The Times Journal & Russell County News
Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014 — RUSSELL SPRINGS & JAMESTOWN, KENTUCKY —
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Cruisin': What is a Hot Rod?
In June 19 Issue
Russell County News
By Ron Cowell, Columnist

Got an email from a reader that ask a question, he that made me stop and think, so I have to admit I had to rely on the dictionary for the exact definition… He wanted to know what makes a "HOT ROD". According to Webster's Dictionary (at least my copy) it says, HOT ROD - Automotive Engineering, a car that has been radically modified to produce increased power.

From what I could find out the term "HOT ROD" first came about in the late 1930's in Southern California where guys would race their modified cars on the vast empty dry lake beds.

They followed the rules of the South California Timing Association. Racing modified cars became even more popular after World War II mainly in California because many of the returning soldiers had under gone mechanic training in the service.

The first Hot Rods were old cars, mainly Fords Model T's and 1928 to 1931 models or 1932 to 1934 Model B's were modified. Usually they would remove the top, fenders, hood's, bumpers, windshields channeling the body and modifying the engine by tuning or replacing the motor with a more powerful type. The wheels and tires were often changed to larger on the rear for better traction and handling. During the 1950's the term "HOT ROD "was used for a cart that did not fit into the mainstream. When someone modified his car it was considered to improve the over all looks of the car. In the 1960's it became popular to put a fantastic paint job on it and take it to car shows.

When the engines were changed it often involved fitting the Ford flat head engine in a different chassis. When the 225 cu in (421) V8 hit the market and because of the ease to switch the two, installing the larger stroke Mercury crank in the 239 was a popular upgrade  among the Hot Rodders much as the 400 cu in was in the small blocks.

Then back in the 50's the Flat head was slowly being replaced by the Hemi.

 In addition in the 50's rodders routinely bored out the Hemi due to the tendency of the block to crack as a result of overheating.  Another most common option was the small block Chevy. And since the 80's the 350 Chevy has become very popular.

The Hot Rod culture is now world wide, mostly in the United Stated, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Hot Rodders today have been split mainly into two groups, the hot rodders and the street rodders. Hot rodders build their cars using a lot of original old parts and follow the styles that were popular in the 40's and 50's.

Street rodders however build their cars out of mostly new parts. One thing a Hot rodder or a street rodders wants for sure is to make sure his car is noticeable.

Street Rods are a mix of hot rods, custom cars and modern Detroit cars,  with emphasis on a high custom paint job, luxury leather interior and modern engines and running gear,

Pro Street Rods are usually mildly customized sedans and coupes that one would not normally think of as a hot rod.  Most of them having huge powerful motors and huge rear tired inside the fender well.

Traditional Rods are those that are built to a particular point in time and to stick to those techniques and materials.

And then there is the Sow Rod, These cars are built to compete in National Car Show's such as America's Most Beautiful Roadster and the Detroit Autorama.

There are many clubs in this area that support the Hot Rod/ Street Rod bunch in our community.

Hot Rods are a part of America like apple pie and baseball. As the supply of the original steel body vehicle dwindles to nothing, those who reject fiberglass replicas can buy new reproduction bodies. These are not actual antiques but often times are a lot more superior in some aspects build quality to original hot rod bodies. They don't come cheap though, the best bodies can cost as much as $10.000.00 or more..

If you know someone you would like to see featured in my article or your club has an upcoming event you like to let everyone know about send the information to --- --- and we'll get it in here for you.

If your group or club is having an event and you would like to have some of the Classic Cars there for display any of the local clubs would be glad to bring their cars out to show, (weather permitting). All information needs to be in at least two weeks before the event. Until next time, Keep Cruisin'!

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