In the days following WWII, man’s “need for speed” manifested itself in many different ways. If your name was Kimberly or Cunningham, you wrote a $10,000 check for a red European sports car.
This wonderful obsession for performance had nothing to do with family fortunes, however, and was just as keenly felt by the garage mechanic from San Mateo or the crane operator in Atlantic City. Unable to afford a brand-new high-performance car, thousands of returning servicemen turned to hot rodding in order to satisfy their high-octane needs.
Rodding is a relatively complex pursuit, but the premise was simple—strip it down and hop it up. Thus, whatever you began with—in many cases a $200 pre-war Ford—ended up looking better and going faster. Fords were favored because of their handsome Edsel Ford/Bob Gregorie styling, but the main reason was surely Henry’s potent flathead.
This historical street rod was built by Jack Lentz of Bedford, New Jersey, in 1954 and showcased all the typical styling and performance modification of that era. “Golden Rod” was shaved and decked, is radically channeled and design details have been frenched.
The detailed engine bay is fitted with a chromed, milled flathead, in this case of 1949 Mercury origin, fully modified and adorned with authentic period speed parts by Weiand, Fenton and Mallory. The steel body panels feature some 20 coats of lacquer and subtle pin-striping of the type popularized by the master Von Dutch.
The most impressive aspect of Lentz’s Golden Rod is its originality. The car has never been restored—paintwork, tires, upholstery, all of the mechanicals, even the carpeting are original.
In 1997, for the first time, hot rods were invited to form an entire class at the 47th annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. This is perhaps the most significant recognition of hot rodding as a valid and all-American form of automotive expression to date. In 1999 the concept was repeated and the Jack Lentz ’32 Ford roadster pictured here was one of the nine invitees thus honored. This public endorsement is a strong validation of this historic hot rod’s concept, execution and condition.