Hot Rod Girl (1956) – ripper car movies

Some fantastic drag and street racing action, with cool hot rods and customs galore


A 1950s gem, Hot Rod Girl follows the trials and tribulations of car-obsessed couple Lisa (Nelson) and Jeff (Smith), and their endeavours with police detective Ben Merrill (the stereotypically chiselled Connors) to get the local hot rodders off the streets and onto the strip.

First published in the October 2021 issue of Street Machine

Lisa is a class-winning dab hand behind the wheel, while Jeff is a gun engine builder, but their lives – and reputations – are thrown into turmoil when Jeff’s kid brother Steve (Erickson) is killed in a street-racing crash.

Jeff withdraws into his own world, working his fingers to the bone in an attempt to manage his demons of guilt and grief, leaving Lisa to try and simmer down the group of young hot rodders who are desperate to let their pent-up frustrations loose on the streets.

But time is working against Lisa and detective Ben. Ben’s boss, Captain Logan (Thorson), is buckling under pressure from wowsers and whingers in the community and is pushing to close the drag strip and ban hot rods altogether.

Lisa’s troubles are further compounded when brooding newcomer Bronc Talbott (Andrews) roars into town, stirring up trouble with both the kids and police in equal measure, all the while making sleazy advances to the seemingly now-single Lisa.

When their close friend Flat Top (Gorshin, best remembered as The Riddler from the Batman TV show) comes close to grief while playing chicken, Lisa and Ben team up to pull Jeff out of his downward spiral and refocus his energies on providing guidance to his wayward friends.

When the dark clouds are seemingly starting to clear, a jilted Talbott shows up in his Oldsmobile 88 and pushes Jeff and Lisa in their ’55 Thunderbird into a mountain race with dire consequences. Can the couple navigate their way through this latest crisis, or will their hot-rodding future be dashed forever?


One of the first films to explore the storyline of rebellious hot rodders taking on the law, Hot Rod Girl is a simple flick at heart. It features all of the hallmarks of a 70-year-old B-movie, including cheesy dialogue, contrived drama and overacting aplenty, but this doesn’t detract from the viewing experience and actually works, provided you leave critical parts of your brain in the foyer. The drag racing action was filmed at the long-defunct San Fernando Raceway and features myriad cool customs and hot rods in their element, long before their styles were dubbed ‘traditional’.


  • 1955 Ford Thunderbird
  • 1950 Oldsmobile 88
  • 1933 Ford roadster
  • 1932 Ford roadster
  • 1955 Ford Mainline
  • 1952 Jaguar XK120
  • 1956 Ford F100
  • Custom 1940 Ford coupe
  • 1956 Chevrolet Corvette C1
  • 1932 Ford Model B
  • 1954 Cadillac ambulance


  • Lori Nelson
  • John Smith
  • Chuck Connors
  • Mark Andrews
  • Frank Gorshin
  • Roxanne Arlen
  • Eddie Ryder
  • Carolyn Kearney
  • Russ Thorson
  • Del Erickson

Leslie H Martinson

Some fantastic drag and street racing action, with cool hot rods and customs galore

A popular local female drag racer desperately tries to maintain control of her restless hot-rodding friends, while bridging the gap between local police and her estranged boyfriend

YouTube, DVD

The T-bird convertible driven by Lori Nelson’s character, Lisa, was actually Nelson’s own personal car. The film’s budget couldn’t stretch to afford the desired sports car, so Nelson offered to drive her own.