Hot Rod History

Hot Rods
Typically American cars with large engines modified for linear speed.
Nobody knows for sure the origin of the term "Hot Rod."

One explanation is that the term is a contraction of "hot roadster," meaning a roadster modified for speed.
Open roadsters were the cars of choice to modify because they were light. Hot Rod may also refer to the cam or pushrods inside the engine or other to the exposed frame rails of such an automobile. It was adopted in the 1930s or 1940s as the name of a car that had been "hopped up" by modifying the cam to achieve higher performance.

The term seems first to have appeared in the late 1930s,when kids from southern California would race their modified cars on the vast, empty dry lake beds northeast of Los Angeles under the rules of the Southern California Timing Association.

The term became popular during and after World War II due to returning Soldiers who were given machining and/or engineering training, particularly in California.
Originally meaning an old car... most often a Ford, typically a Model T, Model A, or a 1932 to 1934 Model B, that had been modified by: reducing weight (sometimes modifying the body by removing roof, hood, bumpers, windshield, and/or fenders); lowering it; modifying, tuning, or replacing the engine to give more power; and changing the wheels and tires to improve traction and handling.

Hot Rod term was in the 1950 also uses for any car that did not fit into the mainstream.
Such modifications were considered to improve the appearance as well leading to show cars in the 1960s replicating these same modifications along with a distinctive paint job.

After World War II there were many small military airports throughout the country that were either abandoned or vary rarely used that allowed Hot Rodders across the country to race on marked courses.

Originally Drag Racing had tracks that may have been as long 1 mile or more, and included up to 4 lanes of racing at the same time.

As hot rodding became more popular in the 1950s, magazines and associations by Hot Rodders were started. As Hot Rodders began to race on the street in addition to drag strips, a need arose for an organization to promote the images of Hot Rodders.

Hot rodders including Wally Parks created the National Hot Rod Association ( NHRA) in 1951...

To bring racing off the streets and onto the tracks. They created rules based on safety an entertainment,
and allowed Hot Rodders of and caliber the ability to race. The annual California Hot Rod Reunion and National Hot Rod Reunion are held to honor pioneers in the sport.

The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum houses the roots of hot rodding.
As automobiles offered from the major automakers began increasing performance, the lure of Hot Rods began to wain.

You no longer needed to put a Cadillac engine in a Ford roadster to be fast. You could now buy a Pontiac
GTO that out performed your Hot Rod, and still have enough room to fit the wife and kids.

After the 1973 Oil Crisis the public called on automakers to offer safety and fuel efficiency over performance. This led to a resurgence of Hot Rodding, although the focus was on driving Hot Rods over racing so the term 'Street Rod' was coined to denote a vehicle manufactered prior to 1949, often times with a late model drivetrain for reliability.

Street Rodding as it was now known was a different phenominon that Hot Rodding, as Street Roddering was mainly family oriented. National events were hosted by the National Street Rod Association (NSRA)

Which also stressed safety as the NHRA did 20 years before, but this was safety for the street as opposed to on the race track. Each NSRA event has a 'Safey Inspection Team' that performs a 23 points inspection process that goes beyond what normal State Safety Inspections Require.

Nowadays people who own hot rods keep them clean and try to make them noticeable.
There are many different sects of Hot Rodding now, there are...

Traditional Rods... built according to a particular point in time, build techniques and materials,
( Image: Tardel / Cochran 1930 Ford Coupe )

Billet Rods... noted by many items being made from Billet alluminum,

Rat Rods... pieced together to look like old time jalopys,
Don't be fooled... they sometimes require more work than a show rod,

Show Rods... created to compete in National Car Shows such as America's Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR), and the Detroit Autorama.

Althought collectively they are all referred to as Hot Rods.

There are many magazines that feature real hot rods, including The Rodders Journal, Hot Rod Magazine, Rod and Custom Magazine, Street Rodder, and Popular Hot Rodding, etc...

There are also television shows such as Rides, and American Hot Rod. Fast & Loud, etc...

Hot rods are part of American culture, although there is growing controversy within the automotive hobby over an increasing trend towards the acquisition and irreversible modification of surviving historic, some even very rare, vehicles rather than the traditional hot rodding concept of the salvage and remanufacture of reusable junked parts.

Hot Rod ERA
The Hot Rod era extended from 1930 to the beginning of the muscle car era (about 1965), reaching its height in about 1955. During this time, there was an adequate supply of what hot rodders called "vintage tin" junk cars manufactured prior to 1942 that could be had cheaply.

Many of these had sound bodies and frames and had been junked for mechanical reasons, since the running gear of early cars was not durable.

The typical hot rod was heavily modified, particularly by replacing the engine and transmission, and possibly other components, including brakes and steering. Certain engines, such as the flathead Ford V8, and the small block Chevrolet V8 were particularly popular as replacements because of their compact size, availability, customization and power.

( Ford V8 Flathead Engine )

( Small block Chevrolet V8 Engine )

( Super Red Ram Hemi V8 Engine )

The early Hemi was popular in applications that required more power, such as drag racing.
More recently, more unusual engines have become popular to use in hot rods, notably the Cadillac 500 and the Buick "NailHead".

Construction of a hot rod requires skills in mechanics, welding, and automotive paint and body work.
The "classic era" of hot rod construction ended around 1965, partly because the supply of vintage tin had diminished, but mostly because new cars were equipped for greater speed and power from the factory with little or no modification required.

there are still a large number of hot-rodders and street-rodders.

The Street Rod Nationals serves as a showplace for the majority of the hot-rodding and street-rodding world to display their cars and to find nearly any part needed to complete them.

There is still a vibrant Hot Rod culture worldwide, especially in the United States and Sweden. But also in Japan and Europe there's a lot going on these days.

The Hot Rod community has now been subdivided into two main groups: hot rodders and street rodders.
Hot rodders build their cars using a lot of original, old parts, and follow the styles that were popular from the 1940s through the 1960s.

Street rodders build cars (or have them built for them) using, primarily, new parts.
There is a contemporary movement of traditional hot rod builders, car clubs and artists who have returned to the roots of hot rodding as a lifestyle...

This current traditional hot rod culture is exemplified in a whole new breed of traditional hot rod builders, artists and styles, as well as classic style car clubs like the Deacons, the Shifters, and the Dragoons, etc...

US Events like Viva Las Vegas and GreaseOrama showcase return to traditional hot rods and the greaser lifestyle. Underground magazines like Garage, Rolls & Pleats, and BurnOut showcase this return to traditional hot rods by covering events and people around the world.

There are number of independently released DVDs featuring this traditional hot rod revival with names such as Mad Fabricators, Hot Rod Surf ‘All Steel All Real’, and Hot Rod Havoc...


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  2. These all cars are just incredible. They are represented by different makers and cool in design and very convenient. I would like to drive these cars. You have a great blog. If you need to check car history then it is possible to use vin decoder to get vehicle data by vin number.

  3. Hot rod engines from 55-65 were generally the biggest that the owner could get their hands on. The small block Chev was not really popular until later. Big Pontiacs, Olds Rockets, Cadillacs, early Hemis and Nailhead Buicks were the top choices. The Chev small block was still considered too small at 265 or 283 cubic inches.

  4. Thanks for adding the info thinkr!
    Cheers Skip'