1920s to 1945
Hot rods first appeared in the late 1930s in southern California, where people raced modified cars on dry lake beds northeast of Los Angeles, under the rules of the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA), among other groups. This gained popularity after World War II, particularly in California, because many returning soldiers had received technical training. The first hot rods were old cars (most often Fords, typically Model Ts, 1928–31 Model As, or 1932-34 Model Bs), modified to reduce weight. Engine swaps often involved fitting the Ford flathead V8 engine (known as the “flatty”) into a different car, for example the common practice in the 1940s of installing the “60 horse” version into a Jeep chassis.
Typical modifications were removal of convertible tops, hoods, bumpers, windshields, and/or fenders; channeling the body; and modifying the engine by tuning and/or replacing with a more powerful type. Wheels and tires were changed for improved traction and handling. Hot rods built before 1945 commonly used ’35 Ford wire-spoke wheels.
1945 to 1960
After World War II, many small military airports throughout the country were either abandoned or rarely used, allowing hot rodders across the country to race on marked courses. Originally, drag racing had tracks as long as 1 mi (1.6 km) or more, and included up to four lanes of racing simultaneously. As some hot rodders also raced on the street, a need arose for an organization to promote safety, and to provide venues for safe racing. The National Hot Rod Association was founded in 1951, to take drag racing off the streets and into controlled environments.
In the ’50s and ’60s, the Ford flathead V8 was supplanted by the Chrysler FirePower engine (known as the “early hemi”). Many hot rods would upgrade the brakes from mechanical to hydraulic (“juice”) and headlights from bulb to sealed-beam. A typical mid-1950s to early 1960s custom Deuce was fenderless and steeply chopped, powered by a Ford or Mercury flathead, with an Edelbrock intake manifold, Harman and Collins magneto, and Halibrand quick-change differential. Front suspension hairpins were adapted from sprint cars, such as the Kurtis Krafts.
1960 to present
As automobiles offered by the major automakers began increasing performance, the lure of hot rods began to wane. With the advent of the muscle car, it was now possible to purchase a high-performance car straight from the showroom.
However the 1973 Oil Crisis caused car manufacturers to focus on fuel efficiency over performance, which led to a resurgence of interest in hot rodding. As the focus shifted away from racing, the modified cars became known as “street rods”. The National Street Rod Association (NSRA) was formed and began hosting events.
By the 1970s, the 350 cu in (5.7 l) small-block Chevy V8 was the most common choice of engine for hot rods. Another popular engine choice is the Ford Windsor engine. During the 1980s, many car manufacturers were reducing the displacements of their engines, thus making it harder for hot rod builders to obtain large displacement engines. Instead, engine builders had to modify the smaller engines (such as using non-standard crankshafts and pistons) to obtain larger displacement. While current production V8s tended to be the most frequent candidates, this also applied to others. In the mid-1980s, as stock engine sizes diminished, rodders discovered the 215 cu in (3.5 L) aluminum-block Buick or Oldsmobile V8 could be modified for substantially greater displacement, with mainly wrecking yard parts. This trend was not limited to American cars; Volkswagen enthusiasts similarly stretched stock 1600cc engines to over two liters.
Source: Read More.