San Diego to Santa Pod



In 2005 Dreams of Legends, charted definitively Hot Rodding’s place in popular culture. With each message of resource-depletion and angst about a petrol-free future, the world it that gave it birth looks more exotic and less easy to understand. It’s an important document of a disappearing world.

My uncle used to take me to Santa Pod when I was a kid. Little boy dreams of freedom are born. We’d roll up the M1 in a yellow Triumph Stag with black leather seats. He stank of Brut 33 and his girlfriend’s short cropped fur coat reeked of rot in the drizzle. I remember the mud in the fields around the strip and the jacked-up, primer coated Ford Anglias rolling on fat slots. I remember the Shergar Burgers with stewed onions and the static electricity generated by polyester T-Shirts. I remember things gathering to a climax toward the runs of the top-fuel Funny Cars driven by big, boom-voiced Americans with names like Garlits and Cherry. I remember the thunder and the glory of six second runs and the terrible fascination for superchargers and the half-naked girls on the Custom Car Magazine stand.

Sexuality and V8 engines were intertwined in me from the beginning.

For me back then America was a brightly glowing if distant light. It was a light that reflected cool cars, juicy burgers, Evil Kneivel, butter concrete skate parks and girls in hot pants and roller skates. Northamptonshire was spiritually San Diego. It was possible to glimpse the essence in this down-at-heel nation of what Hot Rodding really meant. It was about building something from scratch rather than simply consuming. It was about taking the materials available to you and reinventing them for your own ends. It was Speed. Action. The Future. The drag strips of Southern California were completely alien to me. But somehow I understood.