks from days gone by. There are some books that are loaded with information outlining all the specifics—the who, what, when and where. And then there are others where the stories seem to be lost to time.
The photos you see here most certainly fall in the latter category, and in some ways, we find them to be even more intriguing. The following images come from a larger collection of black and white photos that were stuck into a faux leather book marked “PHOTOGRAPHS” years ago. After studying the cars and the backdrops, we believe this particular scrapbook came from Northern California.
We picked a few favorites from the mid-’50s to early-’60s to share with you here today. If you’re able to identify any of the cars or people in the photos, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Homebrew was the name of the game for this early-’50s hot rodder. With its dual-carb flathead, custom windshield and what we believe is a DeSoto grille, his ’34 Ford roadster was really a standout compared to the stockers that surrounded it. Looking at the hilly terrain and buildings in the background, we believe this photo was shot in San Francisco.
The Tom Cobbs roadster—sporting its removable hardtop—storms off the line against an unidentified A-V8 coupe at an early drag race at what we believe to be Goleta. Note the drastically lowered profile and 3-71-blown flathead beneath the hood bubble. Decades after this photo was taken, the late Ralph Whitworth acquired the car from Cobbs’ family.
We’re not sure whom any of these four are, but we do know that they’ve arrived at hot rodders’ Mecca—the Bonneville Salt Flats. We like how the Utah State Road Commission invites motorists to “Try this course in dry weather.”
Perhaps another one from San Francisco, this time it’s a ’39 Ford DeLuxe convertible outfitted with aftermarket sealed-beam headlights. Although we can’t speak for what’s under the hood, the car looks unassuming from the outside. Judging by the grin on the young fella’s face, that’s all a-okay with him.
There was a brief period where streamlining was in vogue out on the dragstrip, and Hank Vincent’s “Top Banana” was one of the sleeker examples. A hard runner in both B/ and C/Fuel Dragster, the slingshot was destroyed in a crash at Fremont Drag Strip in the spring of 1960, which sadly killed Hank Vincent.
The Bay Area team of Walt and Jesse Schrank campaigned this DeSoto-powered slingshot in the early-’60s. On a trip south sponsored by Al Gonzales of Algon Injectors, they set the Standard 1320 top speed record for B/Fuel Dragster at Lions with an 183.28mph blast. Check out the ultra-narrow Chassis Research frame and equally slim fuel tank.