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Hot Rod Lingo

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Hot Rod Lingo

Pat Moran
Hot Rod Comics #4
August 1952

Hot Rod Lingo Hot Rod Lingo
It was a warm, clear California day. The kind of day that seemed made for speeding along an open stretch of asphalt track in a good rod, thought Joe Jackson, or for lying on a white sandy beach looking out at foam flecked water, and perhaps figuring a way to pull a few more r.p.m. out of a souped-up Merc mill. As it was, he was lying on a concrete garage floor staring up at the crankcase of his '36 Ford A Class Sedan. His reverie was broken by a voice from the garage entrance.

"Hey, Joe, why don't you forget that bent eight for a couple of hours. There's a taco wagon down at Morrie's Garage that beats anything I've seen in months. The squirrel that owns it claims he can get 120 miles an hour in second gear. Maybe we can fix up a drag match."

Joe recognized the voice as Red Davis', a rodder who definitely knew his way around the tracks.

"Well, idle your mill awhile till I drain the oil. I'll be right with you. Tell me about this gook wagon you think is such great stuff. Sounds to me like the mughead that owns it is given to flop flop," ventured Joe.

"This is no flop flop, lad," said Red, "I saw this wagon with my own eyes. He's got a full house and all that goes with it—blown mill, body channeled and chopped, roll bar—the works!"

At this point, if the reader isn't puzzled by the lingo, which is peculiar to rod addicts, we'll satisfy his curiosity by relating that Joe and Red did take a look at the taco wagon (Mexican version of a hot rod), and that it did come up to the standards mentioned.

If the conversation left you wondering in spots, it doesn't necessarily mean that you couldn't drive figure eights around a challenging rod, but it does indicate that all the latest lingo used by rodders hasn't caught up to your personal hot rod circle yet.

As with any specialized group, such as hot rodders or pilots or even musicians, a special "slanguage" has been adopted to better describe what is meant.

For instance, Red asked Joe to let up on fixing his V-8 rod (bent eight) so that they might go look at a Mexican hot rod owned by a good driver (squirrel). If they had fixed up a drag match, they would have challenged the driver of the hot rod to a quarter-mile race from standing start. Drag matches, by the way, rarely last longer than ten to fifteen seconds, and speeds of 125 mph have been achieved while still in second gear!

In asking Red to idle his mill and tell about the gook wagon, Joe wanted Red to rest awhile and and give a description of the rod. Gook wagon is a doubtful comment on the worth of the hot rod, indicating a noisy, fancy stock car which has been dolled up but not hopped up, while a mughead given to flop flop means that Joe thought perhaps the driver was overevaluating his own worth and making big talk concerning something about which he had a limited knowledge.

Red disclaimed flop flop, saying that having seen the car, he knew it had an engine with all the racing accessories (full house), plus a supercharged engine (blown mill), a body that was slung over the frame (channeled) and chopped, which means that the entire top had been lowered. A roll bar on the rod means that the driver was wise enough to add a personal safety precaution—this bit of equipment is a steel bar arched transversely above and in the rear of the driver to protect him in event of a roll-over.

If you hear a rod driver exclaim that his slugs have been missing, don't take it for granted he's been cheating the telephone company. What he means is that his pistons haven't been operating to his satisfaction.

Similarly, talk of alki and nitro won't indicate an unhealthy interest in alcoholic beverages or safe-blowing, but concerns fuels of an alcohol or nitrobenzine base. These fuels are used in high-compression engines for racing purposes.

Boots, skins or asphalt slicks are tires. Slicks are used on asphalt for traction. Ordinary tires might burn out in a high speed run, so many rod drivers invest in regular racing tires—the type used at the Indianapolis Speedway—for longer life and greater safety.

Two common processes in hopping up a stock car are porting and relieving. In porting, the intake valve ports are enlarged and polished and larger valves are installed, while relieving entails removing the ridge in the top of the block—in normal production this is not done when the valve seats are installed.

If you intend to herd a three-pot rod down a stretch of highway, you'll want to be sure that the binders are in good shape and that you're not tooling a fui-bug. In plain English, if you're driving a hot rod with three carburetors (for maximum fuel consumption and speed), the brakes should be functioning well, or you may be driving a car that will break down during competition.

Sprung weight means the weight that is carried above the springs, or is in suspension, as contrasted with unsprung weight, or that which is below the springs.

An important component of the hot rod is the stick, which is the camshaft. This part is designed to open and close the intake and exhaust valves, and is classified according to the contour. They come in stock, semi-race, three-quarter race, super or full-race styles. For the ordinary rod, a three-quarter race is adequate.

Many hot-rodders who take their avocation seriously adopt a dog clutch in their car, which is a hand-operated unit substituted for the foot clutch. This type engages the engine spline directly and cannot be engaged while in motion. The construction of a dog clutch makes it not feasible for any but competition driving.

In a straightway run, a locked rear end is often used in competition. Impractical for city or Sunday driving, the locked rear end has no differential gears to compensate for the difference in speeds between the rear wheels when cornering. Also, if a driver has lid trouble, don't look for flying hats—his cylinder head is afoul, and if he buys a mag, he probably intends to install a new magneto and isn't necessarily getting set to read the latest issue of Hot Rod Comics.

The low appearance of many rods is due to the use of a dropped axle. In this process, the center section of the axle is lowered by heating and bending the ends upward, thus providing a lower rest for the entire front end. Lowness in a rod means less wind resistance on a run and, consequently, more speed. On the Salt Flats, rods have been entered with as little as four inches of ground clearance!

Customized jobs are constantly seen tooling their way down the nation's roads. These are stock cars on which the body lines, front end and/or rear deck appearance has been altered and individualized. Access to a body shop has many times produced a "car of the future" made over from a ten-year old stock car.

Stroking a cat until it purrs is nothing new. Doing the same with a hot rod is also no big news to veteran hot rodders. In this process, the crankpin to which the big end of the connecting rod is attached is reground so that its new center is nearer to the outer ends of the crank-throw. This creates a stroker, or a rod engine on which the stroke length has been increased, giving stronger compression and more speed, the ultimate goal of a hot rodder.

In a word, that's the word. The latest. The slanguage of the hot rodders today. And, as they say in the fastest circles, if you drive a goat, don't be a gooker. Or, as they say in the square circles, if you drive an old racing car, don't be a reckless driver!


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