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  • Jason Chandler

Hot Rod's and the origin of the Muscle Car

Hot rods are usually defined by their retro-look that covers the state-of-the-art mechanics and engineering. Hot rods have become a staple and trademark in just about every tuner’s line-up, and TV reality-shows are now showcasing these beautiful, overpowered monsters to people all over the world. Hot rods pre-date iconic cars found under the “muscle” and “pony” designations, like the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and more. In fact, hot rods came about with the very first mass production car, the Ford Model T.



The term “hot rod” has obscure roots, and like its roots, many of the legendary rods of old have been forgotten today. Back in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s, young Californians began enhancing their cars by fitting large rear wheels, raising gear ratios at high speed, and fitting small front wheels to allow the cars to rake forward for improved aerodynamics. From there, “hot rods” were born.


Engine upgrades finally became available when Ford introduced the Flathead V8 engine in 1932, as well as the Ford Model B, the most recognizable hot rod vessel on the planet.

The first of the Ford L-head (flathead) V8 engines left the factory on March 9, 1932. This engine used a 90-degree block, with the valves located next to the pistons, pointed upwards. The heads are not truly flat, having four spade-shaped combustion chambers to accommodate the motion of the valves. The gear-driven cam was located in the engine block above the crankshaft and between the cylinder banks, driving solid lifters that acted directly on the valves. There were two water pumps – one for each cylinder head.

Following WWII, there was a trifecta that caused an explosion in the scene: First, the blooming age following WWII allowed more and more people to participate in the movement. Second, all the innovations used for destruction during the War could be used for the development of new engines and technologies. And third, the excess of military installations (especially airports) could be used as testing and racing grounds.


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