I’ll bet you’ve been singing along with “Hot Rod Lincoln” for years – it took me years to get the lyrics down – but did you know the car in the 1955 classic rockabilly song is a real automobile? And believe it or not, it’s still on the road!
“Son, you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’, if ya don’t stop drivin’ that Hot Rod Lincoln”
The Original Hot Rod Lincoln
The real, original, one-and-only Hot Rod Lincoln that inspired the song is a real car, sure enough. Charlie Ryan who wrote the song was its original owner, and he had it for years – from the 1950s right up to his passing in 2008. It was sold at auction in Arizona in 2013 to a doctor named Dave Demangone from Chagrin Falls, Ohio. The old rod needed a little TLC and a brake job, but cosmetically it was still in buff condition and Dr Dave got it back on the road in time for a public debut at the big 19th annual Dream Cruise in Detroit.
Model A Ford Coupe on a Lincoln Frame
But when you lay eyes on the Hot Rod Lincoln, if you know your Depression-era automobiles at all, something’s going to niggle at you – then right away it kicks you, that Lincoln ain’t no Lincoln!
True. Charlie Ryan’s pride and joy on the country music festival circuit, where he billed it in no uncertain terms as the Original Hot Rod Lincoln, as it still is known today – has a 1930 Model A body riding on a Lincoln frame. Back in the 1950s, Charlie bought himself a 1948 Lincoln, cut two feet out of the frame, and set a Model A body on top.
Then, inspired by the true deep love of a man for the car of his dreams, he wrote a song about it. If you remember the lyrics of “Hot Rod Lincoln ,”you’ll get how he felt and see he’s described the exact car, down to the last detail.
It’s got a Lincoln motor and it’s really souped up,
and that Model-A body makes it look like a pup.
It’s got twelve cylinders, and uses them all,
with an overdrive that just won’t stall.
It’s got a four-barrel carb and dual exhaust,
4-11 gears, she can really get lost.
Got safety tubes and I’m not scared,
the brakes are good and the tires are fair.
So is it a Lincoln or is it a “souped-up Model A” hot rod?
As any car buff will tell ya, it’s what you’ve got under the hood that counts. And under the shiny red hood of the famous hot rod, there still rumbles and purrs the original Lincoln V12.
Yessir, that’s the Hot Rod Lincoln in the song – whether you hear it in your head as the Charlie Ryan original, or as one of the countless tributes (and rewrites) that have been recorded in the decades since, by the likes of George Thorogood (my favorite version), Asleep at the Wheel, Commander Cody, and others.
From inspiring a classic country rockabilly song, to touring the USA with Charlie Ryan, to this new life of touring to raise money for children’s charities (Shriner’s Hospital for Children and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital) in between spells of giving Dr Dave and his family a whole lot of cruising pleasure – that’s a pretty good long life for an old hot rod that most of us didn’t even know existed for real, outside of the song.
Long may it roll.