7 Reasons Hot Rods Are Dying
If it seems to you that hot rods are dying, you’re not wrong. If you go to any generic Cars & Coffe events, you’ve probably noticed that fewer and fewer hot rods are in attendance. Just a few years ago, it seemed like the Japanese sports cars were dying out. Today, in many places they are more popular than the Hot Rods. Of course, there are still few Hot Rod only shows like this one where Hot Rodders are among the best in the business.
The pre-teens, teens and twenty-somethings grew up watching The Fast and Furious movies and Japanese tuner cars were celebrated in those first few movies. In some states, (namely states in the mid-west and the southeast) Hot Rods have a decent presence but there’s no denying that the Hot Rod days are now what they were even 25 years ago.
So what’s going on?
- Aging fan base: The largest group of hot rodders are aging and they’re slowly, but surely dying off. As they die off, their cars are either sold off by family members are passed onto the children or grandchildren and then often, they sell the cars.
- They’re rusting away. Let’s face it. Cars built in the 1930s through the 1970s did not have the most sophisticated corrosion protection. Even days, certain brands of vehicles STILL haven’t figured out how to properly rustproof a car. This means that many cars are lost to the elements and those with usable bits are cannibalized to make one complete car which in some cases, require 3-4 donor cars to build one car. This is definitely one of the & reasons Hot Rods are dying.
- Today’s youth is mostly disinterested in old cars. They want cars that can rip through canyons, in air-conditioned comfort, guided by built-in navigation systems, while relaxing in ventilated and air-conditioned leather seats. They have no idea how to tune a carbureted engine. Today, you can alter your car’s tune using a mobile app on a mobile phone.
Today’s cars are already turbocharged. If you want to add another 150 horsepower to your car, you add an E85 adpater kit, a bigger exhaust system, bigger fuel injectors and then use laptop to tune the car’s ECU to adjust fuel and timing tables. In half a day, you’ve “built” a canyon screamer. Newer cars handle better, stop better and are safer. To accomplish the same feat in an old car, we’re talking about changing compression, adding a blower, and either live with the old technology of carbs or converting to EFI.
- Emissions are an issue depending on what year your Hot Rod is. If your car is older than 1975 in California, you can do as you please, but for anything after 1975, the EPA and CARB will be up your tailpipe with a microscope. The EPA, run by non-elected officials continue to be challenged in courts, but the run-away agency got a reprieve by the Obama administration, but Trump stymied their powers. So, if you want more regulation vote for Dems, if you want less, vote for someone else.
- Fuel mileage. I remember a time when gas hit $1.00 per gallon. People screamed back then. This year, California saw $8 per gallon and when things settled it dropped to about $6.00. Here in December of 2022, 87 octane is $4.69 and 91 is going for $5.29. Hot rods get about 10 mpg on a good day and maybe 14-15 with a modern six speed transmission and if the rear end gears aren’t too low. Running a set of 4.10s in your Powerglide-equipped 67 Chevelle means a very short range and a very tall fuel bill.
- Better options. You don’t have to be 25 years old to realize that there are better options for less money. Building a Hot Rod can cost upwards of six figures. These days can find terrific modern cars that can accelerate better, brake better, handle better and provide you all of the modern comforts and safety equipment that will make you wonder why you hung on to the old jalopy this long. The current modern Dodge Chargers and Challengers, for example. Or perhaps Mustang GT350, Mustang GT RTRs, or even the Mustang GT500, all are great options. Best of all, you won’t be embarrassed when some kid in Subaru WRX who is too young to have a beer when he smokes your 65 Pontiac GTO at the stoplight Grand Prix.
- Parts are getting harder to find. Manufacturers who have been reproducing parts for old cars cannot continue to stay in business as the markets shrink little by little. Sooner or later, there will be no one making parts for some of these cars and even fewer people who want to buy a Hot Rod knowing that getting the parts they may want or need just might not be available anymore. If there was more demand, that might change, but outside of the US, Hot Rods are rare. Besides Australia and Scandinavia, you might live your whole life in other European countries and never see a Hot rod or classic muscle car driving along the road. Import duties, taxes, safety and emission standards make all of these cars impossible to obtain.
The days are numbered but these 7 Reasons Hot Rods Are Dying might not be the only considerations. Even the top hot rodders around the country have started to diversify or retire. For us, Boyd Coddington Wheels, we’ve been making new designs for newer cars like Mustangs and other Muscle cars and even for pickup trucks. Adapt or die.