History Of Hot Rods

A lot has been written about the history of hot rods. But the origin of hot rods can be pointed to just before the end of World War II. In fact, the craze for custom cars began even further back, to before World War I. Customizing cars was much popular with the well-heeled in the U.S. and Europe.

The period between the end of the war in 1945 and the beginning of the 1950s saw a number of factors which came together, mainly in one place, southern California, which created a unique environment for the hot rod and its culture to be borne. In the hot rods history, the term “hot rods” seems to have first appeared in the late 1930s in southern California. People would love to race their modified cars on the vast, empty dry lake beds northeast of Los Angeles under the rules of the Southern California Timing Association. The activity rose in popularity after World War II.

The original hot rods were old cars, most often Fords, which were modified to reduce weight and improve aerodynamics. Some of the typical modifications were to strip off all nonessential part like convertible tops, hood, bumpers, windshields and lowering the chassis. The engine was modified by tuning and/or replacing with a more powerful type. These modifications were considered to improve the appearance as well, leading to car shows in the 1960s. Eventually coupes and sedans joined the ranks. But these heavier models underwent drastic surgery to chop their tops lower and slope their windshields backward.

History of hot rods shows how with the rising interest in the hot rods, “Speed contests” were occurring with greater frequency and more dire consequences. With more causalities occurring, Hot rods were branded as a social menace requiring greater control or, even elimination too. They ran unmonitored and multiple casualties were on the rise.

It was time someone took control of the situation. In 1937, the Southern California Timing Association was formed, which developed more sophisticated timing systems. This in turn helped a lot in making hot rodding safer and more organized. In 1941, a monthly publication called Throttle Magazine was designed with a purpose to track racing results, featuring some of the better cars, and also reporting on new safety and speed issues.

But in 1941, with the U.S. getting involved in World War II, hot rodding would have to wait. Hot rods history shows that at the end of the World War II, many small military airports throughout the country were either abandoned or rarely used. These airports allowed Hot Rodders across the country to race on marked courses. With the hot rodding gaining popularity, many magazines and associations catering to Hot Rodders started along with a need for an organization to promote the images of Hot Rodders.

But soon the major automakers were offering automobiles with improved performance. As these cars outperformed just about any Hot Rod, with more passenger room minus the effort of tuning the car, the lure of Hot Rods began to wane. However, the 1973 Oil Crisis called on automakers to offer safety and fuel efficiency over performance. This obviously led to the revival of the interest in hot rods again.

There was a great desire to have a standout automobile among the moneyed elite which was filtering down to the not so wealthy but had just as much desire to drive unique cars. With some modifications, these relatively common cars took on a unique, expensive, custom look. Origin of hot rods is very interesting indeed.