Amongst the many hundreds of wild and wonderful classics, muscle-cars, customised pick-ups and modified street-racing machines at The Classic Car Show on December 7 at Nasrec will be a category of cars called, simply, “Hot Rods”. Not co-incidentally, Gauteng’s biggest classic car show is again being run in association with Rolling Thunder, the premier hot-rod and muscle car restoration outfit in the Gauteng area, located just down the road from Nasrec, in Robertsham.
These Hot Rods stand out because they are created from older cars, generally of American origin, although not always, and almost certainly run a big-bore American V8. A definition of a classic hot-rod is probably that it is created out of a car that you wouldn’t at first assume it to be an ideal bare canvass for a potent, fast-and-furious, mobile art-form.
At the birth of the movement, your classic hot-rod was in fact based on the earliest mass-produced car of all time, the Ford Model T, and the trend came about purely because youngsters buying their first car in the late 1920s and early 1930s couldn’t afford anything fancier than and old T-bucket. And once they’d acquired it, of course they wanted it to go faster.
There were thus many hot rods running around the US before World War Two and generally these cars are known as hi-boys by rodding insiders. But post-war the trend caught on in wild-fire fashion, spawning a whole sub-culture of American youth that incorporated drag racing, a massive go-faster engine-tuning industry, and accessories to make your old clunker at least cooler than the other young guy next door who was also strapped for the necessary cash to buy a new Ford, Chevy or Chrysler.
There is a whole sub-category of hot-rods today, called T-Buckets, and these almost always employ a fibre-glass replica of the basic Model T passenger cell, with a massive, complete up-right windscreen.
The T-bucket look is completed by a big, chrome-laden V8 up-ahead, mag wheels, and a wild paint-job of some sort that usually incorporates metal-flake paint, or flames, or both.
A later category of classic hot rods is based on the American cars of the 1930s. These are usually the Ford Model A or the later V8-engined Fords from the mid1930s. Other Hot Rods you will see at the show from this era are spilling over into the early 1940-s and the late 1940s (WW II pretty much prevented new designs being issued by the manufacturers between around 1941 and 1946).
Other strong brands in this category include Chevrolet, Willys, and to some degree Plymouth.
The cars of the 1950s can be categorised as hot rods, but they are more commonly referred to as Custom Cruisers or Street Machines, these days. The most popular of this category are the classic Tri-Chevys, so-named because they span the years 1955 to 1957, in many rodders’ eyes the most beautiful Chevys ever created.
But remember, there are no real hard-and-fast rules here, as to what defines a classic hot rod. The lowered cruisers of the 1960s can also be termed hot rods, as can the pick-ups from the late -1940s through to the 1960s.
In the end, whether it’s a British classic such as an Austin-Healey or Jaguar, a European sports car such as a Porsche, a hot rod or street machine, or a wild motorcycle that you lust after, get yourself to Nasrec on December 7, and get there early. Gates open at 8 am, there will be food and drink a-plenty on sale, stands selling all manner of petrol-head related stuff, and the fun will last all Sunday, with plenty to do for the kids as well, including helicopter rides at R150 a pop.