Hot rods have been a part of the custom car world for a very long time. The street rod, however, is relatively new to the scene and there have been endless debates on where the street rod fits in and differs from hot rods and rat rods. Today, we’re going to tackle the origins of the street rod.
Jim Rowlett – an NSRA Spokesman – defined the street rod as a vehicle that was manufactured pre-1949.
As you can imagine, each state has their own definition of a street rod – for legality reasons of course – and most of those definitions refer to the age of the vehicle.
The National Street Rod Association was founded in 1970 and aimed to bring some form of legitimacy to the street rodding hobby. So when it comes to pinpointing what a street rod is, Rowlett has hit the nail on the head but left out on significant and defining feature – a street rod has been modified for modern highways.
So how can you distinguish street rods from your average hot rod? Easy. A street rod has all the modern luxuries of air conditioning, power steering, modern suspension – it’s not just a restoration, it can drive just as well as any other car on the road.
The generalization of street rods as hot rods is a mistake often made. The hot rod is normally a custom car that replicates a post-1950 car and modified for speed whereas the pre-1949 cars that have been modernized with luxury interiors and custom paint jobs are described as street rods.
The era of the muscle car took over and the enthusiasm for hotrodding ceased. There was no longer a need to put a Cadillac engine into an old Ford Roadster – the Mustangs and Cameros already packed the punch. But the 1973 Oil Crisis created a shift – the general public wanted more fuel efficiency from their vehicles. The subsequent decrease in a car’s performance meant that hotrodding came back in full force.
The mid-80s brought a new generation of custom engine building and the hotrodding community continued to grow. Street rods flourished under the new custom car enthusiasm and has grown from strength to strength throughout the decades.