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The Origin of the Hot Rod


Car customizing is a tradition that dates back almost as far as the invention of the automobile itself. Although now practiced worldwide, car customizing is rooted in the distinctly American values of individuality, competition and free-enterprise.

Here’s a quick overview of how the great American “Hot Rod” came to be:

•  During the Great Depression of the 1930s, new cars were often too expensive to purchase. So many young car enthusiasts began to “soup up” older cars with spare parts and components salvaged from local junk yards.

•  What was simply car restoration quickly turned into car enhancement, with young builders experimenting with new and better ways to increase vehicle speed, be it through replacing original engines with more powerful V8s to removing all non-essential components to lighten the vehicle and improve aerodynamics.

•  Much of this activity was focused in Southern California, where the flat, dry lake beds northeast of Los Angeles were a perfect spot for car junkies to race their cars in competition—and to do so all year round.

•  The term “hot rod” entered the national vocabulary in the late 1930s. Its specific origins are unknown, although it may be a contraction of the term “hot roadster,” or may refer to the connecting rods or pushrods inside the often over-heated engines.

•  “Hot rodding” took a short “time-out” during WWII, then came roaring back with a vengeance in 1946. Between 1946 and the late 1950s, car customizing, drag racing and street racing exploded in popularity along with the post-war youth culture that also gave birth to rock-and-roll.

•  By the 1970s, the emphasis has switched from mere speed to customized exteriors, interiors and paint jobs.

Car Customizing As a Career

Today, car customizing can be a full-time occupation. Many businesses are dedicated to creating custom “dream machines” that employ the latest ideas in automotive design and technology. But while the tools have changed, today’s car fabricators carry the same passions, drive and imagination as the original hot rodders of 70 years ago.

WyoTech offers professional training in all aspects of automotive repair and maintenance, including street rod and custom fabrication. For information on automotive training courses, please conact WyoTech today!

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