In Search of the Real Hot Rod Lincoln – And Found

Needless to say, I fell hard for Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s “Hot Rod Lincoln” when it was released in 1971. There’s a slew of video mixes to that song, but the one above was the best of the ones I perused on Youtube, as it at least shows some creativity in its selection of old footage.

But I was frankly a bit confused by the title name and lyrics back in ’71. Who ever used a Lincoln V8 engine in a Model A hot rod? I had never heard of such a thing. A little digging brought some clarity. The song really was about a hot rod Lincoln, but it wasn’t a V8, as Commander Cody asserts.

The song was originally written and released way back in 1955 by singer-songwriter Charley Ryan. It was a response to Arkie Shibley’s 1951 hit, “Hot Rod Race”, which tells about an impromptu race between the singer’s Mercury and a Ford. Arkie went on to make four follow-up songs.

It ends with these lines:

When it flew by us, I turned the other way.
The guy in Mercury had nothing to say,
For it was a kid, in a hopped-up Model A.


The Hot Rod Lincoln song was originally written and released in 1955 by singer-songwriter Charley Ryan as a response Shibley’s Hot Rod Race, and tells the story from the vantage point of the Model A driver. And the lyrics are different in one key word:

It’s got a Lincoln motor and it’s really souped up.
That Model A Vitimix makes it look like a pup.
It’s got twelve cylinders; uses them all.
It’s got overdrive, just won’t stall.

Ryan based the car on his own hot rod, which really was a hot rod Lincoln, which he built it from a 1948 Lincoln chassis shortened two feet, and fitted with a Model A body. And it had the Lincoln’s flathead V12, with a four barrel carb. His song was inspired by an actual race against a friend’s Cadillac sedan near Lewiston, Idaho, up the Spiral Highway to the top of Lewiston Hill. In the song, the race takes place on the Grapevine, near Tejon Pass, in Southern California.

Update: CC Commenter Rocko left this image, of Charlie Ryan and his Hot Rod Lincoln. It turns out that his car still exists, restored and modified somewhat.

Here’s the Zephyr V12.

And the rest of the car. The Lincoln badge on the grille and a few other details are different, but it looks credible otherwise.

Here’s a picture of it in 1994, when the headlights were still in their original position.

Given that the Lincoln V12 had a quite poor reputation, especially for overheating and subsequent damage, the ending makes even more sense:

Now all of a sudden she started to knockin’,
And down in the dips she started to rockin’.
I looked in my mirror; a red light was blinkin’
The cops was after my Hot Rod Lincoln!