The American Hot Rod Foundation is a Connecticut Charitable Corporation having 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. The Foundation was set up by Steve, Carol and John Memishian in 2002 with the broad purpose of preserving, promoting and celebrating the history of hot rodding.
Stephen (Steve) Memishian is a former mechanical engineer, management consultant and motion picture executive who eventually found his way to Wall Street and now manages money at DSM Capital Partners in New York. Steve sketched deuce coupes and roadsters on his high school notebooks but doesn’t remember seeing any in Winchester Massachusetts in the 1950’s and ’60’s. When he finally got into hot rodding much later in life (and boy, did he get into it!), he was shocked to find that no one had recorded the histories of hot rodding’s amazing pioneers. That immediately led to Steve, his wife Carol, and his brother Jack committing to start up and support the American Hot Rod Foundation.
Carol Memishian, Steve’s wife, is an interior designer who also sells collectibles in a little shop called the Secret Garden. As a collector, Carol is fascinated by the history of hot rodding and by the people who built and raced their cars before it was popular to do so. She believes that recording the pioneers’ stories and properly archiving their photos and memorabilia is of the highest priority.
John (Jack) Memishian, Steve’s brother, is a senior analog circuitry designer at Analog Devices in Cambridge, Massachusetts. To this day, Steve doesn’t understand how Jack does what he does, but he knows he loves old cars and… collectible guitars! Jack enjoys building robots and mechanisms and he is impressed with the mechanical ingenuity of the early hot rodders. He believes hot rodding is a uniquely American story that must be preserved and told to future generations.
Jim Miller, Curator and Historian,is a certifiable car nut. He was born into a family with gasoline in its veins. His grandfather was a Duesenberg driver/mechanic and set over 40 speed records at Muroc dry lake in the 1930’s. Jim’s father, Eddie Miller, was a founding member of the pre-war S.C.T.A. Centuries Club and built a record-breaking lakester before designing the last of Lance Reventlow’s Scarab race cars.
Jim’s first car was a quarter-scale midget racer (age three!) and by the age of 12 he had worked on two sports car projects and was fabricating parts for his dad’s gyrocopters. In 1957, after a friend gave him a batch of old car magazines, it was “read and collect any and everything that had to do with historical race cars”. That tradition carries on ’till this day – Jim’s auto racing library had taken over his home.
After military service, it was back to work and back to cars. In the early ’70’s Jim developed the first after-market suspension parts for Toyotas. He then spent the next 28 years in advertising, all the while dabbling with sports cars, hot rods and vintage sprint cars.
In 1995, Jim returned as a spectator to the Bonneville Salt Flats and joined the S.C.T.A.’s oldest club, the Glendale Sidewinders. For the 1996 season he was inspecting cars and had hooked up with fellow Sidewinders Manchen, Manghelli, Kennedy and their red Alfa Romeo. The next season, 1997, ended on a high note with the team winning the Points Championship. Next, three years as Chief Technical Inspector, a stint as S.C.T.A. Treasurer, and entry into the prestigious El Mirage 200 mph (Dirty 2) Club. He also helped in the building of the world’s fastest streamliner powered by a Flathead Ford (302.674 mph) and four-cylinder engine (345.855 mph), and is putting the finishing touches on his own concept lakester.
R. Ellen Avellino, Foundation Manager and General Counsel. Ellen is an attorney admitted to practice in the State of Connecticut and New York. Over the past two decades, she has advised and managed not-for-profit foundations and has helped them carry forth their respective missions. Ellen enjoys her management and legal work with the Foundation as she is able to work with so many of YOU and not simply relegated to her usual paperwork! Ellen presently owns a roller-skate but looks forward to her first DEUCE!
Pascal Memishian, Website and Merchandise Manager, is the Fashion Director for Marc Fisher / Guess Footwear, devoting her time to Fashion Analysis, Design, Sketching… and tons of Research. As a result of the latter, she appreciates the value of excitement and newness. Pascal also harbors a not-so-secret love of Pin-ups, Flash Art and all things Fast and Furious… she is also a Latin Dancer! She recognizes the tremendous impact that hot-rodding had on America and sees its influence in fashion, music and culture throughout the World today. Pascal is honored to share her passion with the men and woman that have shaped the face of America… and those who will carry the torch forward.
Ray Brown (1922-2007)was one of our first Advisory Board Members and will remain a member of the Advisory Board in memoriam. We were honored to have Ray among us for these many years.
At the age of 16, began the construction of a ’32 roadster that would become as legendary as the man himself. While still in high school, Ray got a job with Eddie Meyer in West Hollywood. Alongside Eddie’s son Bud and flathead legend Tom Sparks, Ray acquired the engineering skills that would allow him to amass 11 timing tags with this great roadster known as 99C, now on display in the Petersen Museum.
At the age of 21, Ray opened his own Speed Shop. He was one of the first to use a Chrysler hemi and, in 1953, his streamliner set the Class C Bonneville record with a 302-ci Chrysler motor.
Ray pioneered the use of seat belts in passenger cars and eventually went from hot rodding to seat belt manufacturing. After he sold that company in the 1960’s Ray joined the board of Superior Industries until his retirement in 1982.
Dave Crouse, as a very young man, was surrounded by cars and race tracks. His father’s oval tracks and drag strips in New Jersey allowed Dave to meet some of the legends of the sport including Mario and Aldo Andretti, Bruce Craig and Eddie Sachs.
At the age of 15, Dave built his first hot rod and was soon making a name for himself as a competent engine and body builder. After graduating from high school, Dave worked on big classic cars for a living while building hot rods on the side. Throughout the 1970’s and ’80’s he continued to build cars while raising his family.
Dave moved to Colorado in 1989 and opened a shop called Custom Auto. He specializes in building period-correct traditional hot rods and restoring vintage race cars. In 2000, Dave won the Bruce Meyer Preservation Award for his restoration of the Joe Nitti roadster. He then won his class with the Bud Neumeister roadster in January 2004. Dave’s current projects include restoring the Bell Engine Crankshaft Special, the 404 Jr. roadster and the Eddie Miller streamliner.
Robert Genat is the owner of ZONE FIVE PHOTO in Southern California. His journalistic endeavors cover aviation, military, general transportation, automobiles, and law enforcement topics. Robert has an intimate understanding of automobiles having worked at Ford Motor Company for 13 years as a body designer. In 1993, he left the corporate world for a full-time life on the road shooting photos and writing and, as of this date, has had 28 books and more than 100 magazine articles published.
In 2000, Robert was selected for an International Automotive Media Award for his book, The American Car Dealership. He has been honored three times for his writing by The American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association. In 2001, Robert’s book, Funny Cars, was selected as one of AARWBA’s top auto racing books. And, in 2002, Robert’s book, American Drag Racing, was selected by AARWBA as the best book on auto racing for that year.
Ken Gross has been an automotive writer for over thirty years. Formerly the director of the Petersen Automotive Museum, he writes frequently about hot rods for Street Rodder Magazine, The Rodder’s Journal, Hop Up and Old Cars Weekly. His articles on hot rods have appeared in Road & Track, Car Collector, Mobilia, Octane and The Robb Report. He is currently a writer on the Speed Channel series, Behind the Head Lights.
Ken not only writes about hot rods, but he writes with a particular passion due to his significant personal involvement in the hobby. Ken’s hot rods have been the subject of many magazine articles by other authors, and his collection of manifolds and other period hot rod parts is a source of great pleasure to him. Ken travels constantly and he can often be found prowling the swap meets of car shows across the country.
Debbie Lewis‘s interest in hotrodding was passed down to her from her husband, Jim… literally. In 1997 Debbie and Jim Lewis founded Hotrod & Restoration Trade Magazine, and The Annual Hotrod & Restoration Trade Show, the only business trade show serving the hot rod and restoration markets exclusively, staged each year in Indianapolis. While Jim Lewis was the hot rod aficionado and hobbyist, Debbie as his “life partner”, then became his “business partner.” At the untimely death of Jim, just 25 years into their marriage and just 4 years after launching their business, Debbie stepped forward to learn, and grew to love, the world of hotrodding.
In 2002 Debbie and Jim founded the “Robert Petersen Lifetime Achievement Award.” Each year, in collaboration with The Petersen Automotive Museum, the award is given to a deserving pioneer who has had a positive impact on the genesis, growth and well-being of hotrodding. To date, recipients have included Wally Parks, Carroll Shelby, George Barris, Vic Edelbrock, Andy Granatelli, the Ford Family and Alex Xydias. Sharing its presentation with The Petersen, Debbie remains a “curator” of this award, and personally presents it each year. Such a prominent position serves to remind her of the importance, and The American Hot Rod Foundation’s mission, in preserving and honoring the history of hotrodding and the pioneers who have propelled it into the all-American passion it is today. This is the passion that Debbie shares today with hotrodding hobbyists, pioneers and enthusiasts all over America and beyond.
Philip Linhares serves as Chief Curator of Art at the Oakland Museum of California. A native of California’s Central Valley, he participated in the nightly cruise “Dragging Tenth” in Modesto, California in a $50 Ford coupe, and has owned a variety of hot rods since. Phil has benefited the hot rod hobby immeasurably by applying his curiosity and taste in art to the machines and culture of hot rodding. He has organized exhibitions in that have introduced the public to hot rodding in a special way: “Contemporary Folk Art? The Hot Rod Aesthetic” at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1968, “Hot Rods and Customs: The Men and Machines of California’s Car Culture” at the Oakland Museum in 1996/97 and “Real Hot Rods by Vern Tardel/Photographs by David Perry & Peter Vincent” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Artist’s Gallery in 2002.
A hot-rodder through and through, Phil travels to Bonneville each August with the Tardel/McKenzie crew in either his flathead-powered 1935 Ford Roadster or his more recent 1934 Ford 4-door sedan highboy.
Mark Morton, from his earliest days, fell in love with hot rodding. While too young to compete with the dry lakes pioneers of the ’40’s, he was quick to immerse himself in the history of hot-rodding. As soon as his feet could touch the pedals, he was “borrowing” his dad’s custom built ’38 Ford pickup with a souped-up flathead.
As a teenager in the ’50’s, Mark’s life was centered around hot rod and customs and his passion has never waned. After a modicum of business success, Mark was finally able to build up a serious collection of rare hot rods. These include “Rodzy”, a ’29 roadster and a collaboration by John Carambia, Pete Eastwood and Steve Davis; a ’65 Riviera and ’33 Lincoln KB Judkins Coupe originally owned by G. Henry Stetson… to name a few.
In 1992, Mark bought Hop Up Magazine and has since maintainedits integrity and informational value for all hot rod enthusiasts. Hotrodders around the world eagerly await Hop Up’s annual publication.With the success of Hop Up, Mark set up the Hop Up web page, www.hopupmag.com.His editorials there are a special treat.
Greg Sharp, as described recently by Dain Gingerelli in Street Rodder’s article entitled “Greg Sharp’s ’29 Roadster Pickup Withstanding the test of time- Time and Again”, “has penned more than just a handful of stories…on the rodding scene- in fact, Greg got his journalistic start in Street Rodder.” Dain goes on to say in that article, “Indeed, Sharp’s passion for the (rodding) hobby, coupled with an unsurpassed knowledge of its past (his memory for recalling old hot rodder’s names and cards) could challenge an IBM computer…”
This “unsurpassed” knowledge held by Greg serves him well today in his grand stewardship of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, California. As described in its mission statement, The Museum “celebrates the import of motorsports of our culture” and exists to “collect, preserve, exhibit, interpret the vehicles, stories and artifacts that represent our affection for, and the influence of, automotive speed and style in all its forms.”
In his present position as the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum’s esteemed Director, Greg “oversees one of the most coveted collections of hot rods and old race cars in the world.” Understandably, today Greg probably would rather not be in any other place in the hot rod world.
Jim Stroupeacquired at the age of fourteena 1932 pickup that he built with the help of his dad. Like a true hot rodder, Jim’s adolescence was spent hanging out at drive ins and racing every night.
Jim owns many fine hot rods of just about every configuration. His cars include a ’32 Ford 3-window, ’32 Ford 2-door sedan, ’32 ford roadster, ’29 ford pickup, ’27 ford roadster, ’32 ford 3-window (“the Linda Jo coupe”), ’27 ford “lakes modified” and a ’32 Ford roadster pickup.
Jim has always preferred the look of the traditional hot rod. His traditional-look ’27 T hiboy roadster was a tremendous hit and a winner at the 1994 Oakland Roadster Show. The car was then featured in the 1st issue of “The Rodders Journal”, on the cover of Street Rodder, as a feature car in “Rod and Custom”, and voted favorite roadster at the 40th L.A. Roadster Show. After years of resto-rod, show car extreme, and billet, Jim’s ’27 roadster is credited with starting the resurgence of the traditional hot rod.
While all of Jim’s cars have been published, they are regularly driven, and all make the trip to Bonneville. Jim feels that Speed Week at Bonneville represents the very best of the elements that comprise hot rodding. Jim is a sponsor and crew member on the world record-holding Tardell/Mackenzie roadster.
Alex Xydias is a name that is synonymous with the So Cal Speed Shop, which had great success on and off the dry lakes. Alex got his start before the war, campaigning a ’34 coupe at El Mirage that solidified his passion for hot rodding. On leave from the army, Alex wasted no time working on hot rods or hanging out at Edelbrock’s speed shop.
In 1946, after he was discharged, Alex opened So Cal Speed Shop, supplying hot rodders with primarily Edelbrock equipment. While at first the shop struggled to make a decent turnover, Alex’s success on the dry lakes was becoming legendary. With a team consisting of Keith Baldwin, Rich French and Dick Flint, the So Cal coupe was soon breaking all the records. Alex then partnered with hot rod pioneer Dean Bachelor to campaign the So Cal streamliner, and together they broke every record in their class. With an Edelbrock V8-60 (built by Bobby Meeks) the car turned 152 mph. And with a Mercury V8 it turned 210 mph at Bonneville, far outpacing the competition.
The So-Cal racing team continued to build streamliners and belly tanks that would shatter most existing records at the lakes and on the drag strips. Now restored to its former glory the So-Cal bellytank lakestar has become one of the most famous hot rods ever.
Aside from racing, Alex spent much of his time filming hot rod events and produced an enduring documentary called “The Hot Rod Story”. He helped set up the first SEMA show and was inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame in 1982.