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The Hot-Rod Culture

The following statement by Thomas W. Ryan, director of the New York Division of Safety, presents the typical image of the hot rodder in the mediums of mass communication. He is shown as a deliberate and premeditated lawbreaker: “Possession of the ‘hot rod’ car is presumptive evidence of the intent to speed. Speed is Public Enemy No.1 of the highways. It is obvious that a driver of a ‘hot rod’ car has an irresistible temptation to ‘step on it’ and accordingly operate the vehicle in a reckless manner endangering human life. It also shows a deliberate and premeditated idea to violate the law.

These vehicles are largely improvised by home mechanics and are capable of high speed and dangerous maneuverability. They have therefore become a serious menace to the safe movement of traffic. The operators of these cars are confused into believing that driving is a competitive sport. They have a feeling of superiority in recklessly darting in and out of traffic in their attempt to outspeed other cars on the road…”

New York Times, June 19,1949