Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hot Rod, Custom and Dry Lakes Racing Terminology 101

Thought some of you might appreciate a terminology lesson. Thanks to www.rodderboy.com for terms and definitions and most of the pictures in this post.

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.

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.



belly pan: a custom fabricated underbody piece used to aid airflow under the car's body – often made of sheet aluminum or steel.





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.

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.

D.O.: an early years term for an engine equipped with dual overhead camshafts.

dual set-up: early hot rod term for an engine using a dual intake manifold equipped with two carburetors.

fadeaways: Custom rodder term where the extruded front fender section gradually flows into the rear extruded fender section while flowing with the cars body lines.

fender skirts: Panels covering the rear wheel well leaving only the bottom part of the rear wheels exposed.




filled axle: a dropped axle that has both sides of the "I" beam section filled with metal at the bend to provide added strength.

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.



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.





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, 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.

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.

Lakester: Class designation (after 1950) of cars with custom-made bodywork that was streamlined but had exposed wheels.






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."

mill: any engine.

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.

MRA: Muroc Racing AssociationMTA: Mojave Timing Association

over-bore: An engine with the cylinders enlarged in diameter (bored) to accomodate 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.

pot: early term for carburetor. (See also Jug).

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.

relieving: removal of the ridge in the top of the block resulting from counterboring 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.

Ripple discs: The smooth lines of these chrome plated hub caps were the "hot item" for custom rodders in the early 50's.


RTA: Russetta Timing Association. "Russetta" is Greek for "winged chariot."

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.





tail job: Early Streamliner, usually using a sprint car body with a pointed tail.

tank: Short for "belly tank" or "drop tank."

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).

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 200mph, " 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..

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.





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.