What Exactly is a Hot Rod Car?

Any Car Can Be a Hot Rod

It can be said that any vehicle that has been modified can be considered a hot rod. These modifications can range from increased power or speed.  But the Hot Rods that most of us think of are generally associated with older American cars starting as early as the 1930’s. There are varying views of where the term came from for these cars.  Some say that the term “hot” is in reference to cars having been stolen. When cars were made in smaller batches and/or handmade it was easier to steal a car and replace the engine while also repainting the entire exterior.

These changes therefore made it harder to identify a stolen car. But other theories are that it’s in reference to the rod or camshaft being replaced for better performance. By replacing the camshaft with a stronger, more powerful part it could increase horsepower and increase speed. That is not where the modifications ended though.

Over Coming Problems

The main concern was eliminating excess weight from the vehicle as this would also increase its speed. Convertible tops would be removed, heavy bumpers and fenders and even windshields would all be removed to lighten the vehicle. Mechanical modifications would also be made. More powerful engines would also be installed in the vehicle. The combination of reduced weight and more power beckoned for these hot rods to be raced. Los Angeles, California might have been the birthplace of racing hot rods where dry lake beds were perfect for challenging the speed and performance of these hot rods. These races were called drag races. Two to four cars would use the same starting point and race each other at top speeds to the finish line which was usually a quarter of a mile. The love of and racing of hot rods remained the same after the second World War, but the location of the races changed.

Where They Race

Due to an abundance of unused airfields many hot rods began racing on these paved, marked courses. This really began to get the public’s attention and some car fanatics even got into street racing. Of course, safety was a concern and out of this was born the National Hot Rod Association or NHRA.

This organization was formed in 1951 and one of its initial focuses was to get hot rod racing off the streets and back onto race tracks. The founder, president and chairman on the NHRA, “Wally” Parks was influential in the setting up the racing of hot rods for amateurs and professional drag racers alike. Thru its long history hot rods have held their audience’s attention and continue to recruit new fans throughout the United States but also abroad. Some choose the street while others choose the track. But regardless of where they race they are racing a hot rod. From the garage tuner who modifies their own personal hot rod to the professional racer who drives the quarter mile for a living, the thrill of the hot rod keeps its fans coming back for more.

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