I’m sure when most people think of a hot rod, the image of a 30’s Ford Model A with the fenders stripped, roof cut off, and a Small Block Chevy 350 instantly appears in their head… and we’ve made tons of Car Show Signs for them! It’s been the quintessential American dream, fortified by Hollywood and then replicated by thousands of gearheads. But really, are we taking this icon of Americana too literally, and confining it to just one type of vehicle??
From the Battlefield to the Streets
You have to start at the beginning to really get a grasp of the concept of a Hot Rod. In the late 1940’s you had thousands of GI’s coming back from WWII with tons of mechanical and engineering knowledge from the war. And some of them were looking for a little adrenaline fix after experiencing it on the battle fields. This adrenaline fix need turned into the need for speed! (Japanese soldiers had this too, and most will point to the Bosozoku movement for their car culture beginnings).
So in the late 40’s you have a small but prevalent amount of parts readily available, the Ford Model T’s and Ford Flathead V8’s. Couple that with the massive amount of knowledge by hot rodding pioneers like Vic Edelbrock that knew how to get every ounce of power from those engines and you see the beginnings come to fruition. Strip the fenders and front clip off a Model T, throw in a Flathead Ford (recent builds might opt for the Chevy 350), and you get one of the first true Hot Rods… the “T Bucket” The elements to any Hot Rod are right there… strip the un-necessary body parts to save weight, throw in a big engine to accelerate!
The Hot Rod Hayday
As we move in to the 1950’s and 1960’s you can see a change, but not to the original concept. As American manufacturers went back to producing cars after producing planes and tanks for the war effort, you see the American consumer upgrade from the pre-war cars to the newer and more modern cars. That’s when you see the 1930’s Fords and Chevrolets fall right into the hands of hot rodders! Agian, strip the fenders, chop the roof, and what you think of the American Hot Rod appears. While some stick with the tried and true Flathead Ford, as time moves on most adopt the newer Chevy Small Block as their choice to throw themselves into their seats as they mashed the gas!
…It was never about keeping Ford engines in Ford cars or Chevy engines in Chevy cars, it was about what made the most power and was the most accessible to the hot rodder!
While the start of the muscle car era in the 60’s may have put a damper on the Hot Rod (After all you could now buy a fast car instead of having to build one), you see a lot of the principles go into squeezing every ounce of power out of those engines. From Edelbrock developing different carburetors and intake manifolds, to the wide array of other manufacturers making other components to bolt onto those cars, we see people wanting to squeeze every pony out of their engine to get a few tenths shaved off their quarter mile times. And we see that alive and well today!
What Lies Ahead
The future is a big unknown, and really nothing is off the table. But honestly, it’s the unknown I’m looking forward to! We see a massive amount of engine swaps today with the Chevy LS, and the Mopar Gen III HEMI… again, very accessible engines to everyone and able to make horsepower up the wazoo! We’re seeing the tuners taking small, lightweight cars and seeing some eye-popping speeds with only a moderate amount of horsepower. And yes, we’re seeing some deviate from the tried and true internal combustion engine and going electric… all in the pursuit of that need for speed!
So what is a Hot Rod?? We’re definitely moving into a future where that term is going to expand to include a lot of different vehicles!