Art of the Hot Rod, by Ken Gross
Art of the Hot Rod, by Ken Gross. Click image to enlarge

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By Russell Purcell

The type of car you choose to drive says an awful lot about your character, style, and lifestyle. For those individuals looking to make a bigger statement, or who just can’t find an “off-the-rack” model to suit them, customization becomes an option. There are literally thousands of aftermarket parts available to those consumers seeking to make their cars perform better, stand out from the crowd, or just better reflect who they are. Don’t even get me started on the endless palate of colours, tires and wheels out there.

A Little History

Customizing automobiles largely arose during World War 2, as the rationing of materials for the war effort made it difficult to acquire new automobiles or parts. Determined young men armed with tools and mechanical skills would scavenge what they could from older cars and scrap yards in order to fabricate what they needed in order to get their cars on the road.

In his latest effort, Art of the Hot Rod, author Ken Gross explains that the term “hot rod” is believed to be derived from “hot roadster”, as open-topped two-seaters defined the genre in its early days. The cars were stripped down, older cars that could be purchased cheap and then souped up by young, technically skilled men.

Los Angeles is considered the birthplace of the hot rod phenomenon, as its proximity to the culture shaping machine of Hollywood brought exposure to the hobby in magazines, movies, music and television.
The book reveals that the modern interpretation of the hot rod is usually highly sophisticated, and features extraordinary craftsmanship and mechanical ingenuity. The scope of the hobby has expanded to the point that it is now an industry in its own right, with parts suppliers and manufacturers paying more attention to the rolling art pieces they see custom shops creating for well-heeled collectors, diehard enthusiasts, and hot rod fans just looking to relive some of the joys of youth.

This glossy coffee table book takes a look at twenty, carefully selected rod and custom shops that set themselves apart from all corners when it comes to design (a high level of individualism and creativity is a key element in this segment of the auto world), as well as the exceptional standards and workmanship their projects demonstrate.

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