What is street rod racing?

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blue Ford car modified
Modified Fords with plush interior are classic street rods
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Find out why street rods are an uncommon sight in drag races.

Street rods are eye-catching cars that are impossible to ignore when they cruise by with the proud owner behind the wheel enjoying the ride. The process of building a street rod is often a labor of love, and the end result - a work of art. Designed for safe road and highway driving, street rods are not known for racing.

What are street rods?

Street rods are modified custom cars. The term ‘street rod’ was introduced in the 1970s as the hot rodding culture divided into two main groups: street rods and hot rods. The main difference between the two types of cars is that hot rods are modified using parts from the 1940s through the 1960s and follow a similar style from that period, while street rods are mostly built from modern street rod parts

Hot rods are intended for high performance on a race track, and street rods are built to be driven on streets and highways, and are part of a family-oriented culture focused on safety.

What is street rod racing?

The street rod culture came about when hot rodders began modifying cars for the purpose of building stylish, functional cars the whole family could enjoy. The National Street Rod Association (NSRA) hosts events to display street rods and bring together vendors and enthusiasts. The association emphasizes safety with a free 23 point Safety Inspection Program. Street rod racing is typically locally organized or part of a larger event.

Hot roads, on the other hand, are designed for racing. Hot rod culture is about the challenge to increase the performance of American cars by reducing weight, changing tires for traction, and souping up the car with a powerful engine. 

Often hosted by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), hot rod races are organized events that can take place on a track, or on a straight road for a set distance, otherwise known as a drag race. Annual NHRA hot rod races offer prize money and track drivers’ performance using a cumulative point system.

Today, hot rod races are organized in varying distances and times. Hot Rod magazine presents an annual Drag Race Week, which is a 5-day race over 1,000 miles at 4 different drag strips. Winners are determined by speed and setting the lowest average elapsed time (measured as e.t.).

The most popular form of drag racing is Elapsed Time racing. Elapsed time determines handicaps for different vehicles based on their performance potential. For car enthusiasts, it’s a thrill to see two vehicles that were built from different time periods, with different auto performance parts, and therefore have different performance potential, paired in a highly competitive drag race.

While catered to hot rodders, most drag and track races are open to any four-wheeled vehicle regardless of make, year, or model. Street rods enter these races as well, and they stand out for their luxurious leather interiors, modern engines and custom paint jobs.

To get an up close look at classic street rods, Street Rod Nationals is the largest street rod annual event, displaying more than 10,000 pre-49 street rods (built before 1949). Typical modifications you’d see on a street rod include the removal of convertible tops, bumpers, fenders, windshields and hoods, as well as a robust modern engine.

National Street Rod Association
National Hot Rod Association

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