As long as the automobile has been being produced, there have been individuals experimenting with ways to individualize them and make them go faster. For some it’s a fun hobby, for others, it is a passion. There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush that comes from pressing your foot to the floorboard and hearing your car’s engine roar in response. The thrill is even sweeter when you’ve put time and effort into customizing and modifying your car to make it purr exactly how you want it to. For all the fans out there, let’s take a look at some of the greatest hot rods of all time.
30. ’24 T Roadster – Ed Iskenderian
Designed by Ed Iskenderian in 1938, the T was clocked at 120 mph at El Mirage. It featured a bored flathead and Maxi heads with overhead exhaust valves. This vehicle is commemorated at the NHRA Motorsport Museum in Pomona, California, so anyone who wants to view a true hot rod icon has the opportunity.
29. ’23 T Roadster – Dean Jeffries
This vehicle put hot rodding on the map with appearances in Life Magazine on TV in the show 77 Sunset Strip. Dean Jeffries gave the original black body a blue flame paint job that attracted even more attention. Norm Grabowski was the creator of the original ’23 T, although it’s been reimagined many times over the years.
28 -’29 Roadster – Bill Niekamp
This car was voted America’s Most Beautiful Roadster in 1950, and it well deserved the title. It was built in 1948 by Bill Niekamp, and it was constructed on a ’27 Essex frame. The engine was a .42 Merc flathead with Evans heads, making the ’29 quite the racer at Bonneville. It was later discovered abandoned in a barn and rebuilt to make a splash at the first Street Rod Nationals.
27. ’27 T Roadster – Frank Mack
The ’27 has always been a car that commanded attention. It was built like many dirt track cars of the late ‘40s with 15-inch steel rims showcasing ’47 Hudson caps and tubular push bars. The nose was actually built from a set of ’41 Chevy Front fenders! Frank Mack designed this unique hot rod, which is now known as the Meyer/Mack roadster.
26. ’29 A Roadster – Tom Pollard
This roadster designed by Tom Pollard was a thing of beauty. It boasted a filled ’40 dash with gauges across the entire length of the front seat, a swing-out T windshield, and frenched door hinges. The car received a paint job later in life and went from its original red to lime metallic with rust flames.
25. ’29 Ford A Roadster – Bob Anderson
This modern hot rod combines old and new to make something unique and beautiful. Hearkening back to the good old days of auto racing are the Kandy green paint job, T-bird quad headlights, white tuck ‘n’ roll, and Lancer caps. But under the hood, the ’29 Ford is all new, with a Hemi that uses an Edelbrock intake and six Rochesters.
24. ’57 Chrysler – Clif Inman
Clif Inman owns this hot rod built by Joe Wilhelm. It is a simple car in comparison with many on this list, but that works in its favor. The only signs of modification are shaved trim, peaked fins, a tube grille, and taillights that have been redesigned. Sometimes a little goes a long way.
23. ’41 Ford – Squeeg Jerger
This Ford was actually inspired by a drawing by Dave Bell. It was built at Squeeg’s Customers in Phoenix by Squeeg Jerger himself. He had help from Chip Foose in designing the interior, which has 64’ T-bird seats that are upholstered in white Naugahyde and a custom center console. The original chassis is still in the car, just modified a bit, and there’s a 5-inch windshield chop and a fiberglass Carson top.
22. ’63 Buick Riviera – Jimmie Vaughan
Jimmie Vaughan owns this Buick, which looks better as a hot rod than a regular car. Gary Howard did the bodywork on this one and it’s not ostentatious but it does cover the entire vehicle, from the extended fenders and ’68 Imperial headlights to the ’65 Corvette taillights. It sports a beautiful and interesting candy lime gold pearl paint.
21. ’23 T Roadster – Andy Brizio
This roadster was built by Andy Brizio, and it won America’s Most Beautiful Hot Rod in 1970. It has a glass body and a psychedelic pearl paint job, making it an eye-catching ride. Brizio went on to become one of the first hot rodders to sell street rod kits.
20. ’36 Ford – Rick Dore
Belonging to Rick Dore, this hot rod is inspired by Westergard, and it began life as a five-window coupe. With a stretched hood, handbuilt running boards and Carson top and shaved rear quarters, it’s become something far more elegant. It feels both old and new, with its tangerine paint job with gold highlights.
19. ’32 Roadster – Gary Baskerville
This vehicle was built as a drag car in 1956, and it got its stylings from R&Cs first cover car. Gary Baskerville bought the car when it was ten years old and kept it as long as he lived. He left it traditional, with buggy springs, small-block, Powerglide, and tuck n’ roll. He even left the spots of primer on it.
18. ’57 Buick – Richard Zocchi
Back when customs weren’t cool, Richard Zocchi was still experimenting with his vehicles. He gave this one frenched ’56 Olds headlights, ’56 Packard taillights, and some classic body mods. He painted the car a sweet Lemon Chiffon Pearl with Art Himsl scallops, winning several awards for paint and interior.
17. ’32 Coupe – Rick Figari
This coupe actually began life as a fictional car from American Graffiti. George Lucas took it as a wreck and cleaned it up for the film, but abandoned it afterward. It was an iconic look, with bobbed fenders and a 327 SBC. It was cloned excessively, and the original was purchased by Rick Figari.
16. ’49 Chevy Coupe – Randy Clark
Built by Hot Rods & Custom Stuff and owned by Randy Clark, the Chevy won the Ridler Award at the ’01 Detroit Autorama. Randy Clark took the car down to its basic construction, but still kept the look and feel of the car. It was given an LS1 engine and Kugel independent suspension parts in the front and rear. Some know it as the M-80.
15. Led Zephyr – Boyd Coddington
This is one of the most extreme hot rods out there. The body is built by Marcel DeLay & Sons, and it looks like a work of art. The chassis is Art Morrison and the interior is Gabe Lopez. It was first introduced in 2001 By Boyd Coddington.
14. Speedstar – Bobby Alloway
The Speedstar created a new standard that featured a glass version of a Marcel DeLay body on a ’33 Ford. It was designed by Bobby Alloway and went into production with Rats Glass. The Trackstar coupe, in particular, stands out as an amazing hot rod. It’s lightweight and fast, and it has the looks to go with its speed.
13. ’33 Roadster – Jamie Musselman
Another Boyd Coddington sensation, this roadster is owned by Jamie Musselman. It was equipped with a double A-arm from a suspension that was built by John Buttera and billet rims. It won America’s Most Beautiful Hot Rod in Oakland in 1982.
12. ’34 Coupe – Tom Prufer
Another hot rod inspired by a Dave Bell drawing, this coupe was owned by Tom Prufer in the early 80s. It is nicknamed the “Cop Shop Coupe” and features a chassis by Pete Eastwood, paint by Rod Powell, and stitching by Ken Foster. There are a ’34 back half frame and deuce front end to make things really interesting.
11. “RealMad” ’56 Nomad – Marshall Chesrown
This is one of the most well-known hot rods of the modern era. It was built by Steve’s Auto Restorations, using plans by Chip Foose. It is actually a wagon, but it still maintains its cool factor. It is owned by Marshall Chesrown and has been since he was a child.
10. ’32 Roadster – Tom McMullen
This hot rod owned by Tom McMullen is one of the most famous of the bunch. It is known for its black paint job with flames, given to it by its owner and laid out by Ed Roth. The vehicle was in Hot Rod Magazine in the early 1960s and became Street Rodder’s symbol in the 1970s. In the meantime, it drag raced and ran at El Mirage.
9. ’26 T Sedan – John Buttera
Created in the early 70s by John Buttera, the ’26 T has a tubular space frame, independent suspension on all four corners, power windows, braided hoses, and chrome applied with a light touch. The look is carried over into the ’29 A Roadster.
8. ’49 Merc – Louis Bettancourt
Designed by Louis Bettancourt, who was one of the founding fathers of classic lead sled styling, this car was completely tricked out. It had ’49 Cadillac trim, frenched head lights, and ’53 Poncho bumpers. There were Stude wheel covers to spruce up the outside and white tuck ‘n’ roll with maroon mohair on the interior.
7. “Extremeliner” – Ken “Posies” Fenical
This woodie was designed in the style of European coaches, basing its looks off of the Hispano-Suiza Xenia streamliners of the 30s and Thom Taylor masterpieces. The car was built over the course of six years completely from scratch. Making it even more distinct are the three-door body and spindle-mount wheel covers.
6. “Sniper” ’54 Plymouth Savoy – Troy Trepanier
Troy Trepanier, one of the best hot rod designers of all time, created this ’54 Savoy. It boasts 488ci Viper engine and a fully customized chassis. It truly is a different kind of car, and it’s built from raw material that is usually passed over or discarded.
5. ’32 Roadster – Doane Spencer
This roadster built by Doane Spencer remains one of the best to this day. It was Spencer’s daily driver at one point in time, and it competed everywhere, from the Panamerica road race to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It was modified several times, and now is part of collector Bruce Meyer’s stable of hot rods.
4. ’34 Coupe – Pierson Brothers
This coupe designed by the Pierson Brothers has a 9-inch chop and a Sprint car nose that makes the car more aerodynamic. It was raced well into the 90s before being purchased by Bruce Meyer and restored by So-Cal Speed Shop and the original builders.
3. ’40 Merc – Nick Matranga
Nick Matranga’s Merc was one-of-a-kind, and the unique style has been imitated ever since it appeared in 1950. It combined a 5-inch chop and sloped roofline with fat fenders, an unusual pairing at the time. Matranga went to fight in Korea and the car was sold. It ended up wrecked, having hit a telephone pole.
2. “Beatnik Bandit” – Ed Roth
This is Ed Roth’s most famous car. It was built by hand from a modified Olds chassis. The glass body and bubble top drew lots of attention and made designers rethink what hot rods should look like. It inspired a whole generation of custom rods.
1. ’51 Merc – Bob Hirohata
Bob Hirohata’s hot rod is the most famous of the classic era. It has ’53 Buick Riviera trim, a custom grille, and Lincoln taillights. He took it to Indianapolis in 1953, where it won an award. It was also featured in Running Wild, a movie produced at the time.