The Strokers of Saginaw Photo Collection
Saginaw is a Mid-Michigan town located 2,400 miles north-east of California, the hot rod capital of the world. In the 1950s, Michiganders saw what their California brothers were up to, and they started copying some of the West Coast hot rod styles and trends while pioneering their own distinctive look. More than fifty hot rod and custom car clubs popped up in Detroit and surrounding areas in the early 1950s. Detroit hot rodders wanted to drag race, but they didn't have the luxury of abandoned airfields that the west coast had, so they decided to form the Michigan Hot Rod Association in 1951 and host an indoor car show to finance the build of a drag strip. That show became the Detroit Autorama, one of the longest-running hot rod and custom car shows in the world.
According to Al Benaway, it wasn't much going on in Michigan back in the mid-1950s. Al was a single car fanatic that was just out of high school. Back then, you would usually find him in his garage, working on his car until three or four in the morning. He went to the Detroit Dragway once, but he recalled it wasn't much of a dragstrip.
Hot Rod Hooligans
Saginaw is located 100 miles north of Detroit, and early in 2021 Al told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama that in 1955 when he started out, you couldn't say the word, Hot Rod, out loud in the public. "Hot Rod was a bad word to say. A mortal sin. That was like you were a mugger. You were a bad guy. Bound for jail." There were about 10 or 12 small clubs in the area when Al and his high school buddies formed the Stokers car club in March of 1955. "They didn't last long," he recalled, "but they were there." Al and his buddies were in the senior civics class when they started the club. The Stokers grew to become a large club, and for a while, they had new guys joining on a weekly basis. "When you come to start high school, everybody wants to be in your club. Everybody had a car club, and we had about eight or nine clubs in high school." The Strokers had meetings in a chicken coop. "That was a little rough, but that's what we had. We had a two-car garage with a chicken coop on the back of it."
The Little Squirt
Al had about two or three cars when they started the club. He had a buddy who had a '32 coupe, and the two of them used to go driving around on the streets at night. Al and the charter members of the Stroker graduated in 1955. Around 1956-57 he bought a 1930 Ford Model A Coupe. The car he would build into the Little Squirt. Al would change his little coupe three times on his quest for higher speeds. "That car was originally chopped and channeled with a '32 frame and a Flathead," Al told Kustomrama, "that's how it started out." He drove it on the street, and Jay Miller, a guy at a body shop, helped him chop the top. "I could put my arm on the roof. That's how low it was," he recalled.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Al Benaway
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