Nothing reflects the qualities of America quite as well as the Hot rod: resourcefulness, innovation, diversity, freedom, and maybe even a bit of rebelliousness. Although a commonly used term today, it has become broader over the last decade to encompass vehicles of many faces, purposes and owner’s desires. The “Hot rod” title typically refers to older classic American cars that are hopped up with large engines and modified for weight reduction. Born out of the Hot rod culture are the Kustom cars that take on many forms, from the heavy-bodied Mercury lead sled to the low-and-mean classy Buick, or a souped-up and chopped Ford Model A. Stemming from there are traditional hot rods; cars meant to replicate what would have been built prior to 1965, down to the build style and age of parts used. And then in comes the Street rods and Resto mods: exceptionally gussied-up versions of Hot rods that feature more modern creature comforts. Some are built to drive, others are built just to drool over — assuming your drool is made of ingredients that match those of premium car wax.
There are endless late 1920s to early 1960s vehicles that make great Hot rods, but here are five of the most common:
Ford Model A: The very first hot rods were built from old 1920s-30s cars, and the most commonly seen were Ford Model Ts, Model As and Model Bs. The Model Ts are easy to work with thanks to their simple design. The Ford Model A, being high production and readily available, is often used to build anything from traditional Hot rods to Rat rods — sometimes just a frame is salvaged from a yard to build a vehicle from the ground up, and the Ford Model B is famed for the hot rod excellence found in a Deuce Coupe.
1948-’57, 1960s Buick: Let be honest, nothing beats the portholes on a Buick, and these cars look good when driven low and mean, yet they still maintain their class, whether painted matte black and adorned in wild pinstripes or finished in a shiny two-tone with metallic flake and lots of chrome. And depending on the year of grille used, you may come across a Buick that has received the gold-tooth treatment.
1920s-1950s Chevrolet: Not only does it make a snazzy Kustom, but the Chevrolet makes for one sexy street rod in car or truck form, and depending on your taste in curves and body styles, with the variances in each year you are sure to find something that makes your motor run.
1940s-50s Mercury: Mercury’s are common yet sought after in the Kustom car world, and several are built into lead sleds; one of the few hot rods designed for artistic style and expression and not for speed. They are a heavily modified vehicle that shows off a sleek look achieved by applying molten lead to any damaged body panels, then they are chopped, channeled, frenched and shaved.
1933-1942 Willys: Gassers can be built from several different vehicles, and the Willys makes a great all-around Hot rod, but the Willys gasser is iconic. Gassers were used in gasoline-only drag racing classes in the 1960s and are typically stripped of extra weight. The front end of the car is raised along with the motor, and the cars are often subject to an engine swap commonly seen with a supercharger, fuel injection and headers. Characterized by a body that sits well above the front wheels, the front end of the car is raised and set on a solid front axle for better weight transfer. Their monster engines and huge rear tires fitted inside of the fender wells give way to a monster of a machine that just wants to get up and go.