Car Hopping

Written by Johnny Dip

Between the 1930s and 1940s, a hobby called “car hopping” was popular among the young Chinese American adults of Los Angeles. Car hopping meant tuning cars for better performance. Many young people of this age found cars to be exciting especially when test driving their “hopped up” cars. Co-founder of C.F.O. Service Station, Abe Chin, was one of the many who enjoyed car hopping. CFO was one of two Chinese-owned gas stations in Los Angeles in the 1930s and 1940s. The “C” stood for the Chin brothers, consisting of Abe Chin, Howard Chin, and George Chin. The “F” was for Wesley Fong and the “O” stood for Henry Ong. It is evident from their founding of the business that they were fond of cars. People would have gatherings when someone’s car was “hopped up.” Wesley Fong put a V8 engine into his Model A Ford with Abe Chin’s help.

Excited with its new power, they wanted to test drive it although it was 2 am. For precautions, they had people stationed at all intersections in the neighborhood. At the roar of the engine, lights went off at numerous houses. Johnny Young, like many of the younger kids in the neighborhood remembers the practice, “We did a few of those [hopped up cars]. But it was mostly the older generation, my brothers and all that. They had hopped up Model A’s. In fact that’s how I learned to drive.” Car hopping was something enjoyed not only by the Chinese American youth, but by other ethnicities as well. In short, the hobby of “car hopping” can be seen as one of the precursors to car tuning and modified cars that are popular among today’s youth.