This seemed like a good idea. At first. Then we got into the actual machinations of selecting 100 top cars that were worthy of HOT ROD’s 60th anniversary issue. We made list after list, anticipating every possible rant that could come from any direction. There would be no escaping a certain level of wrath, but in the end, we justified our actions by picking cars based on a very specific criterion. In a word: influence. The cars we chose had to make a difference to the gearhead hobby, the racing sport, or the people in them. They had to be trend starters or fad killers, landmarks of style, or shepherds of technology that put a bend in the road of hot rodding.
To narrow the scope, we also limited the picks to hot rods (a catchall that includes customs, race cars, and more) built in 1948 or later, the date that coincided with this magazine’s first issue. So there will be no early Henry Ford speedsters or the like, and just one very famous stock production car. That leaves out Hemi Super Stockers, Shelby Mustangs, and COPO Camaros. Get over it. You’ll also think of at least another 100 famous or popular cars that are not on the list-there’s nothing here from Tony Nancy, the Alexander Brothers, Dean Jeffries, Bill Cushenberry, or another several dozen builders on your mind. Why? Remember the dividing line: influence. We couldn’t name a car by any of those guys that changed the world more significantly than the 100 cars in these pages. For the same reason, don’t look for legendary rods as the Pierson coupe or the Niekamp roadster, because we couldn’t argue that they changed more lives than such clods as the General Lee, the Bandit Trans Am, or even the American Graffiti coupe. Fame trumps grace every time, and if fads had anything to do with style, then there’d be thousands of CadZZilla kits and just one Meyers Manx dune buggy.
Since we didn’t care to shoulder this responsibility alone, we called on some friends-though none can be blamed for our final selections or our ranking order. Pat Ganahl, former editor of HOT ROD, Street Rodder, Rod & Custom, and Rodder’s Journal, helped us with the significant rods and customs. Dave Wallace is a former staffer of Drag News and HOT ROD and editor of Petersen’s Drag Racing who enters the Drag Racing Hall of Fame at the Garlits Museum this year, and he helped with the top drag cars of the past 60 years. Our eldest staffer, Detroit Editor Bill McGuire, focused on the icons of his generation, while 40-somethings Kinnan and Freiburger meddled with the street-machine era. Once our list was compiled, we adjusted it based on comments from Pete Chapouris, Larry Erickson, and Dave Ross (Design Manager, GM Performance Division).
So it’s not a perfect list, but it’s pretty freakin’ close. Your flames will be given due attention if you send them to HOTROD@sourceinterlink.com. Meanwhile, enjoy HOT ROD’s 60th anniversary celebration of the 100 most influential cars of our time. -David Freiburger