||Last updated on September 28, 2013|
Traditional hot rods
One of the neat things about hot rods is that they can be designed and built just about any way you want. But most hot rods fall into one of two categories:
traditional hot rods; and street rods. Most of us can appreciate both styles of cars to some degree but prefer one style of car over the other.|
Tommy Otis designed and built the outstanding "L.A. Highboy" shown here. This car is a
perfect example of using classic hot rod parts parts to build a superb, traditional hot rod.
We'll get back to discussing traditional hot rods after we take a look at street rods.
A street rod could be defined as being a car that resembles a hot rod, but it was built with all new parts. Essentially, you buy all your new parts and put the
car together; or as is more often the case with a street rod, you pay people to put it together for you.
Street rods are almost always built with radial tires. Look inside one and you'll often see a tilt steering column, modern seat, and sometimes digital
High-tech street rodders define the cutting edge of street rodding by using exotic, hand-formed bodywork, and custom-machined parts that often include
independent suspension, trick paint, and billet aluminum wheels with low-profile radials.|
These cars are almost never built by their owners. As far as cost goes, a modern, high-tech, turn-key street rod can range from around a-hundred-thousand to as
high as a million dollars. If you're trying to set a new standard, in
show competition against the most exotic, handbuilt show cars in the world, there is really no
upper limit to what you can spend.
Now let's get back to traditional hot rods.
A traditional hot rod is put together to look like it was built (or could have been built) decades ago, by using as many parts as possible that were made no
later than the Fifties or the Sixties at the latest.
The first step in planning a project car is to decide on what you want to end up with when the car is finished. The goal is to pick a theme for the car and
stay with it. My taste in hot rods leans toward cars that were built (or look they were built) between the early 1950s and the late '60s, especially in
Roadsters, phaetons, cabriolets, coupes, sedans, sedan deliveries, and even pickups are all good candidates; but the "phantom" body styles that are often seen
on street rods could be considered to be out-of-place on a traditional car.
Whatever era of car you're building, once you have picked a theme for it, it's important to stay within that time frame. For example, a '50s car would have had
a generator, not an alternator. To do it right, you're going to have to use bias-ply
tires instead of radials. If you're building a car with a '50s or '60s (or even a '70s) theme,
you'll want to avoid using parts like small block Chevy center-bolt valve covers, or any other parts that weren't available at the time. Hence the term "period
correct". It's easy to miss the point in the eyes of purists. You have to stay with the theme.
More than any other parts on a hot rod, it's the
wheels that set the theme for the car. Here's a brief overview of some of the wheels that have
been popular on hot rods over the years.
Going all the way back to the birth of hot rodding and oval track racing in the 1920s, most hot rods were early Fords that used early Ford steel wheels that
were stock or modified. By the early '50s, Ted Halibrand's magnesium wheels became the standard choice on Indy cars, sprint cars, and midget racers. Some, but
not many, of his wheels were also run on the street. Chrome steel wheels and spun aluminum Moon discs were introduced later in the 1950s.
In the early '60s, the magnesium Halibrand Sprint provided the inspiration for the aluminum Ansen Sprint, which looked similar to the magnesium Halibrand but
with a fully-machined face that eliminated the raised lips around the slots. The early '60s also saw the introduction of the aluminum American Racing
Torq-Thrust five-spoke, and the Cragar S/S composite steel and aluminum five-spoke. In the mid-'60s, these were followed by the American Racing Torq-Thrust "D"
for new '65 Corvettes with disc brakes. The late '60s saw the introduction of the E-T III. These are some of the wheels that are discussed in more detail on
this site's page about
classic racing wheels.
If you're building a traditional early Ford hot rod, especially a '40s or '50s car with a flathead, Mike Bishop and Vern Tardel have written an excellent book
that shows what's involved in selecting parts and getting them to work together. The book lists for $24.95, and the ISBN is 0-7603-0900-0.
The sites that follow have been selected as being representative of a growing trend in hot rodding: a return to rodding's roots, with cars being built by using
a lot of original parts, and built by their owners, they way they were decades ago. And unless they're on their way to the drag strip or the salt flats, you
won't see them on trailers. These cars are built to be driven and enjoyed.
Build your dream
Time after time we see examples of people spending a great deal of time, energy, and money on a car that is not what they really wanted, but what they were
able to afford. When someone does that a few times, they may realize that if they hadn't, they could have had built their dream car.|
At any big rod run, you're bound to see a few "oddball" cars. These are cars that wouldn't make the top ten of anyone's list of dream cars, but their owners
probably bought them because they found them at the right price, and decided that they would do until they were able to afford something closer to their ideal.
Whether it's a '33 Plymouth four-door, or a four-door '38 Buick doesn't matter. Many of us simply consider cars like this to be diversions from people's
In 2002, someone had put a 1924 Buick roadster body up for auction on eBayMotors. He mentioned that only a few of them were known to exist, and that he had
searched for several years and traveled cross-country to find this one. It may well have been the nicest one in the country, and needed very little work to get
it ready for paint. When the auction ended, it didn't meet the reserve, and only went up to around four-hundred bucks. The lesson here is that while there are
thousands of us that are searching for nice, steel roadster bodies, hardly anyone cared about this one, because it was a 1924 Buick. People build early Ford
hot rods because that's what most of us have always liked, understood, built, rodded, and raced.
I once worked with a sixteen-year-old that had just started his first job, and the prospective paychecks had his head spinning. He told me about a Ford Falcon
that he was looking forward to buying and fixing up. The plan was to buy the car right away and tear it apart, and then use as much money as he possibly could
afford to buy parts for it. It was slated to get a new engine and transmission, a rear end swap, suspension upgrades, bodywork, paint, a new interior, and a
set of wheels and tires. I asked him what kind of car he would like to have if he could afford anything. Without hesitating, he said that it would be an early
Mustang. I pointed out that instead of getting distracted with the Falcon, he could save up and before too long he'd be able to buy the car that he really
wanted. He said that he didn't want to wait. I told him that even if he put a Ford Cammer engine, a Lenco transmission, and full tube chassis in that Falcon,
when it was all done, nobody would care, because no matter how much money he threw at it, it would still be a Ford Falcon. Ultimately, I reasoned, the Falcon
would just be a distraction that kept him from reaching his goal of having the early Mustang that he really wanted. And while it seemed unattainable to him at
the time, the goal was actally quite reasonable.
In April of 2004, someone on a message board mentioned that he had the chance to buy a chassis from a 1978 Chevy Malibu, and was asking people what other
bodies would fit it. This wasn't going to be his first project. He already had a 1959 Mercury, a 1964 Ford Fairlane that was done up along the lines of a
Thunderbolt drag car, an all-original '64 1/2 Mustang, and a 1970 Ford F-100 pickup that he was converting to four-wheel-drive. It seemed like he had no real
need for the Malibu chassis, and was considering buying it because it was easily-available and reasonably-priced. In his second post on the subject, he
mentioned that his Fairlane Thunderbolt clone ran in the 15s, and he'd like it to be quicker.
There are two possible scenarios here. In the first, he gets started on another project, based around the '78 Malibu chassis. Considerable time, energy, and
money are spent installing another body on it, with the likely result being something that had more compromises than any of his existing projects. The second
option would be for him to forget about taking on yet another project, and instead take the same amount of time, energy, and money and putting it into
improving the performance of the Thunderbolt project. Starting with a 460 out of a '69 Lincoln, it wouldn't be too much work to get that car to run in the low
13s. Given some good engineering and workmanship, the result could be a really neat car.
Over the years, while discussing possible project cars, a number of people have advised me to pick the one car that I'd like to have more than anything, and
work toward that goal, without compromising or getting distracted by something less that happened to come along. Cars like that are always showing up, and you
can learn a lot from working on them, but they would ultimately prevent us from building our dream. It's good advice.
Hot rod builders
B Rod or Custom Knoxville, TN|
Bear Metal Kustoms Morro Bay, CA
Bennett Coachworks Milwaukie, WI
Bill's Rod & Custom Springfield, OH
Roy Brizio Street Rods South San Francisco, CA
Chopper Lance Burbank, CA
Circle City Hot Rods Orange, CA
Cornhusker Rod & Custom, Inc. Alexandria, NB
Custom Automotive Restoration Portland, OR
Don's Kustoms Fort Bragg, CA
Dream Machines Toronto, Ontario
Extreme Metal & Paint Anacortes, WA
FastLane Rod Shop Donohue, IA
Bill Hall Body & Frame Portland, OR
Horton, Inc. Ontario, Canada
Hot Rods & Custom Stuff Escondido, CA
Hot Rods by Dean Phoenix, AZ
Ionia Hot Rod Shop Iona, MI
JB Street Rods
Johnson's Hot Rod Shop Gadsden, AL
Kemps Rod and Restoration, Inc. Iron Mountain, MI|
Lance Hot Rods & Customs Burbank, CA
LimeWorks Speed Shop Whittier, CA
Loboy's Rod & Custom Baldur, Manitoba
Midwest Hot Rods Plainfield, IL
Posies Hummelstown, PA
Quality Restoration Street Rods Port Orchard, WA
Radical Engineering Greensboro, NC
Retro Rides by Rich Archdale, NC
Rhodes Custom Auto Works Townsend, DE
Salinas Boys Salinas, CA
Smoky Hill Restoration Granbury, TX
SO-CAL Speed Shop AZ, CA, CO, UT, and TX
Southtown Street Rods South Coffeyville, OK
Strange Motion Cambridge, IL
Street Rods by Michael TN
Tucci Engineering Marcy, NY
Vintage Hammer Garage Yucaipa, CA
Barry White's Street Rod Repair Co. Placentia, CA
Ziggy's Hot Rods Australia
Clubs and associations
Hot rod events
Antique Auto Museum at Hershey, Pennsylvania|
Antiques on the Bay in St. Ignace, MI
Back to the Fifties in St. Paul, MN
Barrett Jackson in AZ, FL, and NV
Big 3 Parts Exchange in San Diego
Billetproof in Antioch, CA
California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield
Car Shows in the New Jersey Area
Cars at Carlisle
Championship Auto Shows, Inc.
Cruisin' the Coast on the Mississippi Gulf Coast
Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, CA
Heavy Rebel Weekender in Winston Salem, NC
Hot August Nights in Reno, NV
Hot Rod and Rockabilly Rumble in East Hartford, CT
Hot Rod Fallout in South Glastonbury, CT
Hot Rod Hoedown and Rock and Roll Rumble in PA
Hot Rod Power Tour WI to TN
Hotrod & Restoration Trade Show in Indianapolis, IN
Hotrod-A-Rama in Tacoma, WA
The Hunnert Car Pileup in Chicago
ISCA International Show Car Association
Jalopy Showdown in York Springs, PA
Kool April Nites in Redding, CA
L.A. Roadsters Fathers Day Show in Pomona|
Land Speed Record Racing Schedule
The Lonestar Round Up in Austin, TX
Long Beach Hi-Performance Swap Meet
Michigan Car Show Events
Midnight at the Oasis
National Street Rod Association Events
San Francisco Rod and Custom Show
Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance
Pomona Swap Meet in Pomona, CA
Portland Roadster Show in Portland, OR
Portland Swap Meet in Portland, OR
Rat Fink Events
Rocky Mountain Rod and Custom Car Show
Run to the Sun Car Show in Lake Havasu City, AZ
SoCal Car Culture events listings and photo coverage
Syracuse Nationals in Syracuse, NY
Toyz for Totz Rod Run and Car Show
Twilight Cruise Night at the NHRA Museum in Pomona
Viva Las Vegas in Las Vegas
Zephyrhills Swap Meet in Zephyrhills, FL
Hot rod sites
Hot rods overseas
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