Playing Street Rod you might get the impression it was indeed developed in California by people deeply embedded in custom car subculture. Nothing further from the truth.
California Dreams was an American sounding name for a publishing label started by Lucjan Wencel, Polish immigrant. All of the released games were created in Poland/Warsaw, under the Iron Curtain, aka Russian occupation of central and eastern Europe. This is especially impressive when you realize the restrictions imposed on Comecon countries by the west in form of COCOM – illegal to import computers, and Russia itself – cultural and technological repression, censorship, prohibited ownership of Radio transceivers/ photocopiers/ printing presses/ foreign currency, prison sentences for listening to Radio Free Europe (1), special permits for computer ownership, etc.
Lucjan Wencel’s wife name was Karen Lee, hence P.Z. Karen. ‘P.Z.’ is a legal business type designation ‘przedsiebiorstwo zagraniczne’, stands for foreign company. LDW in Logical Design Works comes from his full initials Lucjan Daniel Wencel. Mister Wencel’s LDW was the first company to start officially importing computers, 8-bit Atari, to Poland. Of course you couldnt just buy one, they were only available at special government run Internal Export Company PEWEX line of shops. ‘Internal Export’, just try to process that one for a second haha. How were they special you might ask? They only accepted western currency, the ILLEGAL to own kind, very Kafkaesque :-). Poland desperately needed hard western cash to pay back international loans, Pewex shops were designed to suck it out of the black market by ignoring inconvenient parts of the legal system. 80s were a crazy time in Poland. Almost everything was illegal, but nobody batted an eye as long as you didnt touch politics and knew or bribed right people. Security apparatus was paranoid about political revolt (2).
P.Z. Karen company was a very special place in Poland. Developers there immersed in US culture at an unprecedented, if not straight up illegal level. Western movies on VHS tapes (American Graffiti, etc), magazines (Car Exchange, Hot Rod, Road & Track), music, everything unobtainable to normal citizen, all in an effort to produce truly American games. Street Rod is a great proof it worked.
1. In 1981 Radio Free Europe Munich headquarter was bombed by Romanian special agent call-sign “Carlos the Jackal”, straight up movie plot. Life imitates art :o.
2. In 1978 government imported armored Cadillac Fleetwood for the head of the country. Not for daily use tho, it was part of an emergency evacuation plan in case of insurrection. Trunk had special hidden human sized compartment, outside stylized to look official US Embassy, designated driver on call was assigned USMC uniform. Car was hidden in a shipping container and never driven.