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To Each His/Her Own When it Comes to Building a Hot Rod or Muscle Car

Firing Up: Land of the free, home of the V-8

Jan 14, 2016
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The beauty of hot rodding is the fact that everyone has his or her own idea of what is “right” when it comes to building a muscle car or hot rod. Be it engine combination, manual or automatic transmission, exterior paint scheme, or wheel and tire combination.

For many Chevy enthusiasts, an LS engine is the way to go due to its reliability and ability to make gobs of streetable horsepower all the while pulling down decent gas mileage in the process. Well, that’s fine for those guys, but there are still many who find that the old-school architecture of the small- and/or big-block works just fine, thank you very much.

Is either technology right or wrong for motivating a classic Chevy? I suppose that depends on whom you talk to and what day it is. I equate it to trying to figure out which Rolling Stones album is my favorite. It’s certainly going to be one from the Mick Taylor years (1969-1974), but for some reason, I keep changing my mind between Let It Bleed, Exile on Main St, and Sticky Fingers. Talk about a conundrum ... But, enough about Mick and the boys.

A lot of guys/gals are convinced three pedals is the way to go when building a muscle car, but have you ever tried to get consistent times at the dragstrip with a manual transmission? If you can win in True Street with a manual trans, you are my hero. Don’t get me wrong, drag racing with a manual trans is fun and all, but you just can’t beat an automatic for consistent e.t.’s at the strip. On the flip side, when it comes to autocross or road racing, I’d have to say manual is the way to go. With that said, there are major advancements happening today with automatic transmissions, which are now able to provide plenty of engine braking to help bring a car down from speed when diving into an apex, but I actually love driving a car equipped with a manual trans and doing all the work that goes along with it, but that just my personal preference.

Now, when it comes to wheel and tire combinations, the choices are pretty much limitless, especially when you are talking about wheels. For the most part, I’m a five-spoke kinda guy. The closer to traditional, the better. They just seem to work on any build style and look good on just about every muscle car rolling down the road—early- or late-model – as long as they are sized proportionately to the car or truck they are on. Nineteen-inch wheels may look good on a truck or late-model hot rod, but to me they are pushing it when it comes to bolting those onto a first-gen Camaro. But again, it’s all personal preference, and if one guy likes 20s on his ’68 Camaro, then so be it. It’s just not my cup of PG Tips.

When it comes to paint, I’m not one for flames or crazy graphics on my cars. I always thought first-gen Camaros benefit from the SS, Bumble Bee nose stripe, or Hockey stripes. They do a good job of breaking up the monotone paint scheme and offer up a bit of period-correct nostalgia. I also think Tri-Fives look cool with the classic two-tone paintjob just as long as the colors work well together.

There’s no doubt we all have opinions on what we think looks cool, but like I said, what looks good to you may not be what the next guy likes, and that’s the beauty of hot rodding—it’s 100 percent subjective.

Just remember, the guy who passed you on the highway sporting 20-inch chrome wheels and 30-series rubber on his second-gen Camaro may be thinking your car looks totally outdated as you cruise 60 mph in the slow lane on 15-inch slotted rims and BFG T/A radials at 4,000 rpm. Yes, I know the M22 Rock Crusher you have is period-correct, pretty much indestructible, and cool as hell, but it may be time to look into an overdrive—a Gear Vendors ought to do it.

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