Car club plaques are used to display membership and are typically painted onto license plate-sized metal sheets. Some clubs create custom patterns; for instance, this Relics & Rods plaque was originally part of a high school metal and wood shop project.
Current metal patterns are made by acid etching and engraving a flat magnesium surface with acids, yielding more detailed designs than previous linoleum patterns.
In Southern California during the 1940s and 1950s, it was popular to showcase your car club membership by hanging a custom-made plaque on your vehicle. There were hundreds of clubs, from Roadmasters to Shifters, Venturas, and Rebel Rousers, with unique plaques available at auto shops or even in scrapyards where they could later be melted down for metal recycling.
Chersky collects plaques and sells some at swap meets, though he doesn’t see this endeavor as an extensive money maker. Instead, he’s more intrigued by their history – recalling visiting Bud Ekin’s Cycle Shop in Van Nuys as a kid and watching Von Dutch layout lines on bikes and cars before working at Lyndy’s Muffler Shop and Lewis Shell’s Speed Shop (he purchased five milk crates full for just one dollar each!). Later, he found five milk crates full of plaques at Lewis Shell’s speed shop that day, which made him wishful thinking.
Penny’s Hot Rods & Customs now cast plaques from originals using 3D printing, Petrobond sand mold making, aluminum casting, and melting through a Crucible to produce more accurate replicas in gold, silver, or white aluminum finishes.
From the 1940s through the 1960s, car clubs in Southern California and elsewhere displayed their membership by hanging a plaque from their rear bumper to identify themselves from other clubs. Plaques would often bear their club’s name painted distinctively to distinguish it from others like Roadmasters, Cruisers, Shifters, or Venturas; many clubs had names associated with their location, like Rebel Rousers from San Francisco or Concord’s Barons; this helped distinguish one club from another that may share similar terms in this pre-Internet era!
Chersky has amassed hundreds of aluminum plaques over time, often finding them in scrapyards where they would have otherwise been destroyed for their aluminum content. He purchases or trades them at swap meets or swap meets as well. In addition, his business connections in aluminum casting allow him to borrow originals and convert them into cast aluminum replicas before returning them to their owner.
These clubs were usually focused on street racing and shared garage space, tools, and knowledge among members. They organized drag races and car washes while managing public perception of hot rodders. Some clubs even sent speakers to local civic meetings to inform on safe driving practices while also carrying courtesy cards for motorists stranded on highways – great ways for clubs to show they were part of a community spirit!
Beginning in Southern California during the 1940s and 50s, car clubs emerged. Each had its own set of rules governing membership, such as elected officers and probationary periods for newcomers; patch or shirt membership would show you were part of this club; some even had plaques made that displayed their club name painted onto flame-cut aluminum or engine parts or plain steel with its name painted upon it hung from their rear cars to show it was members only.
Lowrider car culture is deeply embedded within Latino communities, where cruising has long been an enjoyable pastime since the middle of the 20th century. Low-suspension and elaborately detailed cars known as lowriders represent more than simply transportation – they express their owners’ cultural identities and participation in lowrider car shows or cruises as a form of celebration of this specific car subculture.
Lowrider car clubs have historically been male-dominated; however, many clubs are beginning to include women as a way of challenging stereotypes about the community. Some clubs, such as Lady Bugs – an all-women Volkswagen Beetle driver club founded in the 1970s – and Black Widows have attained considerable fame through local media coverage, while Society Car Club of Superior, Arizona, are working towards changing public perception of lowrider culture away from gang violence and toward community involvement.
Cast aluminum plaques were once commonplace among lowrider car clubs, often featuring the name and image of their car done up in traditional Mexican retablo style painting. Chersky says he used some early plaques from other clubs as patterns when opening his shop and had them recast into aluminum; these plaques now retail at $20 each in his shop and at swap meets or online sales sites.
Chersky’s shop also provides services beyond aluminum plaques to lowrider car owners, including hydraulics (a machine that raises and lowers the frame of a car, creating the appearance that it’s moving on its own) pearl finishes (the three-step process in which translucent paint layers are layered for extra glossy and wet appearance), pearl finishes with fine paints applied over the top for different polished damp look), flake jobs (adding metallic sparkles to base coat) as well as flake jobs (where metallic sparks are added onto basecoat).
Car clubs from the 1940s and 50s would typically display a small plaque on their rear bumper to announce to other drivers they belonged to a particular club. Some clubs painted license plate-sized metal pieces with their name on them, while others had cast aluminum toppers made explicitly for them – an inexpensive way of showing that one belonged to one. Toppers became increasingly popular among hot rodders and custom car enthusiasts.
Chersky, one of the contributors to this site, is an avid collector of plaques. He’s found them everywhere, from garage walls and milk crates to scrap piles – even at swap meets and dealers! But his favorite finds have always been those nailed-to-rear vehicles – also called drag plaques!
He has found many at auctions and estate sales. All the original plaques he owns are aluminum with known foundry marks, making them very valuable; often, their original names were misspelled, so searching can help find specific plaques. Some patterns come from Chicago Metal Craft and Koehler, but his primary collection comes from Speed Gems, which produced thousands of plaques; most were crafted from linoleum, and some even from plastic or Masonite.
One interesting observation he has made is that older clubs usually had their club names displayed outside the plaque rather than within it, likely due to the sand casting process, which requires narrower patterns at the letters and graphics than at their base or background – this explains why so often Con Safos appears on top plaques.
Some older clubs had their plaques cast at high school metal shops, where sand casting is relatively straightforward, and students from those classes often had the chance to work on them during lessons. As a result, some plaques produced from original patterns look slightly different from more expensive plaques made at foundries.