By Mary Pritchard, Contributing Writer
Hudson – Fred Hire and Jim Grillo, both Hudson residents, share a passion for hot rods, classic and custom cars, and are both members of the Push Rods of Waltham. While the club is now operated out of Hudson, it began on the front steps of Waltham High School in April of 1957.
“Hot rod clubs were a trend when I was in high school,” said Hire, who grew up in Waltham. “I was always looking at car magazines, drawing cars, and talking with friends about cars. Sophomore year, a group of us decided to meet on the steps after school so we could talk about cars, and the club was formed. Most of us didn’t even have our licenses yet and had to hitchhike to the club’s garage to work on our hot rods and custom cars. Hot rods are cars modified with big engines and body modifications – it’s a way to express your own individuality and ingenuity.
Every club had a club race car.”
The club was founded by Hire, Carl Benson, Bill Chaplis and John Chester, all of whom remain members today.
Grillo, who grew up in Hudson, also had his first car before his driver’s license.
“When I was about 14, my friends and I hung around and helped out at a garage near my home,” he said. “The sons of the owner of the garage had hot rods and I helped work on them whenever I was given the chance. I went to Worcester Industrial Technical Institute and my project for school was making a 1948 Plymouth Coupe into a hot rod.”
Both Hire and Grillo spent years involved in their clubs. Drag racing became a regular Sunday activity. Airfields would allow races to be held on airstrips before people began building drag strips. Time passed and members having the responsibilities of career and families led to less activity in their clubs.
“That’s the way it was with all clubs,” Hire said. “We continued to go to races and work on cars. Some of the ‘Push Rodders’ had kept in touch and in the early ‘90s we began having gatherings and revitalizing the club. By 1999 we had 18 original members back and four new members, including Jim, who joined in 1993 and took over the role of chairman in 2009.”
The Push Rods have many victorious races and successes in their history. Grillo and Hire are among six members of the club, including John Connelly, Dave Weldon, Jim English and Bill Chaplis, to be inducted into the New England Hot Rod Hall of Fame. Since 2009 the Push Rods and the United Brethren Lodge of Masons in Marlborough have held a car show each year to raise money for the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Massachusetts and the Angel Foundation. The annual family event raised $25,000 this year.
Through the years the club has had an average of 30-40 members and current membership is nationwide. Part of the club’s mission statement is “to perpetuate interest in and support of the hobby of Hot Rod, Classic and Custom Car building and Drag Racing in the spirit of the original Push Rods of Waltham, MA….to educate the public about the history and evolution of safe and responsible hot-rodding, custom car building and restoration.”
“We’re looking for new members who want to be active in the club,” Hire said. “The camaraderie is what it’s all about. The cars bring the group together but it’s all about the people.”