The Cool Hot Rod (film #377 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]

Bill Bowers, a teen would-be hot-rodder, moves with his family to a new town that he thinks is full of “squares” who drive like “old ladies.” He is prepared to educate them in the ways of hot-rodding, which to him means driving like a maniac a la Dick York in Last Date, but he is actually the one who gets reeducated. The town has an organized hot-rod club that requires passing a driver education course, the car’s passing a rigorous safety inspection, six months of driving without getting a single ticket, and passing a “reliability test” as just some of its requirements for membership. Then you get to race your rod on the town’s dragstrip. Amazingly, Bill wants desperately to join this highly exclusive club and spends months taking driving lessons and working on his car in order to do it. As a result, he turns from a hood into a nice young man with an afterschool job at the gas station, which, of course, is the point. This film was sponsored by Hot Rod magazine, so it tries its level best to convince viewers that hot-rodding is a clean-cut, safe hobby. And it was made by Sid Davis, so that means Bill narrates the entire thing, including telling us what was said in all conversations rather than letting characters speak for themselves. This is a good example of a social guidance film that appears to be about a limited topic, but is really about turning teens from juvenile delinquents into nice young ladies and gentlemen. It does deserve credit, though, for showing girls as well as boys equally participating in the hobby, even to the point of working on their own cars and racing against male competitors, making it way ahead of its time in terms of gender roles.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.

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