Hot Rod is a term known across the lands. If your heart skips a beat when you hear one coming down the road, you will likely have your own definition of a Hot Rod. Luckily this is not a million-dollar question as there is not one singular answer to define the term. Hot Rods are a car lover’s treasure and most discussed topic if you happen to engage in a conversation with one. Vehicles are a mode of transportation yet Hot Rods symbolize power, class and undeniable envy. With that in mind… how do you define a Hot Rod?

Hot Rods evoke imagery when attempting to define them. The thundering engine of a 32’ Ford or a smooth and sleek Chevelle might be the picturesque way to describe a Hot Rod, however this still does not define them. Let’s take a look at what we do know which will bring us one step closer to actualizing the universal term.

In Terms of a Hot Rod

We know the term has been generically exemplified with a watered-down version. The dictionary has described it as an automobile that has been altered to accelerate faster and to increase speed. The logical side of our minds can accept this statement; however, the Hot Rod fan side is shaking their heads in defiance. It does not portray the justice due for the long hours, planning, dedication and complete admiration of the final results. It also only covers speed as a modification. Don’t get us wrong, speed in a Hot Rod go hand in hand although there is more to the RPM’s in this case.

We ask ourselves where the shout outs are for changed over framing, strut work, exhaust makeovers and of course the primo finishing touches. The confusion began when after 48’ models were included in the Hot Rod agenda. As the classics conformed to include vehicles up to the 80’s, modern present dated vehicles joined the mix. The term Hot Rod no longer was an inclusive club of the classics. New models were reformed to meet or match their older counterparts.

This led to a mods list of what would fall into the category. The options were too vast depending on the year, make and model that it was not a viable way to discern the title. Here are a few theories of how the term became relevant:

  • In the early days, modifications were frowned upon as being street legal in comparison to factory renditions.
  • Hot Roadster referred to the popular Roadster cars in the 30’s and 40’s. They became “Hot” once they were altered to maximize speed.
  • A known modification was to change out the camshafts of the car to increase power. Cams were also known as rods which could have lent a hand in the name.

At the end of the day, a Hot Rod has a special meaning for individual enthusiasts. A suitable text book definition is not necessary to enjoy the roaring hum of the engine. All you need is the keys and the spirit of the road behind you.