The first big boost to hot rodding in the UK happened after the release of George Lucas’ American Graffiti in 1973. It made Lucas rich and showed teenagers across the English speaking world how amazing being an outsider could be.
The film centres four regular teenagers in a Californian town in the early 1960s and is a classic coming of age movie. So far, so boring. It’s the street racing subplot, along with the rock’n’roll soundtrack that really enthralled the car fanatics. Local speed king John Milner (played by Paul Le Mat) rules the roads with his ’32 deuce coupe until he is challenged by new boy Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford) in a black ’55 Chevy. Milner wins and Falfa is almost killed. Some liked the music, some the clothes, some the love story and then (maybe) one in each hundred walked out of the cinema determined to own a hot rod. Many of the members of Britain’s VHRA (Vintage Hot Rod Assoc.) were young kids when that film was released but you can be sure that they have watched it, over and over.
Taking that idea further we can only speculate that on each run at the Santa Pod raceway they are rerunning that classic race in George Lucas’ movie – between the coupe and the Chevy. Every summer members and guests (this is an invitation only event for participants) gather at Santa Pod and thrash highly tuned machines over the quarter mile. During summer 2017 Men’s File’s Nick Clements followed the progress of Ms Rebecca Valverde in her highly modified 1928 Ford Model A Phaeton (check out her time of 15.55 seconds; achieved in an open-top 90 year old car). During 2018 the VHRA will stage events at Santa Pod on May 5th and 6th and at Pendine Sands on June 30th and July 1st.
See their website for details: http://www.vhra.co.uk
Report by Nick Clements