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When does an antique vehicle become a hot rod?


cxgvd

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Please bear with me, I've not seen this discussed and I will relate two stories which have me thinking of the way I view antique cars.

 

Last year on the AACA Vintage Tour there were several Model A Fords as you would expect.  About half of them had wider, lower tires, one stop I was parked beside one and I asked the driver.  He showed me his car, I repeat his car, he told me the wheels are from a '37 Ford, he was using a 12 volt alternator, had an overdrive transmission and hydraulic brakes.  One of those times when the mouth begins without a brain I blurted out " It's a hot rod."  Wish I could take the remark back, the owner assured me his Ford was not a hot rod.  I don't know?

 

On another forum I told how I rebuilt the original Schebler carburetor for my Buick and surprisingly it was working well.  Another poster said a modern Carter was better and the only use for a Schebler was for a show car.  That made me feel pretty good, never had show car before?

 

Regards, Gary Van Dyken

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According to Merriam-Webster:

Definition of hot rod. : an automobile rebuilt or modified for high speed and fast acceleration.

 

That seems pretty clear cut to me; however, I think that in car/gearhead circles, the definition is a bit more complicated and highly subjective. 

 

The modifications of the Model A that you describe above could be construed to improve the high speed operation of the car and is thus a hotrod, but others may think that such modifications only improve safety and reliability.   If that same Model A had a dual carburetor intake and a high compression head, it would (I think) clearly be a hot rod.

 

I think that a modern Carter carburetor on your Buick would make it "modified", but I have no idea where/how/when "modified" morphs into "hotrod".  On the Pebble Beach/Amelia Island circuit, ANY modification from original, even different shades of paint, for example, would be looked at askance (or more severely). 

 

Six, or one-half dozen...

 

Cheers,

Grog

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I "updated" the carburetor, manifold and air cleaner with '57 parts and added a PCV to my 56 Fairlane. I did these updates to improve reliability and performance and added the PCV using OEM parts to reduce the crankcase fumes when I start the car in the garage. These are minor changes and would be unnoticed by most people. What I've done isn't as obvious as the above mentioned updates but neither would be hot rodding.

It might be hot rodding if either one of us swapped in a different engine.

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Good point from Cap’n Grog that the recognized boundary of modifications varies depending on the venue.  Authentic presentation differs on, say, Corvettes at Bloomington Gold vs. AACA vs. the local cruise night.   

 

Personally I am probably softer on such things as I get older, possibly my own old car version of appeasement in thinking that by accepting minor variations maybe the owner will allow other original features to remain.  My own dividing line is probably what is visible or not.  I have no problem with any internal engine modification if it works and is not externally visible.  I am generally better with an overdrive transmission than obviously incorrect wheels and tires since the transmission is underneath and hidden from view.  Obviously incorrect equipment underhood is not generally to my liking but is less offensive than obvious deviations visible from the outside or driver seat.  I still like to stick to the AACA philosophy of authentic preservation and restoration as much as possible but have had to become softer on accepting modifications if I am to be able enjoy local car shows at all, Todd C

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8 minutes ago, 1912Staver said:

. First Photo is a Factory stock 1910 Lozier. Would you call the second Lozier a "Hot Rod" ?

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I would call it a race car.

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This particular one definitely can be called a race car, however it seems to me that it would also fit the definition of a Hot rod.  In the era the second photo was taken fast road cars were created from stripped down factory stock cars in much the same manner as the racing version. In fact a number of racing cars from this era after a few years of racing use were then used as road cars. Sometimes they would have closer to standard bodywork installed and sometimes they would be road used in much the same form as they were raced. Other than sometimes being fitted with larger than catalog displacement engines the racing cars  had almost the same chassis as road speedsters {Hot Rods?} , and catalog standard versions. For the most part it was simply the bodywork that was altered. Generally reduced for lighter weight and reduced aerodynamic drag.

 

Greg in Canada

Edited by 1912Staver (see edit history)
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Technically a model T speedster is a hot rod I would think and are expectable on a vintage tours.  If you had a 1968 Mustang for an example and equipped it with the available performance part for that period is it expectable for a national tour.

Documented period correct hot rods are also now being accepted at many car shows. Two cars at the same show I was at showing the diversity that is being excepted today.

2015-09-11 cobble beach 039.JPG

2015-09-11 cobble beach 060.JPG

Edited by Joe in Canada (see edit history)
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Let's take a Model A 2 dr sedan.  Put in a 300+hpV-8, smaller chrome wheels with wide tires, air conditioning, etc and you call it a hot-rod.  What do you call it if you put in an 90hp four cylinder with electronic fuel and ignition controls, slightly smaller wheels with modest rubber, air conditioning, etc?  What do you call an independent from let's say the Fifties with a common modern power plant of similar displacement as the original?  In other words an interesting vehicle but with readily available parts and modern reliability.  Reliability as in 30000 plus miles before a tune up, which itself is an obsolete term.

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The same argument can be had about a modern car that will be antique in a while, if it survives. Lets say a VW Golf R, 221 kW standard. Change or reprogram the chip and tune it to 270 kW. Finished.

 

Now is it or will that be a hot rod? Under the Merriam-Webster definition above, it is.

 

So what about a 1926 Model T with 1926 performance gear? Is that a hot rod? Again, it is, using the M-W definition.

 

I think it is a car that has been modified such that the original character is lost. Overdrive only? almost, but are the brakes up to it? Hydraulic brakes too? Now we are modifying for speed and performance. Smaller wheels as well? The original character is lost IMO.

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12 minutes ago, Spinneyhill said:

I think it is a car that has been modified such that the original character is lost. Overdrive only? almost, but are the brakes up to it? Hydraulic brakes too? Now we are modifying for speed and performance. Smaller wheels as well? The original character is lost IMO.

 

Sounds about right to me

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An old but interesting discussion.  The T speedster is one of those cars that straddles that grey area.  MTFCA has given them a ton of coverage in the national magazine for as long as I aware.  Does that make us the first marque specific club to allow modifieds!!!  ?

Edited by Steve_Mack_CT (see edit history)
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It seems to me that a "hot rod" is a car with a drivetrain that long post-dates the other aspects of the car (i.e. could not possibly have been used in anything like the working life of the original car). It is not the same thing as a brass era speedsters which were cars built during the working lives of the chassis making no attempt to give them an artificial "antique" gloss. This is one of the reasons I find the AACA's obsession with "from the factory" to be counterproductive. You're lumping in together cars like Model T dirt track racers or even the Lozier shown above, all cars that played an important part in automotive history with goofy monstrosities that look as if they were intended as a prop for the Munsters.

 

Edit: As an afterthought... Speedsters made in period were never given an archaic appearance. If anything, the builders tried to make them look a bit more modern. Hot rods are always built to look archaic.

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)
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Interesting thread.

 

I have no answer, but will pose some thoughts.

 

I learned long ago when a vehicle is restored to "original", all of the original issues are put back into the vehicle. Example: the four way fuel fitting on 1964~1966 Pontiac GTO's ALL broke! The reproductions made by the same company with the same specifications.........will break!

 

I collect Pontiac literature. By the 1930's, Pontiac put out dozens to hundreds of bulletins annually of factory "patches" to make the car better. How does one view modifications done at the suggestion of the manufacturer by employees of the manufacturer.

 

And to relate the above to my area of expertise - Packard by August of 1929 "suggested" the removal of the Johnson carburetors (first fitted in April) and replacement by Detroit Lubricators. So does a change to a more reliable carburetor that also produces more horsepower at the manufacturers' suggestion make the vehicle a hot rod?

 

Jon.

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40 minutes ago, carbking said:

Interesting thread.

 

I have no answer, but will pose some thoughts.

 

I learned long ago when a vehicle is restored to "original", all of the original issues are put back into the vehicle. Example: the four way fuel fitting on 1964~1966 Pontiac GTO's ALL broke! The reproductions made by the same company with the same specifications.........will break!

 

I collect Pontiac literature. By the 1930's, Pontiac put out dozens to hundreds of bulletins annually of factory "patches" to make the car better. How does one view modifications done at the suggestion of the manufacturer by employees of the manufacturer.

 

And to relate the above to my area of expertise - Packard by August of 1929 "suggested" the removal of the Johnson carburetors (first fitted in April) and replacement by Detroit Lubricators. So does a change to a more reliable carburetor that also produces more horsepower at the manufacturers' suggestion make the vehicle a hot rod?

 

Jon.

No. Hot Rodding started in the 1940's? by home mechanics/tinkers who want more from their (then) older cars. I guess there are many degrees of hot roddering a vehicle, from the very mild to the extreme.

Wild;

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Mild;

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I have no problems with period modifications or where the original design was inadequate for safety reasons (within reason). Any of these should be able to be converted back to original without difficulty.

 

Model "A" Fords with any of the accessories offered back in the 30's are interesting to me. An alternator (6V) is OK with me because when I had a Model "A" as a daily driver a lot of my driving was at night - an alternator offers a bit of piece of mind. Using the later Ford wire wheels to utilize 600X16 tires is OK with me too. Easy to switch back. I do draw the line on the hydraulic brake conversion though -properly adjusted a Model "A" will lock all four wheels from 50 mph - even with the larger tires (and I did use 48 Ford rims on the back with snow tires in the winter with spacers)..I like the fail safe design of the original brakes.

 

Model "T"s are the same except I think if I owned one I would use one of the bolt on disc brake conversions for safety in today's stop and go traffic.

 

Just my personal thoughts...... I'm old but still enjoy playing with and improving the old cars

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The term hot rod has been interpreted as many ways as "classic". The "classic hot rod" is the '32 Ford coupe or roadster with a souped-up flathead. Sometimes necessity becomes the mother of invention, however.

Case in point. A friend had a '32 Packard 900 convertible coupe with a '52 Chrysler hemi stuffed in it. The story goes that a couple of young guys blew the original straight 8 and parked it in the yard.Their father bought a new '52 Chrysler and after only a few months,rolled it in a ditch.It ended up parked beside the Packard. So what do you do with a sweet looking,but dead Packard,and a hot but crunched Chrysler ? Yep.You guessed it. The hemi Packard could be shown as a '50's hot rod,but it is now being correctly restored.

Case two.One of our members restored a 1930 Packard 7 passenger sedan from a shell. A very tall man, he chose to install the front seat farther back,forgoing the jump seats. Not satisfied with the car's performance or stopping abilities, he installed a big Chevy truck six and a 700R4 automatic.He also made custom hubs to accommodate 4 wheel disc brakes, but still using the big disc wheels. All original parts were carefully removed and could be bolted back in.The car would fool anyone,so long as the hood stays closed. I guess it could be the ultimate resto-mod. A hot rod ? Not really.

TThamesford Lions 100th & canada 150 show 007.JPG

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The etymology of the term would probably be surprising. Slang of the 1930's and '40's would have an effect. Why would one select a component like the rod? Hot pipe, hot head, yeah, but hot rod?

 

Rod was a hobo slang term for rails. How did a young mechanic get to California in the '30's? They were pointing rifles at the Oakies just a few years before. Coming in riding the belly of a box car might be the safe way. And getting into the car culture, a guy might liken the car to that powerful engine when he came in on the rods. Might be really remote from a connecting rod.

 

Here is a picture of a stock Oldsmobile racing what my Grandfather could possibly call a Hot Rod. He rode the rails for a couple years in the '30's.

setting-the-pace.jpg?w=529

 

Comparing a car to a train, running on the rods, is not uncommon.

 

Those fittings Jon mentioned, the vacuum fitting on my '60 Electra broke off at the manifold. I drilled it and tapped it for a close nipple. Shhhhhhhh. Secret mod.

Bernie

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We just hosted a Meet a few years ago.  Being the Host, we got to write the rules of our meet, after much consideration and input from lots of car people, we came down to one common thread.  It had to be the correct motor for the car.  Kept the judging simple and the arguments few/none.

 

You bring up an interesting thought.  Factory engineers have been "hot rodding" cars since the first car was built.  Sometimes they make jumps in technology, but almost every model as made gains, less a few emission stumbles.

 

 

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If you get a chance have a look at early 1930's engine manufacturer sales lit. They often point out the advantage of installing their up to date engine in your tired but still serviceable 1920's truck. A number of the better truck makers used their own engine which could lead to costly repairs on a 10-12 year old truck. The new engines could develop more power, get better fuel economy and have easier to find {and probably cheaper} repair parts.  A few engine makers would even provide an instillation kit to make the swap a bolt in. Some were in my files I have a couple of the pamphlets, I think they were either Waukeash or Buda. Also some teens assembled cars changed engine makes/ models in essentially the same chassis. Who could say for sure which one is correct.

 

Greg in Canada

Edited by 1912Staver (see edit history)
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2 hours ago, Buick35 said:

What's the difference between a hot rod and a rat rod?

 

As previously quoted in post #2, a hot rod is:  "... an automobile rebuilt or modified for high speed and fast acceleration. "  With that said, a hot rod can personify excellence in many ways:  aesthetics, mechanical, body, interior,  paint finish etc.  A rat rod, on the other hand, is an open declaration of revolt against automotive aesthetics and often looks like a pile of junk or a vehicle used in the junk man's rounds of the local trash/junk piles.  These seeming rolling piles of junk are often free-wheeling expressions of or attempts at "Trash Art".  A true rat rod  conceals or camouflages real mechanical and construction excellence under a veneer of junk.  A rat rod without mechanical and construction excellence is merely a "scat rod" and, while mildly interesting, is without redeeming features.

 

Just my opinion.

 

Cheers,

Grog

 

P.S.  I like rat rods.  I have one.

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At Flint, Mi in 2003 at the Buick Centennial show I saw a modified '38, which I would call a hot rod being loaded into an enclosed trailer.  What was that about, I thought the idea of putting a modern driveline in an old car was to make it a fine, reliable, safe driver?  I say sell the Buick, sell the trailer and the pickup and get a new Porsche.  If a person wants to use a trailer leave the old car original or am I being too judgemental?  Regards, Gary

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If you look at the early post war issues of "HOT ROD" and similar publications many of the cars were quite crudely built and minimally painted, chromed and upholstered. The feature cars were generally the pinnacle of the days construction, however the more general articles , club features, early drag race and lakes racing meets show how "unfinished" many of the cars were in this era. It wasn't until the later 1950's that highly detailed / finished cars became common. I get the impression "Rat Rods" were initially an attempt to return to this simpler style. Then they went out of their way to appear crude/weird as the style evolved.

Greg in Canada

Edited by 1912Staver (see edit history)
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I pretty much agree with Greg.  I do like traditional hot rods, as long as they look to be era correct or close to it, and workmanship is reasonable a less finished look is ok.  Personally, I agree the difference is as Greg points out.  Over exxagerated proportion, skulls mounted anywhere possible, etc. Generally fail to hit that traditional theme, but do reflect their creators vision.  Tough to define but easier to differentiate.

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I think patina became popular at least as far back as the 1940's with people involved with things like "The Bentley Drivers Club".  The emphasis was on cars that were regularly used and on red blooded owners that could use brutes like 1920's Bentley's , Vauxhall 30-98's and the like in road, track and trial events.

Glossy  over-restored cars were seen as objects owned by wealthy dandy's and taken to concours events.

Real men owned rough and ready vintage sports cars and regularly used them in anger.

  Admiration of these cars and their owners spread throughout the hobby. And after 50 years of evolution we ended up with Rat Rods. W.O. would be turning in his grave.

 

Greg in Canada

 

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5 hours ago, Buick35 said:

When did " patina" become desirerable? Or as it an Indian word for needs paint and body work? Kinda like vegetarian is Indian for lousy hunter. Just my opinion. Greg in Florida.

Please explain why you want this car restored? 

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Edited by 1937hd45 (see edit history)
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