Charlie Ryan's self-built "Hot Rod Lincoln" inspired the song

February 14, 2012 12:00 AM

In 1955, Charlie Ryan wrote the song "Hot Rod Lincoln," which many think was an answer to the 1951 hit, "Hot Rod Race" by Arkie Shibley and the Mountain Dew Boys. However, Ryan began writing the song when he was building the car it was written for. You see, Ryan was not a just a musician who sang about cars, he was also a bit of a car maintenance expert.

A few years before Ryan coined the lyrics for "Hot Rod Lincoln," he bought a used 1941 Lincoln Zephyr and decided to turn it into a custom hot rod, according to The Lincoln Club. He chopped the Zephyr up, replaced the body with that of a Ford Model A coupe, and shortened the wheelbase. He threw a 1948 V12 engine under the hood, along with a three-speed transmission with overdrive, and then painted the new car black. He emphasized the tires by painting the wheels red.

While he worked on the hot rod, Ryan began writing the song, and reports he did so in 1950, a year before Shibley's song came out. The first recorded version was released in 1955, by Charlie Ryan and the Livingston Brothers, but a few years later in 1959, Ryan re-recorded the song with the Timberline Riders. This is the version best known today. 

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