Hot Rodding: The British Way
Americana and British hot rodding heritage come together on the sands of Pendine
The hot rod story. So it goes. Dry lake beds. Endless deserts. Hopped up Southern California jalopies. Timing associations. Engineer boots, pocket tees, chinos and heavy selvedge. A miasma of Americana.
All those GIs returned from the war with a few dollars in their pockets. And a whole bunch of hard-won mechanical nous and a penchant for thrill seeking accelerated it all. With the shortage of material that resulted from the armaments industry of the 1940s, kids were grabbing bits and pieces from scrap yards and in their back yards were strapping it all together, building it all up on a ladder-framed chassis and bolting a flathead V8 onto the whole issue.
Before anyone knew it a teen scene was developing, pre-dating Bill Hayley by a decade, shadowing the growing surf cult on the coast. A greasy-fingered, slick haired coterie of unruly young folk, looking louche in their service-issue schmutter was shutting down highways and dragging between the lights.
But what IS ironic is that the vast majority of the machines on the sand at Pendine take their lead from Americana. Because this beautiful strip of low-tide beach out where Camarthenshire meets Pembrokeshire has its own haloed history of speed. Yes, the British obsession with power speed and engineering, predated the 1940s American boom by decades.
As far back as 1924 Malcolm Campbell ran along Pendine sands at nearly 150MPH, setting a World Land Speed Record. That car was a 350HP Sunbeam. And hopped up, garage-tweaked vehicles that bore the labels of noble British brands like Frazer Nash were running outside of any conception of the law. Visitors to Pendine are making a pilgrimage to hallowed ground. This place saw the birth of the British Way of the hot rod.
Amongst the current booming and expanding UK vintage hot rod scene, brought together so brilliantly at Pendine by the VHRA, there is an acknowledgment of the diverse firmament of influence that comes together on the sand. This is a creed bonded over the simple joy of mechanics and the camaraderie that comes with shared hours in winter garages – where grownups eschew comfort TV and social media feeds for a wholesome fettle.
This month we’ve had the privilege of meeting some of the people and admiring some of the machines that keep a greasy candle burning in the darkness – while the rest of the world manufactures machines as removed from the human as it is possible to imagine.
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