Can You Match the Hot Rod Slang Word to Its Definition?
By: Ian Fortey
Image: Pexels by Paul Basel
About This Quiz
It's hard not to have a soft spot for hot rods if you have any love for cars at all. They're cars taken to the next level, souped up, tricked out and looking better than the day they rolled out of the factory and down the highway for the first time. A hot rod can be anything from a vintage Mustang to a Frankenstein car made of whatever parts fit together and produce intense power and speed. Some are kit cars you assemble for yourself; others are loving restorations made from all original parts. Regardless of how they're made, if you want to drive in their world, you need to know the lingo that makes it all work. Nothing is as simple as a muffler or a supercharger, not when you can say a flamethrower or a blower!
Hot rod slang is as colorful as the hot rods themselves. From zoomies in the exhaust to a bugcatcher on the hood and a mother-in-law seat hanging out in the back, there are a lot of cool phrases to add some flair. So if you know your wheelie bars and your baloneys, or why you'd want a nerf bar and a glasspack, take the quiz and prove it!
A classic car like a hot rod needs a classic paint job, and a popular motif for many hot rods involved custom flames painted on the hood or sides of a car. Those flames are called hot licks for obvious reasons.
Do you know which of these catches radiator overflow?
The proper name for something like this is a catch can or an overflow tank, but we're talking slang here, and that means we're talking about a puke can. If the radiator gets too hot and overflows, it pukes up excess liquid, and this can is there to catch it
This happens when you cut the pillars and windows in a car. How would you describe it?
A car is chopped when you chop the top down by cutting the pillars and shaving the windows. The roof is lowered to give the car a flatter and smaller appearance. It can make it a bit more difficult to drive a car if the chopping is dramatic.
What do you call a car on a hydraulic suspension system?
A lowrider has been lowered on a hydraulic system so that the body of the car can be raised and lowered. Often when a lowrider is lowered all the way down, it can't be driven, so it needs to rise up again to get moving.
Which of these is a common term for a nitrous oxide system?
Nos is such a common abbreviation for a nitrous oxide system, there's even a popular brand of energy drinks that uses the same name. Nitrous oxide splits into nitrogen and oxygen at high temperatures, so when you burn it in an engine, it adds oxygen and boosts combustion, making the car go faster.
Chevy cars are sometimes called bow ties because of the Chevy logo. No one knows exactly what the Chevy logo is supposed to be as there are three popular stories. One says the co-founder saw the symbol in French wallpaper. His daughter says he just doodled it on a napkin, and his wife says he once saw it in a newspaper.
Do you know which of these was almost always a station wagon?
Woodies were made of wood, just like the name says. Not entirely, of course, but wood was long used to supplement a car's frame back in the day, and woodies had panels in natural woodgrain on the side of the car.
What do you call a car that looks like it won't be fast but actually is very fast?
A sleeper is a bit of automotive trickery. This happens when someone goes out of their way to soup up a car that was never meant to be a performance car, like installing a high-powered motor in a Ford Tempo or a Gremlin.
This term describes big, fat rear tires. What is it?
There are a lot of fun ways to use the term baloneys when describing the tires on a hot rod. You can say someone is really drying the baloneys when they're going fast, or that you plan to roast the baloneys, if you're planning to win a race.
Internal combustion engine is a bit of a mouthful, but a slang term that means the same thing is mill. It doesn't refer to any specific kind of engine, like a V8 or a straight six. It's just any engine that can make a car run.
This term describes a car lowered as far as is possible while still being drivable. What is it?
A slammed car is lowered to a sometimes preposterous degree. Some slammed cars will have wheels at an angle to make it look legitimately like the car was crushed and the axles buckled. A slammed car cannot get any lower and still be functional.
A company named Cherry Bomb is famous for making which of these?
Glasspacks are a kind of muffler that has a center tube through which exhaust passes and a larger tube around it packed with fiberglass. Ironically, they are not particularly good at muffling noise at all.
Which of these terms describes the drastically different sizes between the front and rear tires?
Big n' littles
Some drag racers and hot rods can be tweaked so that the rear tires are extremely large to provide traction while the front tires are incredibly small so they reduce resistance when the car is in motion. It also just looks dramatic.
Which of these is essentially a bumper but on the side of a car?
Nerf bars run the length of a car between the front and rear wheels and protrude a few inches from the frame. They're used to buffer a car if another car gets too close during a race and prevent body damage as well as the tires from getting tangled.
Today "goat" might stand for "greatest of all time." Back in the day, it was a nickname for the Pontiac GTO because, like a goat, the GTO could eat anything. And pronouncing GTO isn't easy, but saying goat is.
Exhaust that goes out of the side of the car rather than the back is called what?
Lakes pipes run under the rocker panels and can travel down nearly the full length of the body of a car before angling off to vent exhaust out of the side of the car. They have less back pressure than normal exhaust and offer a slight performance boost as a result.
The hot rodding variant of a 1932 Ford coupe is called a Deuce in honor of the "2" in "32." The specific model year of that car was a favorite for hot rodders because it was cheap and available with a powerful V8 engine.
Which of these will not work if you have a catalytic converter or fuel injection?
Flamethrowers are tailpipes that live up to their name by shooting fire out of the back of your car. Anything that controls the flow of exhaust, like a catalytic converter, will prevent them from working. But if you have a manual choke, you can get them to work by igniting the fumes as they leave the car.
A car had to be lowered and have molded body seams to qualify as which of these?
A leadsled was typically made from a car in the late '40s or early '50s. It was lowered on the frame to make it a lowrider, and then the body was reshaped and welded with lead to cover up the damage to the bodywork in the reshaping, hence the name.
Which of these are headers that come out of the side of the car?
Zoomies are side-mounted headers that point upwards. Headers are generally easy to install on any car and help improve the overall performance by allowing exhaust to escape more easily and, in the case of zoomies, they just look cool.
Fender skirts are not often seen in modern cars but were very popular in older models favored by hot rod enthusiasts. They partially obscure the rear tires of a car, making them look a bit like a half-closed eye.
Do you know what you call fenders that taper back into the body of the car?
Fade away fenders were popular for custom cars, especially in the 1940s. The design saw them slope back down away from the wheel and into the car, making them look — as the name suggests — as though they are fading into the body of the car.
This is another name for a hood scoop. What is it?
Cars like the Plymouth Road Runner and the Ferrari Testarossa have prominent hood scoops or bugcatchers which, when functional, allow air to flow over a large engine to help cool it. A lot of scoops are just for show, however, and serve no real purpose.
You can't drag race without a dragster, and you can't spend your entire life calling it a dragster. Digger is another popular term for dragsters that has been around for years. If you want to know why, join the club! The origin seems to be lost to history.
Some people called Dagmars by which of these names?
Dagmars, or bullets, are chrome cones on the bumpers of some cars produced in the '50s. The use of the term bullets to describe them is self-explanatory. The word "Dagmar" was a reference to a certain actress popular in the era. The relation to her is a bit unseemly.
Do you know which of these was popular in New England?
A beach wagon was a variant of a station wagon which, as the name implies, was meant for driving to the beach. They were heavily marketed in the New England area as leisure vehicles for day trips to the beach.
Laughing gas is one of many nicknames for a nitrous system, not just inside cars but pretty much anywhere. Nitrous is used as a sedative at the dentist, and it gets its name because exposure to it can make you feel a bit silly.