Hot Rod Lincoln

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"Hot Rod Lincoln" was recorded in 1955 as an answer song to "Hot Rod Race", a 1951 hit for Arkie Shibley and his Mountain Dew Boys. Hot Rod Race tells the story of a late-model Ford and Mercury who end up racing along the highway, neither driver gaining an advantage, and staying "neck and neck" until they are both overtaken (to their amazement) by a kid in "a hopped-up Model A".

"Hot Rod Lincoln" was written by Charlie Ryan, who had also recorded a version of "Hot Rod Race". It begins with a direct reference to Shibley's earlier ballad, stating "You heard the story of the hot rod race that fatal day, when the Ford and the Mercury went out to play. Well, this is the inside story and I'm here to say, I'm the kid that was a-drivin' that Model A."

Ryan owned a real hot rod that was built from a 1948 12-cylinder Lincoln chassis shortened two feet and with a 1930 Ford Model A body fitted to it. Thus the song explains how in "Hot Rod Race" a kid in a Model A could have outrun late-model Ford and Mercury sedans. Ryan actually raced his hot rod against a Cadillac sedan driven by a friend in Lewiston, Idaho, driving up the Spiral Highway (former U.S. 95) to the top of Lewiston Hill. His song, however, keeps the same location as "Hot Rod Race", namely Grapevine Hill, which is an old-time local southern California nickname for the long, nearly straight grade up Grapevine Canyon to Tejon Pass, near the town of Gorman, California, between Los Angeles and Bakersfield.

The first release of "Hot Rod Lincoln", in 1955, was recorded by writer Ryan as Charley Ryan and The Livingston Brothers.[1] Ryan's 1959 version, on 4 Star, as Charlie Ryan and The Timberline Riders,[2] is probably better known.

The 1960 version by Johnny Bond was a hit for Republic Records. Bond's Lincoln has eight cylinders ("and uses them all"), rather than the 12 cylinders pulling Ryan's Model A.

The 1972 release by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen went to #9 on the Billboard charts and #7 in Canada. Billboard ranked this version as the No. 69 song for 1972.[3] Cody's version opens with the spoken lines, "My Pappy said: Son, you're going to drive me to drinkin' if you don't stop drivin' that hot rod Lincoln." Cody's version also uses a slightly different guitar riff at the beginning, and adopts parts of Johnny Bond's version, including the reference to eight cylinders.

Hot Rod Lincoln and Hot Rod Race are defining anthems of the hot rod community.

Arkie Shibley, who recorded a series of Hot Rod Race songs, died in 1975. Charlie Ryan died in Spokane, Washington, on February 16, 2008, at age 92. He was a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

The actual "hot rod Lincoln" was auctioned off at the 2013 Barrett Jackson Auto Auction.

Other covers[edit]

Many different versions exist, with the words slightly altered by each new group.

George Thorogood and the Destroyers covered the song, referencing Fords and Lincolns (as opposed to Fords and Mercurys) and a V-8 engine instead of a V12.

"Hot Rod Lincoln" is also a signature song of Texas-based Western swing band Asleep at the Wheel. Their version peaked at number 65 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in 1988.[4]

Roger Miller also recorded the song, with a few words changed.

In his live show, Bill Kirchen (original guitarist on the Commander Cody recording of "Hot Rod Lincoln") performs an extended version of the song in which he inserts a series of short guitar solos in the styles of many famous rock, blues, power pop, punk, and country guitarists.

Hot Rod Lincoln was covered by Pat Travers on his debut rock album titled Pat Travers released in 1976 on Polydor Records.

On their 1989 album Allroy's Revenge, U.S. pop-punk band ALL recorded a cover of "Hot Rod Lincoln". Their version, like Commander Cody's, places the story in the setting of San Pedro, California.

Jim Varney recorded a version that appeared in the film version of The Beverly Hillbillies in which Varney starred as Jed Clampett.

The song "Five-O Ford" off the 1994 album Liquor in the Front by the Reverend Horton Heat is very similar to the song, describing a similar race scene and using the same chord progression.

In 2002, Les Claypool recorded a version of "Hot Rod Lincoln" for the NASCAR on Fox album Crank It Up.

Lawrence Ramsay released a version of "Hot Rod Lincoln" in March 2010, on the album Blowin' Cash, featuring the guitar works of Dauwynn Cyncore.

Nashville based R&B, Surf, Swing, Sci-Fi guitar player Chris Casello covers Hot Rod Lincoln on his debut album Chris Casello Trio. The version is complete with guitar based sound effects like cows, seagulls, police cars, hippies and more.

Portions of the song, including Commander Cody's spoken-word intro, are used in Sugar Ray's track "Mean Machine" from their album Lemonade and Brownies.


  1. ^ Souvenir SOUV-101
  2. ^ 4 Star 1733x45
  3. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1972
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Hot Country Songs 1944–2012. Record Research, Inc. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-89820-203-8. 

External links[edit]