(from Classic Plastic)
Classic Plastic is a book written by Rick Polizzi. Primarily, it's a pictorial of the great models of the '50s, '60s and '70s. Here is his well-written introduction to the section on Show Rods:
The 1960s saw the pinnacle of one of America's most unusual native art forms. Flowing streamlined designs, radiant colors, and amazing craftsmanship blended together to develop a new concept - - Show Cars.
Show cars evolved from the custom car, which was basically a modified version of an existing vehicle. Early pioneers of auto customizing in the 1950's began changing and improving their wheels for speed, originality, and a cool look. During these times, cars were "chopped, tubbed, raked, and hopped-up." These basic customizing techniques continued to become more elaborate until custom cars were being designed from scratch or by heavily converting existing vehicles into unbelievable designs. True show cars were distinguished by being one-of-a-kind originals, built from the ground up. It seems a paradox that their engines were extremely powerful, yet they rarely touched the road. In other words, these cars were meant to be looked at, not driven. The men who created them were true artists, and their creations were true art. Show cars belong to the genre of sculpture, and for those of us who couldn't afford the originals, there were always the model kits.
Probably the most famous custom car designers are George Barris and Ed Roth. Barris was one of the pioneer customizes and has personalized automobiles for many celebrities. An avid model and toy collector himself, Barris started making hobby kits of his cars with Revell in 1957, the first being a 1956 Buick. He is better known for his special cars however, and when AMT made a model kit of his 1960 Ala Kart, a whole line of kits designed after Barris' award-winning custom cars began.
Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, reached cult status on auto show circuits and teen modeler circles with his outrageous cars and Rat Fink character. (More can be found on Roth in the Freaks, Geeks, and Oddballs chapter.)
In 1967, Monogram and car designer Tom Daniel started a partnership that would produce 60 kits and last nearly a decade. Daniel had previously worked for George Barris where he helped design the Munster Koach and Dragula. One of Daniel's designs, the Red Baron, proved to be so popular that Monogram released it in a larger 1/12 scale.
Other heavy contenders on the show car circuit included Daryl Starbird, Carl Casper, and Bill Cushenberry. By the end of the 1970's though, the show car craze declined in popularity. Even though many wild rods are still being produced today, they sure don't make 'em like they used to!