Hot Rods and Hot Rodding
Ya, I'm a motorhead and I love Hot Rods...
I have always been a "car guy", growing up during the muscle car era of the 1960s I became a fan of high performance automobiles. Not just muscle cars or race cars but 4WD offroading, motorcycles, custom choppers, dune buggies, tractor and truck pulling and well, I guess you could say I'm just a "motorhead" that's into just about anything when it has an engine and wheels. It's not only earthbound vehicles either, I'm also into aviation, but for this webpage, we'll keep it on the ground. Read on fellow motorheads.
The hot rod
For any car guy that grew up prior to the 1980’s, the term Hot Rod will definitely bring up certain images of the 60’s and early 70’s muscle cars and the earlier open wheel roadsters that were the most popular cars to hot rod back in the 50’s and earlier. T buckets, Dueces, ’57 Chevy, ‘Vettes, etc. were common sights on the boulevard in any city in America.
Nice collection of vintage rods and muscle cars
Hot Rod Fever
Hot Rods in the Beginning
Hot rodding got it's start as early as the 1930s but really gained in popularity after WWII. Most popular were the Ford Model T's and later A models which were turned into the open wheel roadsters that you'll see at any hot rod show anywhere in the country.
When guys first started tinkering with the intent to make their car faster, they made them lighter by removing fenders, running boards, bumpers, hood, roof and sometimes windshields, resulting in stripped down, odd looking cars that somewhere along the way got termed "Hot Rod." They also performed modifications to the engine any way they could to make them run better and put out more horsepower. More extensive modifications were sometimes performed called "chopping" and "channeling" which entails cutting sections out of the body to lower the height which changes the look and also improves aerodynamics.
Naturally, guys being guys, they had to prove their car was the fastest so they started racing them, first on the dry lake beds near Los Angeles California, then after the war on old abandoned airfields or wherever they could at the time. This gave birth to the sport of drag racing that we know today. As it grew in popularity, there became a need some semblance of organization and the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) was formed by Wally Parks in 1951.
New YouTube vids
Pretty soon, the American car companies started to realize that they could capitalize on the popularity of hot rods and started offering high performance cars in their showrooms that anyone could buy. They were popular because even someone without mechanical knowledge or ability could get a higher performance car just by walking into a showroom and plunking down some cash, no modifications required.
From about the mid 1950’s on you could get high performance options on cars but starting in the early 60’s, it really took off with purpose built high performance cars known as “muscle cars”. Names like Camaro, Chevelle, Corvette, Mustang, T-Bird, Torino, Charger, Duster, Barracuda, etc. ruled the streets all through the 60’s and early 70’s.
Then, in response to the first gas crunch along about 1973, the car companies moved away from the high horsepower, performance oriented cars and concentrated on MPG, turning out lackluster econo-boxes and drab family sedans. Their first attempts at fuel efficient cars produced underpowered, underperforming, milktoast automobiles that no real car guy wanted to drive so that gave rise to the hot rod movement once again. If Detroit wasn’t producing performance, it was up to the hotrodder to do it.
Hot Rods Reborn - Street Rods
Along about this time though, the term “Street Rod” originated and while it’s sometimes used interchangeably with hot rod, it really denotes a car more street friendly for everyday use and not as much built just for speed and racing. There was more emphasis on making the car look good as well as perform well.
Today, this street rod movement has evolved into producing cars built more for show than go with many only driven occasionally or not at all. These “trailer queens” only come out of the garage to be transported to a show or competition in an enclosed car trailer. Owners are sometimes obsessed with keeping their “show car” immaculate and driving the car on the street isn’t conducive to maintaining it in “showroom” condition. There are still plenty of die hard hotrodders out there though with many people using there rod as a daily driver.
Nowadays, if you’re an aspiring hotrodder, the old muscle cars and early Fords are somewhat rare and hard to find. Fortunately, demand has given rise to companies that specialize in building replica parts including steel or fiberglass bodies, frames and even complete kits to build a great looking rod from the ground up. You can find parts available to build any of the most popular classic hot rod models and kits available to just about any builder skill level.
Street Rods & Hot Rods
A Few Fine RidesClick thumbnail to view full-size
These are HOT!
Open headers showing some flames.
Keep on Roddin'
You might think that if gas prices soar to high levels again, people will give up on building Hot Rods but I don't believe that will happen. We are a mobile country and whatever the future holds for cars, no matter what type of powerplant it has, people will find ways to customize them to their taste and performance desires. For instance, you can build an electric vehicle to have mild performance and long range to be a practical commuter car but a hotrodder can take that car and modify it to expend it's electrical energy over the course of accelerating through a quarter mile drag race and rival speeds of any internal combustion engine driven car.
As long as we use cars, hotrodders will find ways to modify them and it's not just cars. There are also many other "gearhead" movements that people are involved in such as, dune buggies, off road and 4WD, rock crawling, drifting, custom motorcycles or choppers, etc. and now, modifying cars for extreme economy. People are building cars to see how many MPG they can get. They're experimenting with alternative fuel vehicles such as alcohol, bio-diesel, plug in hybrids, fuel cell, even compressed air to attain record mileage numbers, so if you're into cars in any way, there's something out there for you.
Gentlemen, start your engines!
Nostalgia Drag Racing
Back in the day, some of the wildest cars on the dragstrip were the AA Fuel Altereds. Here's a nice video of a replica of a car called the Winged Express that was driven by a guy called Wild Willie Borsch who was known for smokin' the tires the length of the track while driving with one hand on the wheel and one hand waving to the crowd.