“Hot rod style” invokes speed, flash, and raw power. Under bright lights or into the negative space of a darkened stretch of highway, the elements of the style begin with the functional beauty of a dry lakes racer and culminate in the finessed sheet metal and deep hues of a meticulously crafted custom. In between the two extremes lie thousands of variations on the theme.
It begins with stance. The true hot rod stance began with the need for speed on the dry lakes of Southern California. The tall rear tires in conjunction with smaller front tires (and dropped front axles) lowered the nose. This forward “rake” defines hot rod. These elements conspire to give a hot rod the feeling of motion at a standstill.
To further this feeling of motion, paint schemes borrowed from the fighter planes of World War One and World War Two became part of the look. Flames raging from the nose and cowl give a literal interpretation of power and speed. Scallops, in contrast to body color, make a car appear to be exploding through color. Both accents became definitive style elements of hot rods as well as customs.