Ah yes, the humble Hot Rod!
My apologies, I shouldn’t call them humble, more like over the top, in your face, an aggressive petrol drinking outlaw.
Did you know that the first Hot Rods were built in the 1920’s by bootleggers to allow them to escape law enforcement agencies?
But I think the more relevant question is: did these bootleggers ever think that their attempts at running from the authorities would create a culture that is now
one-hundred years old? The culture of tuning cars to go faster than they were originally built to.
The culture of ‘hot rodding’ cars quickly became more popular, with teenagers taking their Ford Model T’s or Model A’s to dry lake beds and the streets of Los Angeles to race.
Why does this sound so familiar when it happened almost one-hundred years ago?
In addition to ignition and timing adjustments, higher compression and added carburetors, these teens would strip back their cars, removing or chopping anything that wasn’t needed to go fast, including fenders, headlights and the roof. Tyres were also changed or even mounted over one another to provide more tread and therefore grip.
The 1940’s came with the increased popularity of style rather than speed. Hot Rods were lowered by cutting and dropping the floor pan or even the springs themselves, they had their grilles swapped from other cars and their roof lines chopped. New body and paint shops would give these Hot Rods and Custom cars an even crazier custom look. Glass-pack mufflers could also be added to create a burble-like sound.
Then came the 50’s, the golden era of the Hot Rod. The Flathead V8, an increase in street and lake-bed racing and drive in theaters become car meet hot spots. This special decade made the Hot Rod expand its boundaries across America, rather than being just in Southern California. It really was a time to be alive, and one that would set the Hot Rod and custom in stone, as one of the ambassadors of the car culture we have today.
So, let’s do a bit of a recap. Chopped fenders, engine tunes and swaps, lowered suspension, car meets, street racing and custom paint jobs. Why does this sound so familiar?
The point of the matter is: the old, outdated style of the Hot Rod has given us the inspiration and premise to create so many other styles for our modified cars. Stance, sleeper, lowrider, VIP, Retro, Dubs, restomod, bosozoku, drift, shakotan, donks, time attack, minitrucks, muscle, they all have taken their basic modifications from a Hot Rod, but applied it in a new form, to a new and different type of car, a new way.
That’s why the Hot Rod is important, it not only started the modification scene that we all love but has caused the creation of so many other styles that we can choose as an inspiration for our own cars.
It’s important not to forget the Hot Rod, or label it as an old fad. It’s important not to forget those bootleggers who ran from the police, those teenagers seeking to go faster, those custom bodywork pioneers, those inspired to create a Hot Rod of their own.
Although the golden era of the Hot Rod is long gone, it’s legacy will continue to
inspire and create different modification styles.
So, the only question left to ask is: how are you going to Hot Rod?
The Victorian Hot Rod Show Gallery