Hot Rod Glossary of Terms.
AFTERMARKET: Source of parts made by companies other than the original manufacturer. In the hot rod and custom world, the term is used to refer to the many companies that manufacture parts specifically for hot rods and custom cars.
ALKY: alcohol fuel for racing. aka; methyl alcohol or methanol, a very high-octane fuel.
ARDUN HEADS: Created by Zora Arkus-Duntov (circa 1947), the Ardun Manufacturing company fabricated overhead valve cylinder heads with hemispherical combustion chambers that could be bolted to the Ford V-8 60 (flathead) block. Precursor to the Chrysler “hemi,” Ardun heads delivered serious horsepower gains for hot rodders and racers privileged enough to afford them.
ANTIQUE: 25 years old or older, in stock, unmodified, or restored to original condition.
A-PILLAR: The sheet metal section located on each side of the windshield between the roof and the main body that has to be cut when chopping the top.
APPLETONS: Fender-mounted spotlights, named for the manufacturer.
BABY MOONS: Small, smooth, dished chrome hubcaps that cover only the center bolt circle of a wheel.
BALANCED: Normally used to define balancing the rotating mass (i.e.: crankshaft), but could also mean matching the weights of the pistons and rods.Belly pan: a custom fabricated underbody piece used to aid airflow under the car’s body –often made of sheet aluminum or steel.
BELLY TANKER: A dry-lakes/salt-flats competition-only car made from a surplus WWII aircraft belly tank. Belly tanks were used for their aerodynamic shape, and fitted to custom-fabricated, mid-engine chassis.
BELTLINE: The line running around a car’s body formed by the bottom edges of the side windows.
BIG BLOCK: The larger of a manufacturer’s V-8 engines with a block that is physically more massive (as opposed to just having more displacement) than the manufacturer’s smaller V-8. Big blocks usually have a displacement of more than 370 cubic inches.
BIG -N- LITTLES: The typical hot rod or dragster front and rear tire combination; big tires in back (for increased traction in drag racing and higher effective gearing in dry-lakes racing), little tires up front (for reduced rolling resistance and lighter weight).
BILLET: Solid blocks of aluminum that are machined to create custom parts for hot rods. The term “billet” also refers to the parts themselves. Billet can be used as a noun, as in, “there is too much billet on that car,” or as an adjective, as in, “I just got a new billet steering wheel.”
BLOWER: A supercharger.
BLOWN GASSER: A supercharged, gas burning engine.
BLUEPRINTED: Ensuring the dimensions of the parts in the engine are more accurate and, therefore, closer to the original engine blueprint values.
BOBBED: Shortened or abbreviated, usually refers to fenders or frame rails.
BOMB: A pre-1955 model-year lowrider. Bombs are built to appear stock, but they are lowered and often use numerous add-on factory and vintage aftermarket accessories.
BORE: As a noun: The diameter of an engine’s cylinder opening, usually measured in inches. As a verb: To increase the diameter of an engine’s cylinders.
BUICK WIRES: (also Skylark wires) A style of wire wheels that was factory equipment on 1953-54 Skylarks. They were also offered as Buick factory accessories in the 1950’s. Extremely popular with customizers.
BULLETS: Chromed, bullet-shaped extensions used on bumpers, grilles, and wheels.
BUSINESS COUPE: A simple two-door coupe, without a rumble seat, built between the mid to late thirties. Also referred to as a Businessman’s Coupe.
C’ING: Removing a C-shaped section from the frame of a car over the front or rear axle to gain additional clearance for axle travel with a lowered suspension. A frame with this modification is called a “C’d” frame.
CANDY: A type of paint finish achieved by spraying a transparent color coat over a metallic or pearl base coat. The top coat allows the base coat to show through for a rich, deep effect.
CAL-NEVA: California-Nevada Timing Association.Cammer: Any engine with an overhead camshaft.
CARSON TOP: Removable hardtops made famous by the Carson Co. as early as the 30′s, these tops were a hot trend in the early 50′s for custom rodders. George and Sam Barris in Southern California were especially impressed with Carson Tops and applied several to their creations.
CHANNELED: both a hot rod and custom term pertaining to dropping the car body over the frame to reduce the profile or overall height of the car. The process requires sectioning the firewall, cutting the perimeter of the floor pan, and then welding back to desired height. For early hot rods and dry lakes cars, this was done to reduce wind resistance and lower the center of gravity for stability at high speeds. For custom rodders, it was often done for more aesthetic/artistic purposes. (aka: Channel Job)
CHOPPED: similar to channeled, this hot rod and custom term pertains only to the top or roof of the car. By horizontally cutting sections of metal from the a-pillars, door pillars and rear quarter panels one could lower the roof line which often resulted in a more sinister appearance.
CHROME REVERSE WHEELS: Stamped steel wheels that have had their center hub sections removed, and rewelded to the rims to gain a deeper offset. The reworked wheels are then chrome-plated.
CID: An abbreviation for cubic inch displacement, a measurement of the size of an engine.
CLASSIC: A fine or unusual motorcar built between 1925 and 1948. A classic is distinguished by its fine design, high engineering standards, and superior workmanship. Only certain important automotive brands are considered “true” classics.
COGS: hot rod term for gears.
CONTINENTAL KIT: a popular bolt-on “customization kit” for the rear end of 50′s cars. With varying degrees of quality, most kits usually consisted of: an external tire carrier with stainless steel tire ring, indented faceplate, drop center gravel guard, bumper extensions, and a license light.
CRANK: common abbreviation for crankshaft.
CRATE ENGINE: Factory built, ready to run engine.
CUSTOM (KUSTOM): A car that is modified in visual appearance through imaginative and technical methods to create a distinctive vehicle.
CUTOUTS: An exhaust system that allows for exhaust gases to run through the mufflers, or straight out the headers or unmuffled pipes.
DAGO: A dropped front-end.
DECKED: Chrome details and trim removed from the trunk and smoothed over.
DEUCE: 1932 Ford.
D.O.: an early years term for an engine equipped with dual overhead camshafts.
DROPPED: A significantly lowered vehicle.
DUAL SET UP: early hot rod term for an engine using a dual intake manifold equipped with two carburetors.
DUAL QUAD: Two four barrel carburetors.
DUVAL WINDSHIELD: a split V-shaped raked chrome-plated windshield designed by George DuVall.
DUTCHMAN PANEL: The metal body piece between the rear window and the trunk.
EXOTIC: A high-priced, two passenger roadster, coupe, or convertible, usually from Europe. A few exceptions exist such as the Dodge Viper or the original Shelby Cobra.
FADE-AWAYS: Custom rodder term where the extruded front fender section gradually flows into the rear extruded fender section while flowing with the cars body lines.
FAT FENDERS: Fords built between 1935 and 1948 that were wide and rounded in appearance.
FENDER SKIRTS: Panels covering the rear wheel well leaving only the bottom part of the rear wheels exposed.
FIESTA: A three-bar hubcap so-named because it came as original factory equipment on 1953 Oldsmobile Fiesta convertibles. These hubcaps were also found on most ’54 and ’55 Oldsmobiles. Also refers to any aftermarket hubcap that mimics the Fiesta’s style.
FILLED AXEL: a dropped axle that has both sides of the “I” beam section filled with metal at the bend to provide added strength.
FIVE WINDOW (5-W): A Ford coupe body style made from 1932 to 1936 that has five windows, not counting the windshield. There are other model years of Ford coupes that have five windows, but they are not referred to as such since there were no three windows produced during those years, making the additional description unnecessary.
FLATHEAD: An engine with its valves located in the cylinder block rather than in the head. The head itself is a plain, flat casting. The term is used most to indicate a Ford V-8 engine built between 1932 and 1955. It could also indicate a Ford four-cylinder Model A, B, or C four-cylinder engine.
FILLED ROOF: One that has a welded steel panel instead of the original wood-and-fabric insert.
FLAMETHROWERS: Igniting unburnt exhaust and shooting flames out the tailpipes.
FLIPPERS: A style of hubcap that features one or more bars that reflect light when the vehicle is in motion. Also known as spinners.
FORDOR: A four-door Ford sedan.
FRAME-OFF: A restoration project in which the entire vehicle is completely disassembled with all parts cleaned or replaced as necessary, so that the restored car meets the original factory specifications as closely as possible.
FRENCHED: Recessed head or tail lights that are smoothed into the body panels.
FRONT CLIP: Either the front end sheet metal or the section of frame in front of the firewall.
FUELIE: Term for fuel injected vehicles
GENNIE: Rodder’s slang for “genuine”, usually used to refer to original, factory-produced parts.
GLASS PACKS: Loud, aftermarket mufflers.Goat: Pontiac GTO.
GOW JOB: An obscure pre-WWII term for a car with a modified engine, apparently derived from gow out, below. No longer used.
GOW OUT: Early term meaning to accelerate rapidly. One theory has it that the “gow” is simply a mispronunciation of “go.” No longer used.
GUIDE LIGHTS: Externally mounted headlights (found on late 1930′s cars) that had a small light attached to the top of the headlight housing.
HEADERS: Individual exhaust pipes, usually welded steel tubing but sometimes cast iron, in various shapes and diameters to reduce exhaust back pressure.
HEMI: An engine that has hemispherical combustion chambers in its cylinder head. Popularized by Chrysler, starting around 1951.
HIDES: Tires. (Ex: “Boil the hides” or to spin the rear tires)
HIGH BOY: Stock-body roadster with the stock fenders and bumpers removed – usually, but not limited to, a 1932 Ford.
HOP UP OR HOT IRON: Pre-WWII terms for a car with a modified engine.
HOT ROD: Post-WWII (after 1945) term for a car with a modified engine. Traditionally, an older vehicle with “low-buck” performance modifications.
JIGGLER: An early hot rodders term for a rocker arm.
JUG: An early hot rodders term for a carburetor.
JUICE BRAKES: Hydraulic brakes as opposed to mechanical brakes. Same as squirt brakes.
KIT CAR: A reproduction of an existing automotive design, sold in various stages of production to allow for completion and customization by the builder.
KEMP: A old beatnik or jazz term, used to refer to any automobile. The Kustom Kemps of America popularized the term as a synonym for custom car.
LAKE PIPES: Side-exit exhaust pipes located under the rocker panels.
LAKESTER: Class designation (after 1950) of cars with custom-made bodywork that was streamlined but had exposed wheels.
LANCERS: A four-bar hubcap so-named because it came as original factory equipment on 1957 Dodge Lancers. Also refers to any aftermarket hubcap that mimics the Lancer’s style.
LAND YACHT: Large, luxury car, usually referring to the chromed, finned, oversized vehicles of the late fifties to early sixties.
LEADSLED: Slang for a custom car derived from the use of lead as filler for smoothing custom body effects.
LID: An early hot rodders term for cylinder head.
LOCKED REAR END: an early term for a straight-through drive system with the left and right rear axle shafts fused together at the ring gear. Commonly referred to today as “posi-traction.”
LOUVERS: Vents or slots punched in body panels. The most commonly louvered body panel is the hood, done to increase ventilation.
LOWBOY: Customized Model A Ford that has been channeled.
LOWERED: A vehicle that sits lower than stock height through suspension or frame modifications.
LOWRIDER: A vehicle that has been lowered by a hydraulic suspension system that can bring the ride height up in order to drive it.
MAGS: Aftermarket racing or race-inspired wheels. Aftermarket wheels are sometimes generically referred to as “mags” because early racing wheels were made of magnesium.
MATCHING NUMBERS: A restored or original vehicle in which all serial numbers (VIN, engine, body, transmission, rear end) can be researched and identified as being 100% correct for that specific vehicle.
MILL: any engine.
MODEL A: A Ford made between 1928 and 1931.
MODEL T: A Ford made between 1909 and 1927.
MODIFIED: A dry lakes class designation for a car which didn’t fit in the roadster class, usually with a single-seat sprint-car-type body but cut off behind the driver. Regulations required that a Modified have a flat area of no less than 400in-sq behind the cockpit.
MOLDED: Body seams that have been filled in or otherwise smoothed out.
MOONS: Full wheel covers that are chrome and convex-shaped.
MRA: Muroc Racing Association
MTA: Mojave Timing Association
MUSCLE CAR: An intermediate or mid-sized car produced between 1964 and 1972 (with a few exceptions) with a large displacement V8 engine.
NAILHEAD: A Buick V-8 engine from 1953 to 1966, named for its vertically mounted, relatively small valves.
NERF BAR: Tubular bumper.
NOS: New Old Stock. Parts purchased from the manufacturer that were made at the time of the original vehicle but never sold. Also an abbreviation for Nitrous Oxide System.
NOSED: Chrome details and trim removed from the hood and smoothed over.
ORIGINAL: Contains only parts originally installed on the car or NOS parts from the manufacturer with no substitute or after-market parts.
OVER-BORE: An engine with the cylinders enlarged in diameter (bored) to accommodate larger pistons thus increasing cubic inch displacement.
OVERHEAD: Term applied to engines with overhead valves, but used most often to describe early Ford flatheads (Model A, B, C, or V-8) with overhead valve conversions.
PANCAKED: Hood modified to a lower profile.
PANEL PAINT: A custom painting style introduced by Larry Watson that features large panels of contrasting or complementary color that follow and highlight a car’s body lines.
PEAKED: A molded accent seam on a hood.
PEARL: A type of paint with finely ground reflective particles that have the soft luminescent glow of a real pearl. Pearl particles can be mixed in with the color itself or a clear topcoat.
PHANTOM: A one-off hot rod or custom that is modified to look like a factory-stock body style that one of the major automakers could have produced but never did. A 1950 Ford three-window coupe is one example of a phantom body style.
PIE-CUT: A horizontal wedge type cut in body, usually in the hood to lower nose.
PINCHED: To narrow the front frame to match the grill shell.
PINK SLIP: Before the days of automobile titles, the portion of a California car registration that conveyed ownership was colored pink. Hence the brag in the Beach Boys’ “Little Deuce Coupe” about “I got the pink slip, daddy!”
PINSTRIPES/PINSTRIPING: Thin, hand-painted accent lines applied to a car as decoration. Hot rodders and customizers began adapting the age-old art of pinstriping to their cars after artist Von Dutch created a new, free-form style of striping that went beyond merely accenting existing body lines to making intricate, abstract designs.
PINUP OR PIN-UP: Girl dressed in period fashion from 1930’s to 1960’s. Made popular in pinup calendars and nose art of WWII planes.
PIPED: Narrow, padded pleats used to trim the interior.Post: The pillar located between the front and rear doors of a four-door sedan.
POT: early term for carburetor. (See also Jug).
PRO-STREET: A vehicle features large rear wheels and tires tucked deeply into the rear fender area.
PROJECT CAR: One that is in restorable condition.
QUICK CHANGE: Immortalized by Ted Halibrand, the quick change was a specially-made center section for an early Ford differential banjo housing which provided two changeable gears behind the ring and pinion assembly. By changing theses gears, the overall drive ratio could be selected for a particular situation.
RAKE: refers to the forward or rearward leaning stance of a vehicle when viewed from the side.
RAT ROD: A retro-styled, traditional, low-budget hot rod that eschews high-dollar paint, modern components, or billet aluminum parts in favor of primer, junkyard/swap meet scrounged vintage parts, and raw or unfinished appearance. The term was likely inspired by the slang term “rat bike,” which is used in the custom motorcycle world to describe a bike intentionally built to look grungy and dilapidated as a subversive protest of expensive, overly finished “trailer queen” bikes.
RELIEVING: removal of the ridge in the top of the block resulting from counter boring during manufacture for the valve seat.
REVERSED EYES: The ends of a standard Ford transverse-leaf spring curled down and around the shackle pin. When these “eyes” were reshaped to curl upward, the car was lowered about 1.5 inches, without destroying the spring’s effectiveness. In front, though, the clearance in the center between the spring and axle was reduced.
REPLICAR: A completed reproduction of an existing automotive design, usually sold only as a turn-key, or 100% complete, car.
RESTO ROD OR RESTO-MOD: An original looking car with a modified chassis or power plant.
RIPPLE DISCS: The smooth lines of these chrome plated hub caps were the “hot item” for custom rodders in the early 50′s. Roadster: A convertible without side windows.
ROLL PAN: Smoothed out panel that replaces the bumper and rolls back under the vehicle.
ROLLED: Bumper or gas tank removed and replaced with custom panel that “rolls” under.
ROLLS AND PLEATES: Deluxe interior sewn with padded pleats.
RTA: Russetta Timing Association. “Russetta” is Greek for “winged chariot.”
RUMBLE SEAT: An open, fold up rear seat located where the trunk would be.
RUNNING BOARD: The metal strip running between the fenders and below the doors of early autos and trucks used as a step or to wipe one’s feet before entering the vehicle.
SALT FLATS: Large expanse of caked salt at the west edge of the Great Salt Lake Desert in Utah about ten miles east of Wendover.
SCALLOPS: A custom paint design that utilizes either ribbon like shapes that accent body panels or tapered, evenly spaced spears trailing rearward from the front of a vehicle.
SECTIONED: Removing a horizontal section of bodywork to lower the overall height of the body.
SEDAN DELIVERY: A two-door station wagon with solid body panels instead of windows on the sides at the back of the car.
SHAVED: Door handles and body trim that have been removed and smoothed over.
SIDE MOUNT: A spare tire, recessed into the front fender.
SIX PACK: Three two-barrel carburetors.
SKIRTS: Exterior body panels on a hot rod or custom that fit into the wheel cutouts to cover the tires. They are usually removable to allow access to the tires, and almost always cover the rear tires. Also reference to girls.
SLAMMED: A significantly lowered vehicle – dropped as low as possible and still drivable.
SLEEPER: A vehicle that doesn’t look as fast as it is.
SMALL BLOCK: The smaller of a manufacturer’s V-8 engines, with a block that is physically less massive (as opposed to having less displacement than the manufacturer’s larger V-8. Small blocks usually have a displacement that is less than 370 cubic inches.)
SMOOTHIE: A hot rod with an exceptionally clean, unadorned appearance, resulting from the removal of stock trim, as well as handles, hinges, body seams, and contours.
SOMBRERO: A style of Cadillac hubcap produced from 1947 to 1952, nicknamed for its resemblance to a Mexican sombrero hat. Sombreros are popular with customizers for their smooth, attractive design, and luxury car origin.
SPLIT WINDOW: Usually referring to the rear window – one that has two planes of glass with bodywork in between. Example: the 1963 Corvette.
STEELIES: Solid, stamped-steel wheels. Usually refers to 1940s era Ford wheels, or replicas thereof.
STREAMLINER: A dry-lakes/salt flats racing class designation for a car with custom-made, streamlined bodywork that envelops the wheels.
STREET MACHINE OR STREET BEAST: A street-legal highly modified car or truck built in 1949 or later.
STREET ROD: A street-legal highly modified car or truck built in 1948 or earlier.
SUICIDE AXLE: A front axle that is mounted in front of the frame instead of underneath it. Always seen on T-buckets, occasionally seen on Model As and Deuces.
SUICIDE DOOR: A door that hinges at the rear.
SUPERCHARGER: A crank driven air-to-fuel mixture compressor which increases atmospheric pressure on the engine, resulting in added horsepower.
TAIL JOB: Early Streamliner, usually using a sprint car body with a pointed tail.
TANK: Short for “belly tank” or “drop tank.”
T-BUCKET: Fenderless, topless, highly-modified, Ford Model T. Most T-Buckets on the road today are kit cars or replicars.
TEAR DROPS: 1939 Ford taillights. Very popular on hot rods and named for their teardrop shape. Also pinstriping term for elements with point on one end and rounded other end.
THREE ON THE TREE: Column-shift mechanism for a three speed transmission (the hot rodders answer to the sporty car set’s four-on-the-floor).
THREE WINDOW (3-W): A Ford coupe body style made from 1932 to 1936 that has three windows, not counting the windshield.
TIME: Hot rodders sometimes say “time” when they mean “speed,” because the speed of a race car is calculated from the time it takes to cover a measured distance. So when a redder says, “My time was 200 mph, ” he means his time over the distance was equivalent to a speed of 200mph. Through the quarter-mile traps at the dry lakes, his actual time would have been 4.5sec..
TRACKNOSE: A sleek, hand-formed nose, typically with a grille opening and fabricated grill bars, usually seen on dry-lakes and circle-track racers.
TRACK ROADSTER: An early fenderless roadster, usually a Ford Model T, that is modified to compete in small oval dirt-track races or at least look like it does. Track roadster characteristics include tracknoses and nerf bars.
TRAILER QUEEN: Term referring to a car that is shown frequently yet rarely driven.
TRI-POWER: An engine with three two barrel carburetors.
TUBBED: Having the rear frame and body modified to allow for extra-wide wheels and tires that do not protrude past the fenders.
TUDOR: A two-door Ford sedan.
TUCK AND ROLL: (also rolls and pleats) Custom upholstery with the interior fabric (usually Naugahyde) stitched in narrow vertical and/or horizontal pleats.
TUNNELED: Refers to any component that has been deeply recessed into a body panel; most often used to describe head and taillights. “Frenched”, only deeper.
TURN-KEY: A completely finished hot rod built by a professional shop that requires no additional work. All the owner needs to do is get in and turn the key.
TWO-PORT JOB: a Model A or B block with a two-intake-port head (usually applies to a Riley head).
UNLIMITED: Pre-WWII class for cars with large engines, such as Marmon or Cadillac V-16s, or cars with supercharged engines.
V-BUTTING: Hot rod and Custom technique of mating two flat windshield sections together at the center after the center post has been removed.
VIN: Vehicle Identification Number. The vehicle serial number that is stamped onto the vehicle, usually under the windshield post, the driver’s door post, or on the firewall.
VINTAGE: A vehicle built between 1915 and 1942 in stock or unmodified condition.
WHEELIE BARS: Rods that extend from the back of a car and are connected to wheels that help keep the car from flipping backwards during sudden acceleration.
WIDE WHITES: Tires with wide white sidewalls.
WOODIE: A vehicle that incorporates natural finished wood for structure of exposed body panels.
Z’D FRAME: An effect used to lower a car without effecting suspension geometry. The effect consisted of cutting part of the chassis, raising it and re-welding it to form a “Z” shape when viewed from the side. This allowed for more clearance for the rear differential or front axle to ride higher in the chassis thus decreasing the car’s overall ground clearance. Z’ing the front of a hot rod gives it a raked stance, while Z’ing both ends drops the whole car “down in the weeds.”