A to Z Glossary of Hot Rod Terms

A to Z Glossary of Hot Rod Terms

Car Terms Every Car Nerd NEEDS to Know — Have you ever watched a car video and been confused by complicated car terminology? Well, this is the video for you. We’re covering everything from unibodies to torsion beams, brake horsepower to transaxles, rod knock to blinker fluid, and everything in between…

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Glossary of Hot Rod Terms

Don’t sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about next time at a car show, cruise-in, or meet. These are the terms you need to know…

25 years old or older, in stock, unmodified, or restored to original condition.
Fender-mounted spotlights, named for the manufacturer.
Baby Moons
Small chromed hubcaps that only cover the center of the wheel.
Normally used to define balancing the rotating mass (ie: crankshaft), but could also mean matching the weights of the pistons and rods.
The line running around a car’s body formed by the bottom edges of the side windows.
A supercharger.
Blown Gasser
A supercharged, gas burning engine.
Ensuring the dimensions of the parts in the engine are more accurate and, therefore, closer to the original engine blueprint values.
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.
Carson Top
A solid, removable roof that is covered with a soft material.
Cutting the floor so the body rests around the frame rails rather than sitting on top of the frame. This gives an overall lowered appearance.
A hard-top car that has had its roof lowered.
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.
An open-top car with a folding roof and side windows.
Crate Engine
Factory built, ready to run engine.
A car that is modified in visual appearance through imaginative and technical methods to create a distinctive vehicle.
A dropped front-end.
Chrome details and trim removed from the trunk and smoothed over.
1932 Ford.
A significantly lowered vehicle.
Dual Quad
Two four barrel carburetors.
Dutchman Panel
The metal body piece between the rear window and the trunk.
Duval Windshield
a split V-shaped raked chrome-plated windshield designed by George DuVall
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.
Fenders that taper back into the body.
Fat Fendered
Fords built between 1935 and 1948 that were wide and rounded in appearance.
Fender Skirts
Body panels that cover the rear wheel wells.
Filled Roof
One that has a welded steel panel instead of the original wood-and-fabric insert.
Igniting unburnt exhaust and shooting flames out the tailpipes.
An L-head or side-valve engine. The most popular flathead engine was built by Ford between 1932 and 1953.
A four-door Ford sedan.
Frame-off Restoration
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.
Frame-Up Restoration
Not as detailed as a frame-off, but involves restoring the paint, chrome, interior, and mechanicals to original specifications without complete disassembly of the car.
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.
Loud, aftermarket mufflers.
Pontiac GTO.
Fine-tuned exhaust manifold that is more efficient than stock. Usually chromed or coated.
An engine that has hemispherical combustion chambers in its cylinder head. Popularized by Chrysler, starting around 1951.
A fenderless customized Model A Ford coupe or roadster that sits at stock height.
Hot Rod
Traditionally, an older vehicle with “low-buck” performance modifications.
Kit Car
A reproduction of an existing automotive design, sold in various stages of production to allow for completion and customization by the builder.
Side-exit exhaust pipes located under the rocker panels.
Land Yacht
Large, luxury car, usually referring to the chromed, finned, oversized vehicles of the late fifties to early sixties.
A lowered, late-forties car with molded body seams, traditionally done with lead.
Vents or slots punched in body panels. The most commonly louvered body panel is the hood, done to increase ventilation.
Customized Model A Ford that has been channeled.
A vehicle that sits lower than stock height through suspension or frame modifications.
A vehicle that has been lowered by a hydraulic suspension system that can bring the ride height up in order to drive it.
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.
Body seams that have been filled in or otherwise smoothed out.
Full wheel covers that are chrome and convex-shaped.
Muscle Car
A North American intermediate or mid-sized car produced between 1964 and 1972 (with a few exceptions) with a large displacement V8 engine.
Nerf Bar
Tubular bumper.
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.
Chrome details and trim removed from the hood and smoothed over.
Contains only parts originally installed on the car or NOS parts from the manufacturer with no substitute or after-market parts.
Hood modified to a lower profile.
A molded accent seam on a hood.
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!”
Narrow, padded pleats used to trim the interior.
The pillar located between the front and rear doors of a four-door sedan.
Project Car
One that is in restorable condition.
A vehicle features large rear wheels and tires tucked deeply into the rear fender area.
The front end has been lowered more than the back. Can also refer to a slanted windshield.
Rat Rod
A style of hot rod that imitates the early rods of the 40’s-60’s. Rat rods have an unfinished appearance (which they are not) with just the bare essentials to be driven. These early rods were built to the best of the owner’s abilities and were built to be driven, not shown. The rockabilly and punk culture are often credited with influencing today’s rat rods.
A completed reproduction of an existing automotive design, usually sold only as a turn-key, or 100% complete, car.
Resto Rod
An original looking car with a modified chassis or powerplant.
To return a car to its original showroom condition.
A convertible without side windows.
Roll Pan
Smoothed out panel that replaces the bumper and rolls back under the vehicle.
Bumper or gas tank removed and replaced with custom panel that “rolls” under.
Rolled & Pleated
Deluxe interior sewn with padded pleats.
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.
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.
Door handles and body trim that have been removed and smoothed over.
A spare tire, recessed into the front fender.
Three two-barrel carburetors.
A significantly lowered vehicle – dropped as low as possible and still driveable.
A vehicle that doesn’t look as fast as it is.
Split Window
Usually referring to the rear window – one that has two planes of glass with bodywork in between. Example: the 1963 Corvette.
Street Machine
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 Door
A door that hinges at the rear.
A crank driven air-to-fuel mixture compressor which increases atmospheric pressure on the engine, resulting in added horsepower.
An original, unrestored, unmolested antique car that is in good enough condition to be used as a model for the restoration of a similar car.
Fenderless, topless, highly-modified, Ford Model T. Most T-Buckets on the road today are kit cars or replicars.
Trailer Queen
Derogatory term referring to a car that is shown frequently yet rarely driven.
An engine with three two barrel carburetors.
Having the rear frame and body modified to allow for extra-wide wheels and tires that do not protrude past the fenders.
A two-door Ford sedan.
See “Frenched” – only deeper.
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.
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.
A vehicle that incorporates natural finished wood for structure of exposed body panels.