Car lovers have a language all their own, and each sub-genre of car culture has its own dialect. The meanings of some words are immutable, while others change wildly over time and in different regions. Just try to get five people to figure out what “muscle car” truly means. Despite the debates that rage on, we’ve picked out some common terms to help explain some essential hot rod and custom jargon, along with photos to help out.
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There was "ported and relieved," which referred to maximizing the breathing ability of a flathead by enlarging the intake and exhaust ports and unshrouding the valve pocket on the top of the block. And how about "uncorked," which is a car with open headers. Don't forget "sleeper," because that stock-appearing car in the other lane might have a nasty surprise lurking under the hood.
"driver" and "trailer queen". "30/30 car" i.e Show Car. At 30 feet/30 mph, that's a show car. Of course that extrapolates out as 40/40. 50/50, etc. As for quality of bodywork "sack of antlers/walnuts". Hmmmm, maybe I was hangin out with a bunch of disgruntled hot rodders... On a more positive note "3 deuces", "2-4s" for multiple carbs, "rat roaster" which is the Chrysler 2-4 cross ram intake manifold.
Just a few oldies; "Huffer" referring to a roots style supercharger, "Digger" a term common to rail dragsters in the early days of drag racing, of course the famous "deuce" being a 32 Ford, and "Baby Moons" being a popular style of hub cap commonly used in conjunction with chrome reversed wheels.
restomods used to be called restorods, an original looking car with every factory accessory added plus all the modern day creature comforts, some were done so well they looked more like restorations with all the modern stuff hidden.
I recall, knew most of the names but I thought the article was going to be more inline with "Hot Rodder Terms", you know the way we spoke back in those "Hot Rod Days" ; terms like: (explanations provided but for some not needed)
Fish Tail - making a bend or burning out and having the rear end go side to side.
Lay Some Rubber - burning out, see who could put a bigger, blacker strip on the pavement.
Spin Out - Sort of the same as "Fish Tailing".
Pop The Clutch - getting those RPMs up and then, well "popping the clutch".
Roll Back - Mostly with automatic transmission and low horsepower rides; you'd put it in reverse, get it going backwards then slam it in drive and...yep "lay some rubber".
Power Break - Again, only in automatics, holding the brake firmly, getting those RPMs up and then quickly releasing the brake, and once again "laying some rubber".
Title for Title - If you knew you had a fast ride and somebody pulled up next to you on the local roadway (always was a special road in the area where you would cruise and race); windows down, you're both revving, and you would yell; "Title for Title", whoever wins gets the other guys car (title) - I actually heard it allot but barely ever seen either driver follow through; sort of a "flexing muscle" type thing
Cherry Bombs - Those "Thrush" RED mufflers you'd put on after you took off the original big flat ones - they sounded great and the decal you got looked cool on the side window.
Cleveland Lean - This was probably only used in my area (Ohio); it was when you were driving your arm would be hung over the steering wheel and you would lean to the right where you were actually almost in the middle of the front seat while driving, just a "Cool" look while cruising.
I can give many more and most of these terms applied to something you did that wasn't really that great for the car itself, but its' how we got to be good "Shade Tree Mechanics"; we kept blowing clutches, popping pinion gears, ruing drive shafts; so we had to fix them. Hey before I go; anybody remember that when you wanted your "windows tinted" you would do it with a "spray (rattle can) tint". You would spray the tint as close to the window and let it drip down - wait for it to dry - BANG! You got your tint. Took a little talent; I was the got to "Window Tint" guy in the neighborhood.
Just a few of the "lingo" I grew up with and heard when you we were hanging out at the local burger joint or Pizza Shop.
Guess I'm getting.......na, got there - OLD
Power Break? Power Brake? Stupid people trick, IMO, no matter what you call it.
Anyhoo, that was a popular sport for the young 'uns hanging around the last service station I worked at, some forty years ago. One night I watched a girl tear the drive-shaft out of her boyfriend's pickup doing that stunt. He was royally POed, she was in tears, and we were all laughing at him for letting her do it!
Not something I see much nowadays, since I don't hang around the gearhead shops anymore, but just a few weeks ago someone did that right in front of my house, and left a rubber patch half a block long! 😄
Should add this one as well, since we've all encountered it:
"Unobtanium" (noun) Description of or reference to a rare, OEM part/component needed for a repair/restoration/etc., that due to low production, age/ etc. is impossible to find. 🙂
You define Lakester, and show two examples, and simply call them “streamlined” without noting the most interesting thing about them - that they were made after the war from P-38 or P-51 belly tanks.
Here's a few I thought of - mags, meaning wheels - pipes, meaning duel exhaust - slicks, meaning tires with no tread for better traction - power shift, fast shifting of gears - stroked & bored, lengthened movement of the piston and bored out for larger pistons - rolling start, starting a drag race, usually on the street, from a slow speed rolling rather that a full stop.
The sheer number of terms shows just how important these cars were. O'course, emissions controls with computers [putting modifications out of the reach of many], along with the new & improved high strength body panels, air bags, and other technical additions really, really put a damper on all innovation. Instant gratification certainly plays a part, as well.
There are no photos of a "high-boy" in this article!!! The first picture is of an Indy or Lakes style low-boy. In the low-boy photo, both are low-boys, especially the gold one!!!
Nosed and decked are usually used together. . .You never see a car that has been nosed and not decked and vice-versa.
A couple of words all rodders know, "Yo-Yo" and "Squirrel" Still see the odd one to-day. If you have to ask what these terms referred to, you are either not a real hot-rodder or you're one of them. (Builder of a '27 T 2-dr coach/312 'Bird powered), Bert
Got to admit I was liking cars for a long time but some of the terms were new to me. I wanted to make thigs so I became a draftsman. Never got to use those skills 1992 I designed a car. Here is what I wanted to build. https://youtu.be/WBwdE7zGPt4
Lakes pipes get uncapped for track use, and they are much quieter inside the car than cutouts under the car. When I open my cutouts, the change in the console jumps around and my chest hurts from the noise!
Lot of cars were fat fenders. A friend who is an award winning restomod builder of 30's and 40's cars, and daily drives a '38 Chevy, even refers to PT Cruisers as fat fenders.
Would add: A sleeper is a hot rod that suppresses it's power, speed, and sound in a way to come across as unassuming ... like a grocery-getter. Sorry, TonyT - saw that you already had that one covered after I posted.
A few incorrect photo examples. For "decked" you show the front of a car. It's supposed to be the trunk. Poor choice of photo for a "highboy." My understanding is that "fat fendered" applies to all cars built in the late '30s with bulbous fenders --not just Fords. Pro Touring is more about upgrading the suspension than slapping an EFI on a car.
One item not mentionied was a "dropped axle" - a Ford front axle that had been stretched near the ends, and bent upwards, to lower the center in relation to the wheels. The best mufflers in the oild days were always "Glasspacks", Porters were the best-sounding brand, and "Smittys" were the cheapest, and didn't sound as good. Lincoln-Zephyr gears in a Ford gave a better acceleration rate, and with 3.54:1 rear end gears, was the best combination for a pre-War Ford with a loaded engine. Ford V8-60 engines were always called "typewriters". A car with a lot of chrome trim everywhere was known as a "**bleep** Wagon", and this was not a compliment! This may have been the origin of the old saying "If it won't go, CHROME IT!". Back in the 50s, Chevvies were known as "Stovebolts", and Chrysler products were always "MoPars". Another saying among Ford guys was "Six in a row, will never go!".
Bruce - a real Old-Timer from Nevada.
What you're calling a Cleveland Lean was known in Northern California as a Gangster Lean. As in "diamond in the back, sunroof top, diggin' the scene with a gangster lean." Those Lakester cars had a body that was made from war surplus external fuel tanks from bombers. A lot of the low rider cars had hydraulics that were powered by 24 volt batteries stolen off construction equipment. Some beautiful cars here that really took me back.
when got new tires on our muscle cars, (wide 50-60 series) we called them "meats"..., before going out cruising, you called yours buddies and say "lets fire up the rails"...
Great article. I agree with Bullypit, the 'highboy' photo looks like a lowboy. Here's a question that could generate an infinite number of opinions: How do you define 'big block' vs, 'small block'?
Just about all of us had 670 air conditioning, no matter who made the car... Wing, door and rear windows all down at 70 mph for the best cooling. At least that's how it worked back in the day and still to this day in my 68 Chevelle Super Sport!
A few more to add: Dizzy referring to a distributor. 1/2, 3/4, full race cams were loosely tied to the limited selections of modified camshafts available. 1/2 race May correlate to a moderately hotter cam profile, 3/4 one you would use on the street with some drivability compromise due to more duration, lift, valveoverlp or lobe centerline,and full race intended for racing only. Now there are endless custom and off the shelf possibilities. Another term- injected, meaning a fuel injection system like Enderley with the tall velocity stacks. Cheater slicks had the imprint of tire tread on the sidewall and basically a slick for tread surface. Lots more!