REVISED AND EXPANDED—This great old promotional film from 1952 shows original hot rods in action all over Southern California—on the streets, at the Santa Ana drag strip, and on the El Mirage dry lake. Don’t miss it.
Information is sparse regarding this wonderful old film, preserved for posterity as part of the enormous Prelinger Archives in the Library of Congress. We know it was produced in Southern California in 1952 by Wanda Turchok, a veteran writer, director, and producer whose credits include Within These Walls and Hawaii Calls. However, just who originally financed and promoted the movie remains unknown, to us anyway.
The flick stars two real-life teenagers, Melvin Potts—the stepson of speed equipment pioneer Earl Evans, it turns out—and Thera Ward, and features a whole bunch of very cool early hot rods filmed doing their thing on the streets and at Santa Ana and El Mirage. And that makes the film film priceless in our book. This is hot rodding. This is Americana.
It’s not hard to guess the movie’s original purpose: first, to encourage youngsters of the time to take their racing impulses off the highway and onto sanctioned racetracks; and next, to show civic authorities the wisdom in providing such facilities.
So the script is thin and the acting is awkward. Sure, like we care. We’re watching just for the rare opportunity to see authentic, real-deal hot rods in their original element. There’s even a scene featuring the original Evans Speed Equipment shop. The film is not long, only 12 minutes, but it sure is fun. Grab some popcorn and a beverage and enjoy.