Former local makes hot rod hall

Sunday, February 10, 2019
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Photos courtesy of Tom Vogele

Above: Tom Vogele grew up in Glendive and spent many years editing hot rod publications. He was recently inducted into the Hot Rod Industry Alliance Hall of Fame. Below: Tom Vogele with his award.

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Hot Rod

Tom Vogele was born in Glendive in 1950. He grew up ranching with his grandparents in the hills just south of town. As a child, Voglele demonstrated a talent and love for all things mechanical, which quickly turned to obsession. This obsession took him far away from his roots in rural Montana, but his experience growing up in Glendive was essential to shaping his automotive career. Now 69 years later, he is being inducted into the Hot Rod Industry Alliance Hall of Fame for his work on building and writing about hot rods.

It all started with hot rod magazines. Then one day, a young Vogele happened to pass by a now long gone body shop by the Moose Lodge. Inside he saw a modified 1934 Ford.

“It sat real low with this great big engine,” Vogele said, “It just sang to me. It was the quintessential hot rod of the era.”

From there he continued to fuel his interest with more magazines and watching his older brother mess around with cars. He saved money he made raising calves and eventually bought his first car.

“I had my first car at 11. I was living on a farm so, you know,” Vogele said.

His first car was a 1937 Chevy coup, which he started modifying before he was even 13 years old.

“At the time I had been reading these hot rod magazines,” Vogele stated. “Back in those days they would jack the front of the cars way up in the air for weight transfer. My dad had two of those old railroad jacks so I put ‘em in the coup and cranked them up.”

The car was so old, that a lot of times he needed to push it down a hill to get it started. Naturally, the obsession with vehicles became his number one priority.

“A friend and I would sneak out of school, roll the car down the hill to get it started and we’d go driving,” Vogele laughed. “One day I was driving into town. I was styling. We hit the rail road tracks and one of those jacks popped out from beneath the axle and the frame – nearly flipped the car over.”

Vogele never outgrew his love of cars, and continued to educate himself as he grew older. Growing up on a farm had forced Vogele to work with equipment and machines at an early age, giving him an edge when it came to learning automotive anatomy.

“Growing up on a farm, we were able to do a lot of things city kids can’t do,” Vogele said.

When Vogele hit his teens, his fascination with cars became his ticket to the dating scene.

“It was that thing,” Vogele said. “The guy with the neat car always got the girls. I guess it’s some of the reason guys play sports.”

Vogele worked around Glendive in pursuit of his passion at places that are now long gone, like the Self Service Auto Shop, and Pat Boyd’s junk yard. For about ten years, he worked for Mid-Rivers Communications as a repairman and at one point traveling to Chicago for training. He left Glendive in 1980 after applying to an associate editor position for Street Rod Magazine, based out in California. Vogele got the job after covering a local car show and before he knew it he was in Los Angeles, writing and publishing stories about his lifelong passion. After four years, he took a hiatus to work under now famous engine-head Boyd Coddington. From there, Vogele worked on a variety of famous cars with prominent mechanics, even helping to build the famous Project 40, later dubbed the “World’s Fastest Street Rod.”

In 1987, he returned to Street Rod Magazine as editor for the next 10 years. While working there, the publication grew from 125 pages a month to 400. “In 1988, the major publishing companies merged into one called Primedia,” Vogele said. After the merger, Vogele became the Vice President Group Publisher of Primedia’s Street Rod and Performance Group. He oversaw over 15 different publications for 15 years. He also helped promote road tours, and eventually met his wife Debra when she took a job working as a managing editor at Street Rodder.

“It was crazy hot rod guy meets exotic custom car girl,” Vogele later wrote.

He started a family and left his job in 2006 hoping to build cars, but returned just two years later to the publishing world as editor of Street Scene magazine, where he is currently employed.

Last November, Vogele was inducted into the Hot Rod Industry Alliance Hall of Fame at the Speciality Equipment Marketing Association trade show. Quite the journey for a Glendive kid who started off playing with old cars.

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