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Ford street roadster (hot rod)
Currently on display
Not a part of the official Smithsonian Collection
This car was first converted by Athan into a 'roadster' (the term then) in 1939. The car's basis is a 1929 Model A Ford frame and body, with the roof and fenders cut off the body and a new windshield made from another car's rear window. Athan hand-made the new frame for the windshield. The car has a 239 cu. in. 'Flathead' Mercury V-8 engine, which Athan added in 1947-48. Although the carburetor tubes appear modern, Athan hand-made them to his own design right after he added the Mercury engine. The car has not changed in its components and appearance since 1949-50. In 1957, the car was lightly 'restored'-keeping its 1950 appearance, engine, wheels, etc. intact, but with new upholstery-for its use in an Elvis Presley movie ("Loving You," Paramount, 1957). Throughout the movie, Presley is shown in many shots driving the car. John Athan lives in Culver City, Calif. and still does machine work for legendary machinist and engine-expert Ed Iskenderian. When driven, the car was always registered and licensed in California.
Physical Description
O/A length: 138 inches / 11' 6" - front of front tires to end of tailpipe. O/A width - front: 66 inches / 5' 6" - over hubcaps. O/A width - rear: 70 inches / 5' 10" - over hubcaps. O/A height: 56 inches / 4' 8" - floor to top of windshield.
Date Made:
Dates Used:
1939 - 1957
Similar cars were built in every US region.
Lent by John Athan, with the cooperation of the Wally Parks National Hot Rod Association Motorsports Museum, Pomona, Calif.
This hot rod is typical of many that cruised during the late 1940s and early 1950s in cities and towns throughout America. The car is iconic of the style sought by many teenagers and young adult men (and a few women) when they created and built their own vehicles, mostly from components taken from older cars. The accent was on high-performance engines, light-weight bodies to help improve acceleration, strong suspensions to aid cornering, and skilled handcraft in modifying and machining parts and mating them together in a fresh, creative manner. Such a car therefore became uniquely identified with its creator and owner. The point was to display one's own superior craftsmanship. 'Cruising' showed-off the car. Impromptu (and illegal) races on public roads or races at legal 'drag strips' demonstrated a car's true performance in comparison with peers.

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