Hot rod legend Tom Medley with his 1940 Ford Coup

Hot rod legend Tom Medley, a longtime Burbank resident who passed away on Sunday, March 1, pictured with his restored 1940 Ford Coupe in July 2013. (Courtesy of Gary Medley / March 7, 2014)

Longtime Burbank resident Tom Medley, creator of the "Stroker McGurk" cartoon series that ran in Hot Rod magazine, died Sunday.

He would've turned 94 this month.

The hot rod legend, who died following a short illness, is survived by his son Gary Medley, who remembered his father as a funny, energetic man, deeply loved by many.

The Oregon-native moved to California after serving in the U.S. Army in World War II and was accepted to study at the Art Center College of Design, then known at the Art Center School.

That's where he became immersed in the Southern California hot rod scene and began sketching cartoons on local car culture.

He joined Hot Rod magazine in 1948 – for its second issue – as "humor and cartoon editor." Shortly after, he created Stroker McGurk. The cartoon series ran in Hot Rod from 1948 to 1955, and made a brief comeback in the 1960s.

"The idea was to create a character who would become the reader's friend, one they could relate to through his trials and tribulations of just being a hot rodder," Tom Medley said in Best of Hot Rod, a book about the culture. "In some small way, I hoped Stroker would help the sport of hot rodding become more respectable."

Tom Medley always loved cars. As a teen, he would hitchhike 65 miles to watch dirt track racing, Gary Medley said.

In 2011, a garage fire destroyed Tom Medley's prized 1940 Ford Coupe, prompting family and friends to launch a restoration effort through which they raised $30,000.

After 10 months, he was able to get behind the wheel again.

Tom Medley was later the publisher of Rod and Custom magazine, and organized the first street rod nationals in 1970, which now draws more than 11,000 cars, Gary Medley said.

"I couldn't have had a better dad, we shared so much," Gary Medley said.

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