Hot rods don’t conform to anything. They come in every possible shape in every possible size with every possible configuration. Yes, they might be uncomfortable or downright impractical at times, but that’s not the point here. They have the looks, they have the power, and that’s all that matters. Here are 40 of the most iconic hot rods ever built!
1955 Ford ‘Beatnik’ Bubble-Top
The 1955 Ford ‘Beatnik’ is undoubtedly the most iconic bubble-top ever made. Built by famed car customizer Gary ‘Chopit’ Fioto, this rod combines the best of Ford, Chevrolet, Lincoln, Chrysler, and Cadillac.
Fioto mounted the cowl, hood, and doors of a 1955 Ford on the chassis of a 1988 Lincoln Town Car, threw in a Chevy small-block V8 topped with six carburetors, before installing Cadillac bumpers and front grille, Lincoln headlamps, and Chrysler taillamps and fins. The result was a rod that went on to win pretty much every custom show at the time and was auctioned off for $396,000 in 2006.
1922 Ford T-Bucket ‘Kookie’s Kar’
Built by Norm Grabowski with a unique blend of a Ford Model T, a Model A roadster, and a Model A pickup in the early 50s, this chic rod is what started the T-Bucket craze.
Having appeared on the covers of magazines like Hot Rod, Car Craft, LIFE, it was all the craze back then. Its appearance in ABC’s 1958 show ’77 Sunset Strip,’ in particular, made it a household name, earning it the nickname ‘Kookie’s Kar’ after its owner Gerald ‘Kookie’ Kookson III played by Edd Byrnes.
1934 Packard ‘Aquarius’
Nicknamed ‘Aquarius,’ this 1934 Packard was the ride of auto-obsessed Metallica’s star and lead vocalist James Hetfield. An icon of American vintage hot rods, Aquarius was inspired by the 1939 Delahaye Type 165.
This beauty wasn’t all looks though. It was insanely luxurious and was powered by a mighty 376 cu-in LS3 Crate V8 under the hood. The Aquarius is currently on display in the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA along with nine other stunning hot rods from Hetfield’s sick collection.
Ed Roth’s Outlaw
This stunning rod was the brainchild of Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth, an icon of the 50s counterculture and an avid hot rodder. It was a fully custom car with most of its drivetrain soured from junkyard and body and frame rails fabricated by hand.
Under the hood, it had a 331 cu-in Cadillac V8 with four Stromberg 2-barrel carbs mated with a 1939 Ford 3-speed transmission. Now a hot rod icon currently on display in the Museum of American Speed, the entire car cost $800 when Roth built it in 1959.
Golden Sahara II
Legendary custom car designer George Barris made history when he remodeled a 1953 Lincoln Capri that got its roof sheared off in an accident into a sick-looking car the world knows today as Golden Sahara II. Besides the stunning looks, the tech used in this custom rod was decades ahead – something that came in handy in the 1960 Hollywood classic ‘Cinderfella.’
This iconic hot rod could be driven remotely, its doors could open automatically, and its braking system could detect obstacles. The best feature, however, was the Goodyear Neothane tires that lit from the inside and created an insanely dramatic effect during night drives.
1957 Chevrolet 3100 ‘Quiksilver’ Custom Pickup
Hand-built by Oklahoma’s Hot Garage in 5 long years, this 1957 Chevy 3100 ‘Quiksilver’ is believed to be one of the most iconic custom-built trucks ever. This ostentatious rod featured chromed parts, ultra-smooth lines, super-cute body panels, and a perfectly lowered stance.
Just like its superb exterior detail, the Quiksilver also had plenty of rod stuff under the hood – most notably a gigantic 540 cu-in big block Chevy V8 that churned out 650 horses at the crank. And as one might expect from a ride of this stature, it fetched $214,500 at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction in 2016.
1934 Ford ‘Achmedmobile’
Comedian Jeff Dunham owns a number of iconic rods and vintage cars, most notably the Batmobile from the 1992 Batman Returns. However, his 1934 Ford Achmedmobile, based around his fictional character ‘Achmed the Dead Terrorist,’ is probably the most iconic (and hilarious) of all!
One simply can’t miss Dunham when he’s out riding in Achmed’s personal ride. The windshield can be a bit tiny, but you’re good as long as you keep your head out of the open top. The coolest part is that Achmed’s hood-ornament mouth opens up to breathe in fresh air when the tank is gassing up.
1939 Lincoln Zephyr ‘Scrape’
One of the most beautiful rods ever built, the ‘Scrape’ is the brainchild of former Hot Rod editor and auto enthusiast Terry Cook, who spent years just planning the design. With widened fenders, chopped pillars, and a slashed roof, the Scrape was more about looks than it was about performance.
Originally with purple paint, this iconic Lincoln was sold for $250,000 in a 1999 Pebble Beach auction. After that, it remained in LA’s Petersen Automotive Museum till 2013 when it was acquired by ‘Storage Wars’ star Barry Weiss, who changed it to its current state and color.
1957 Studebaker Roadster
This custom roadster is a conglomeration of a number of classics. Its hood is from a 1959 Thunderbird, nose section from a 1960 Pontiac, rear sheet metal from a 1963 Corvair, and the trunk parts from a 1988 Quattro wagon.
To take things further up a notch, it uses headlights from a Harley-Davidson. How cool is that? Built by Paul Jurewicz, this roadster had been a Hot Wheels Legends Tour winner and was one of the featured entries in SEMA’s 2020 ‘virtual’ event, SEMA360.
1931 Ford Model A Pickup
Did you ask for the ultimate rat rod? Well, here it is! This massive thing once used to be a 1931 Ford Model A pickup. To be honest, just the cab, grille surround, and 8″ of the hood were Model A, and everything else came from generations of performance cars!
The mighty engine that move this rod came from a massive 2011 Mustang-sourced 5L Coyote V8, good for 800 BIG horses! And the gigantic wheels came off of a Mazda Le Mans prototype. If it sounds crazy… it is!
So-Cal Belly Tank Racer
This unique rod is built from a $5 belly tank that was used to carry extra fuel under the wings of a WWII plane. Thanks to its, understandably, aerodynamic shape and a Ford Flathead V8, this land missile was able to hit 198.34 mph in 1952.
A genius invention of So-Cal Speed Shop, this rod, however, provided no kind of protection. The driver sat in a thinly upholstered seat with his hips between the frame rails, his feet in the car’s nose, and his back against the fuel tank.
1936 Delahaye ‘Whatthehaye’ Street Rod
Nicknamed ‘Whatthehaye,’ this stunning one-off was the result of legendary rod builder Boyd Coddington’s cool experimenting on a 1936 Delahaye. It features a behemoth Viper V10 powerplant mated with a 6-speed Dodge Viper gearbox on a Coddington Pro Ride chassis.
An awesome blend of the 30s sleek lines and 21st-century power made the Whatthehaye a hot rod icon back in the day. It was sold by Barrett-Jackson in their 2015 Scottsdale auction for a staggering $671,000.
1932 Ford ‘McMullen’ Roadster
Considered the world’s most iconic hot rod, this roadster was built by legendary rod writer Tom McMullen. Insanely popular back in the day, it was everywhere from TV ads to album and magazine covers. It also made headlines when it set speed records at Bonneville Salt Flats and El Mirage.
The McMullen Roadster is particularly known for gracing the cover of Hot Rod magazine in its April 1963 issue. Now valued at over $1 million, this iconic rod crossed the block at Mecum’s 2012 Anaheim auction for a staggering $700,000, becoming the world’s most expensive hot rod ever.
1929 Ford ‘Dick Flint’ Roadster
When Dick Flint’s Roadster graced the cover of May 1952 Hot Rod, it became the first issue to sell over half a million copies. Flint built this fully custom rod in 1949 by melding the best of the bodies of three different 29 roadsters.
Its beefed-up Mercury Flathead V8 and enhanced aerodynamics translated to a top speed of 143.5 mph, that Flint clicked at El Mirage in 1950. This hot rod was sold for $577,500 by RM Auctions (now RM Sotheby’s) in 2013.
1956 Porsche 356A Carrera
The 1956 Porsche 356A Carrera is an incredible car by any standard. So just imagine how big a deal it would be when iconic custom car designer Dean Jeffries turned it into an outright racing machine.
Ironically, the car that started the Porsche Outlaw movement went on to become the ride of one. Jeffries sold this rod to notorious bank robber Albert Nussbaum (one of FBI’s 10 Most Wanted men of the time) while he was at large.
1956 Ford F-100 ‘Str8 Edge’
This 1956 Ford F-100 ‘Str8 Edge’ is another of Hetfield’s hot rod collection currently displayed in LA’s Petersen Automotive Museum. It was already modified when the rock star bought it, not to its present shape though.
For the customization seen here, the Str8 Edge first had to be restored to its original condition. Its stylish 60s look is owed to winged tail lights and ‘ventiports’ sourced from a 1953 Buick while its behemoth 455 cu-in V8 is from an Oldsmobile.
1932 Ford Model 18 Deuce Coupe
Having made it to January 1998 Rod & Custom cover, this stunning Deuce coupe combined the best work of several of the top rod builders. Built from a 1932 all-steel coupe, the top was dropped by 3″ while the cowl was raised by a quarter to create a perfect stance.
Among other external tweaks, the front grille shell was shortened and ‘bull-nosed’, and the folding hood was hand-formed and increased by 3″ in length. Under the hood, a rare 427 SOHC Cammer V8 was installed that worked in sync with a custom forged crank, a modified Ford C6 automatic transmission, and a custom intake mated with dual Holley four-barrel carburetors.
1929 Ford Model A Rat Rod
The 1929 Ford Model A is already an ancient classic. This one, however, was converted into a sensational masterpiece and an ultimate rat rod by Rod City Garage with a deliberate rusty look and some serious stuff under the hood.
A chopped top, a channeled floor, eliminated side windows, a custom Z’d frame, and a shortened ’32 grille on the exterior were combined with a Ford 2.0 Pinto motor, a Weber carburetor, and a T9 5-speed manual to make the beast it is!
1936 Ford ‘Jack Calori’ Coupe
This 3-window coupe was built by Jack Calori, who earned fame both as a racer and an avid hot rodder. Featuring the race-prepped 1946 Mercury flathead from Calori’s former race car, this rod was a mighty powerplant.
Other notable touches include a dropped front axle, stepped rear frame, a 39 LaSalle grille, Chevrolet headlights, and a clamshell hood. It made it to the Hot Rod magazine cover in November 1949 and was auctioned off by Mecum for $407,000 in 2018.
1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air Chezoom
When this 53 Chevy Bel-Air crossed the block at the Barrett-Jackson’s 2015 Scottsdale auction for a staggering $352,000, it came as no surprise to any of the folks from the custom car community. The car was worth every penny!
Coddington built this Chezoom for one of his close friends. While the stuff underneath the hood is absolutely rod, the external tweaks (an upside-down Ford Escort EXP rear window, a ’78 Chrysler Cordoba windshield, a chopped top, a lean ground presence) are what made it a rod icon back in the day!
1950 Chevrolet 3100 Custom Pickup
This 1950 Chevy 3100 Custom Pickup crossed the block at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction in 2017 for a staggering $205,700. Think it’s overpriced? Well, it’s not!
With several external modifications aimed at enhancing its stance, a classy interior hailed one of the best in any hot rod truck ever, and some serious stuff under the hood (a 500 hp Chevy Performance Hot Cam LS3 crate engine mated with a 4L65E auto transmission), this custom pickup is worth every cent!
1934 Ford ‘California Kid’ Coupe
Hailed one of the greatest rods of the 1970s, this coupe starred alongside Martin Sheen in the 1974 movie ‘The California Kid.’ Built with a Resto-rodding design concept by Pete Chapouris, this stunning rod was already famous before it graced the big screen.
It was known for its fire-spitter Ford V8 paired with an FMX gearbox and its iconic paint job (black exterior with vivid flames), which went on to become one of the most copied hot rod designs in the decades to come.
1942 Willys Pickup Rod
Originally a 1942 Willys pickup, this hot rod was the result of a stunning conversion in the late 70s. Underneath its bright body was a host of rod stuff, most notably a full-floating Dana 60 and a 355 Chevy small-block mated with a Turbo 350 transmission.
A fiberglass replica front-end and ultra-fat rubber tires at the rear were used to complement its steel body and bed. Yet another transformation in 2008 replaced the small-block V8 with a 426 Hemi, making it an insanely tempting street rod.
1948 Jaguar ‘Black Pearl’
Another car from James Hetfield’s collection, the Metallica frontman designed this 1948 Jaguar ‘Black Pearl’ with Kustom genius Rick Dore. Originally a 1948 Jaguar Mk 4, this stunning rod was meant to combine the best of American custom car culture with European coachbuilding design.
Though it had a powerful 375 hp 302 cu-in Ford V8 under the hood, the Black Pearl was all about style! It won several accolades over the years, most notably the 2014 Goodguys Custom of the Year award.
1940 Ford ‘Boyd Coddington’ Pickup
Don’t judge this pickup by its stock looks. Yes, its myriad body tweaks and a subtle roof chop are hard to notice but they don’t really matter. What really matters is the behemoth 560 hp Roush crate 427 packed under the reshaped hood.
The powerplant engine is mated with a Tremec 5-speed stick that works in sync with a modified C4 Corvette independent rear suspension. Built by iconic rod designer Boyd Coddington, this pickup bagged a decent $374,000 at Barrett-Jackson’s 2015 Scottsdale auction.
1918 Ford Model T
A rat rod by all means, this 1918 Ford Model T was owned by rock artist DJ Ashba. The Sixx:A.M guitarist purchased this vehicle in 2012 and got it customized to its current shape by West Coast Customs in California.
Having been featured on History’s show ‘Counting Cars,’ this rat rod is fueled by a small block 350 V8. Though it’s not short on power, Ashba’s ride is more famous for its stunning build and wild looks.
1947 Ford COE
This 1947 Ford COE is a one-off handmade custom pickup that has, well, quite a formidable presence. Unlike most other rod trucks of the time, this old school pickup featured a high-end luxurious cabin, made in bright yellow to match the exterior paint.
To move this house on wheels, it was fitted with a like-size 2006 Corvette Z06 driveline mounted on a custom-engineered chassis – which turned out to be quite successful in doing so, in style!
1938 Coddington ‘French Connection’
Auctioned off by Barrett-Jackson for $407,000 in its 2016 Scottsdale event, the ‘French Connection’ was the swansong of legendary Boyd Coddington. Being his last build, it had to be iconic… and it was!
This stunning rod featured an Italian 12.8L all-aluminum HEMI V12 powerplant and custom Turbo 400 transmission mounted on a custom one-off Art Morrison chassis, besides a custom hand-formed aluminum and steel body, a custom-built Ford 9-inch rear end, and one-off Boyd Coddington wheels. To top it all, the upholstery was made from two full cowhides and 15 full ostrich skins.
1932 Ford 3-Window Coupe Rod
Alan Johnson’s personal car, this 3-window coupe went crazy customization. An all-aluminum 434 cu-in SB2 NASCAR roller motor mated with a fully polished engine, Richmond 6-speed transmission, and Winters quick-change rear-end suspension made it hard to catch on the track.
And much like under the hood, its exterior was also highly detailed. Having been featured on such magazines as Street Rodder, Rod & Custom, and Popular Hot Rodding, it was included in Super Rod’s list of 100 hottest rods and was Goodguys finalist in 2001.
1939 Ford ‘Uncatchable’
Known as ‘The Uncatchable,’ this land-speed racer combines the look of a rat rod with the soul of a NASCAR. Built by longtime NASCAR fabricator Aaron Brown, this sick rat rod was originally a 1939 Ford truck.
Brown used stock-car racing gear, most notably a used 358 cu-in small-block Ford Cup engine mated with a four-speed transmission and nine-inch rear end to enable the Uncatchable to hit speeds as high as 197 mph!
1940 Willys Custom Coupe Deluxe
This 3-window custom coupe has a custom body made from blending a Mustang II front and a Dana 60 rear. Under the hood lies a behemoth 426 cu-in HEMI V8 mated with a 671 blower, MSD ignition, and 3-speed auto.
It took four years to build this Cobalt Blue beauty, after which it went on a spree to win every show in the Midwest – including the Best Engine accolade at Donny Smith Show, Builders Choice at Goodguys, and Best Rod at the Detroit Autorama.
1956 Ford F-100 Custom Pickup
Featuring an all-chrome 302 cu-in V8 mated with a C4 auto and Gear Vendor overdrive, this 1956 Ford F-100 Custom Pickup is a work of art. Besides the engine, its driveline and Jaguar independent rear-end suspension is also chromed.
The interior, including custom leather seats, is made to match the exterior paint – and is just as amazing. Hailed as one of the most beautiful F-100’s ever, this chic rod is the winner of more than 50 shows and was auctioned off by Barrett-Jackson for a decent $242,000 in 2017.
1933 Ford ‘Vern Luce’ Coupe
This 1933 coupe was built by the man, the legend Boyd Coddington for owner Vern Luce in 1981. Coddington’s first major build, the Luce Coupe is credited with propelling him into the spotlight as a Kustom genius and rod master.
This stunning beauty help popularize billet wheels, especially after it won the Al Slonaker Award at the 1981 Oakland Roadster show. The Vern Luce Coupe is considered one of the greatest hot rods ever, largely due to its historical significance.
1936 Auburn Speedster ‘Slow Burn’
Yet another iconic rod from Hetfield’s collection… Not my fault though! The rockstar’s collection is so awesome that every single one of them deserves to be on this list. But I’m gonna stop at this one.
The Auburn Speedster is a piece of beauty even in stock condition. So when the Metallica lead recreated the body with FIBERGLASS and added a Chevy Small Block V8, things were bound to escalate! The ‘Slow Burn’ was fast, stunning, and recipient of many awards, including the Goodguys Custom of the Year in 2010.
Insane Jeep Rat Rod
It just can’t get any cooler than this! Built by some really creative minds over at Hot Rod Factory, this is probably the sickest rat rod on the list.
This custom-made rod with its insane looks and incredible power enhancement modifications is just on the border of being street-legal. The spikes on the wheels are probably the best part, further adding to its sick looks and making it a temptation for every enthusiast.
1964 IH Loadstar 1700
This International truck was submitted to SEMA’s 2020 ‘virtual’ event, SEMA360, by Canadian custom car designer Rod Nielsen of Hot Rod’s Restos. Painted in a cool combo of silver and candy orange, this one-off forward-cab is short on neither looks nor performance.
The Loadstar 1700 is powered by a behemoth turbocharged LS Chevrolet V8 that works in sync with an AEM cold-air intake and an RCI fuel cell to power the Mickey Thompson tires and move this gigantic rod on the tarmac.
1961 Beatnik Bandit I
The Beatnik Bandit I is Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth’s second rod on this list. Named after a bank robber, the body of this car was made from Fiberglass and the chassis used was sourced from a 1950 Oldsmobile.
The Bandit I was powered by a 303 cu-in 5L Oldsmobile V8 mated with a GMC 4-71 supercharger. Roth created the bubble top by heating regular plastic in a pizza oven before forcing it into a mold using compressed air. Genius!
Sylvester Stallone’s 1932 Highboy
Sylvester Stallone not only owns some insane supercars (including a $1.7m Bugatti Veyron) but also a number of classic vehicles that he’s collected from his movies. The Rocky star, however, seems to have more affiliation for his custom-built 1932 Highboy.
Stallone has been seen driving around this awesome old-school hot rod in Hollywood every once in a while. The ride is fueled by a 383 cu-in Chevy big-block V8 that spits a decent 330 horses to move the superstar in style.
1971 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona ‘Harrah’
I know you were not expecting a Ferrari on this list, but some insane body modifications, larger wheels, an upgraded motor, and an absolutely crazy story warrant an exception. This Daytona was owned by car collector and casino magnate Bill Harrah until his death in 1978 and was auctioned off by RM Sotheby’s for $687,500 in 2017.
So, legend has it when a Sikorsky salesman approached Harrah to sell a helicopter, he agreed to buy it only if it could beat him in this Ferrari Daytona in a race between two of his casinos. Harrah won!