Just say the words “hot rods” and people’s pulses begin to race. Hot rods are about more than speed, however, as they are also about a distinctive look, a mindset and a culture. Rodding is and has always been a complex, wild and fun movement and that fact continues into the 21st century! America’s love with cars is interwoven with the history and love of hot rods. In this article, we will take a brief look at the impressive history of hot rods in the US.

The Early Days of Hot Rods

During the 1930s and 1940s, the term “hot rod” was often used as a way to describe any car that had been modified in some fashion to boost overall performance. These performance boosts often centered on improving engine performance. Why the term hot rod? No one is completely sure, but now the term certainly is part of the American lexicon. Did you know that once upon a time, this type of car was referred to as a “gow job?” Today, only the most dedicated historians use that outdated terms.

The first period of “rodding” was from the late 1930s-1950s. A common modification during this time was to reduce vehicle weight in order to boost a car’s speed. This led to a variety of ingenious modifications such as the removal of hoods, bumbs, fenders, tops and even windshields all in an effort to both boost speed and create a distinctive look. Part of cultivating this distinctive look was the incorporation of wild and impressive paint jobs. Flames were and still are a popular option on hot rods.

The Post-War Years

After World War II, many returning soldiers had acquired impressive mechanical skills during the war. These soldiers got to work creating a new generation of impressive hot rods. During the 1950s, rodding and hot rods gained considerably in popularity.

The National Hot Rod Association

It was also during this time that hot rodders such as Wally Parks set out to create the National Hot Rod Association. The goal of the National Hot Rod Association was to bring hot rods more into the mainstream so that racing wasn’t taking place on streets but instead was taking place on racing tracks. Today it is possible to learn a great deal about the history of rodding and hot rods by visiting the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum.

Hot rods are still alive, well and thriving. Around the world, hot rods are still built, often using original parts found off the Internet or taken from salvage. Now the world of rodding is divided between those who build hot rods from original parts, the hot rodders and those who build hot rods using mostly or all new parts, the street rodders.

Hot rods are a work of art. Just as American’s love affair with the automobile continues, it is all but certain that the American love affair with rodding will also speed along far into the 21st century.