These Are The 10 Best Cars To Use For A Hot Rod Build – HotCars

A hot rod build can be based on almost anything, but some cars make a better base than others.
When we think of Hot rods, we tend to imagine pre-war American Ford's with insanely large engines and big fat tires, and while this is how the whole genre took off, they are not the only examples. Hot Rods are, as a rule, generally modified cars rebuilt to go faster.
Even with this idea of what a hot rod is, street-rods and rat-rods further diversify the scene. The Hot Rod scene is more popular than ever, and it's not just about big horsepower figures, but also the wide-ranging individualism that sets it apart from the modern modding scene where anyone can bolt on a body kit. Hot Rods are more bespoke and personal, appealing to a wider audience than the aforementioned midfield street-racing crowd.
Which classic cars makes the best Hot Rods? Early Ford Coupes are hugely popular, as are classic Volkswagens, and with their simpler design, they're easier to customize. There is no right or wrong answer, the only limitations being imagination and ability.
Porsche and Volkswagen designed VW Type 1 chassis and floor pans are one of the most flexible and easily adapted designs in automotive history. Created as the Beetle "people's car", the Type 1 has gone on to be one of the longest produced cars and is extremely popular for custom-builds.
Cheap to build and maintain, the rear-engined layout makes the type 1 an easy choice for any gearhead getting into the hot-rod scene. Anything outside the core body itself is easily unbolted and replaced as this 1965 project demonstrates, stripped of fenders, chrome, and bumpers giving a cleaner appearance.
Starting with an everyday truck, the second-generation Ford F-Series is a sure-fire way to get great results. Even the lowliest F100 or ½-ton model popular with restorers has the potential to be a tarmac scorching head-turner with a few upgrades.
From truck to hot-rod is simpler than you might think, these things look cool. Throw on a set of fatter tires and lower the ride height, and you're pretty much there. However, the F100 wouldn't be complete without some more muscle, stock 289s are fine for load-hauling, but swap in a Windsor 351 topped with Edelbrock heads, and you're all set to go.
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Ford's '30s era Five-Window coupe is another fan-favorite with the modding community, built using a body-on-frame process makes it great for custom sizing, adding or removing a few inches is a walk in the park. Oddly, the five-window coupe actually has six windows, Ford only counted those behind the windshield, go figure.
At some point during the build, the owner mixed and matched its original frame with Chevrolet's 383 cu-in V8 tuned to around 430 hp. Jacked-up rear suspension, bigger wheels, and skinny tires are pretty much the accepted standard for these things, not that any two custom-builds are ever quite alike.
Ford UK's small popular family car doesn't seem like the kind of ride that will get pulses racing, that is unless you happen to give it a muscle-bound street rod makeover. This 1948 example was prepared by US-based Keith Street Rods and is what most gearheads imagine a hot-rod looks like.
Factory fresh, Ford went with a 993cc four-banger, unsurprisingly most owners opt for something bigger, 350 cu-in V8s fitting with surprising ease into the Anglia's nose. The original's cheap selling price and simple design made the Anglia easy to come by, all it needs is a little creative thinking.
The predecessor to Lincoln's Continental, Zephyr's was built from 1936-42 as a luxury four-door sedan designed by Edsel Ford. One of the earliest and most efficient aerodynamically streamlined production cars of the time, only the Pierce Silver Arrow Concept faired any better.
That same highly efficient design is nothing compared to how most gearheads envisage and indeed recreate the Zephyr, chopped rooflines, and lowered ride heights are all common practices. As if this choice of modern drivetrains, Corvette sourced front and rear suspension accompanied by LS series V8 motors.
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Given free rein to create anything they desired, Chrysler came up with the retro-inspired Prowler. We suspect somewhere between the initial concept and production things got toned down a few notches, most notably under the hood, which is a pity. However, rather than dismissing the Prowler, instead, think of it as the starting point for something much cooler.
All the makings are there, leaving gearheads to individualize the styling by adding some custom touches. This one we found listed on Barrett-Jackson is sporting more aggressive tires and wheels. Completing the custom makeover, period-style suicide doors, and a bespoke convertible hood.
Evolved VW Bug mechanicals dressed in a prettier two-door coupe body is a great starting point, even if most modded Karmann Ghias ditch the air-cooled four-cylinder motor hanging out the back. The same simplistic chassis and drive train that made the Type 1 a popular project car can be applied here.
Strip away the Carrozzeria Ghia styled bodywork, and you're left with a basic chassis ripe for some serious upgrades. Chopped suspension, and bigger wheels are just the starting point, throw a bigger motor into the mix, and you've got a mean ride. One crazed gearhead even managed to shoe-horn a Viper V10 under the hood.
A far more versatile approach, instead of spending thousands of man-hours adapting bodywork, chassis, and engines to fit, Factory Five produces a complete hot rod kit, leaving just a choice of the powertrain to use. The advantages here being everything is designed and manufactured to fit, leaving buyers free to decide on custom paint jobs and personal touches.
Introduced in 2020, the Speedstar Coupe is the newest option in our list, but given that the very best Hot Rods are usually stylized recreations of '50s machinery, that shouldn't come as a huge surprise. A custom-designed frame incorporates mounting points for buyer-selected IRS assemblies, leaving just the decision of Ford or Chevy power.
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We picked Chevrolet's first-generation Corvette because we like the way it looks, but it's the fiber-glass body and steel chassis common to all generations that make it a great hot-rod platform. The advantages massively outweigh the sometimes iffy build quality and give greater freedom to cut, shape and personalize the Vette's appearance.
Adding bigger or wider wheels is simply a matter of trimming away excess inches without worrying about the structural integrity. Dubbed the Corvette C1RS, this 1962 Corvette boasts a GM LS7 motor punching out 640 hp paired with Tremecs T56 Bowler transmission. The results are equally stunning and restrained.
Proof that anything goes, this custom "Rat Rod" creation takes Lamborghini's '70s era Espada coupe and transforms it into a nightmarish why-on-earth-did-they-do-that kind of ride. Unique, without a question, but at the same time we can't quite get our heads around the idea of improving (or not) a Lamborghini.
If it had been any other car, we'd have said "where do we sign up?" for one of these. As a custom hot-rod, it's mesmerizing, the Espada's body dropped to a worryingly low ride height. However, it's the raw, naked Lamborghini V12 sitting upfront that is bound to draw the most attention.
While we understand that some sports car owners want something unique that stands out from the crowd, these models are taking things too far.
Raised in a car-obsessed environment from an early age ensured a keen interest in anything car-related. first and foremost an F1 fan, but also an avid follower of other motorsports. Professional background working closely with a well established UK based Supercar manufacturer in recent years.