It appears that performance handling has become more and more the subject of conversation in the world of hot rods. I’m not saying hot rods were at one time built with little or no regard for handling but the performance handling we are seeing today is light-years ahead of anything from decades past.
For starters, should you ever get the chance to sit in any number of cars that are outfitted with an Art Morrison Enterprises chassis, the Roadster Shop chassis, Heidts Hot Rod & Muscle Car Parts front and rear independent, a Fatman independent chassis, or a Kugel Komponents setup under any number of different frames, you’ll understand what handling and ride comfort is all about. But now we appear to be entering an era of purpose-built hot rods. The combination of retina-detaching acceleration with forehead banging braking and head smacking off the side glass corning has brought us into a whole ’nother world.
Sometime ago STREET RODDER built a Factory Five Racing Hot Rod 1933. The car proved to be a pretty fierce, road-grabbing hot rod. But now FFR and RideTech have gotten together and built what for all practical purposes is a street-driveable race car. The re-creation of what might have been a ’33 Ford fenderless coupe that tips the scales at a modest 2,590 pounds coupled with an indecent amount of power; 439 rear-wheel lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm and 440 rear-wheel horsepower. The Holley Dominator EFI-equipped and MSD-ignition controlled 427 Dart block will effortlessly rev to 6,000 all the while burying you deeper and deeper into the race-prepped seats. Grab onto the ididit steering column, drop the clutch, and hang on is about the best way to describe the ride.
There’s another hot rod kit called the Voodoo Evolution 32R sold through Voodoo Hot Rods, which is sold here in the states by Don Prieto ((310) 991-9099) that features a carbon-fiber roadster body skin over a substantial internal crash structure. Standing outside the car you get the feeling of a traditional Deuce highboy roadster but once behind the wheel the world immediately changes into that of a performance vehicle.
According to the manufacturer, “The key is the four-link rear suspension enables up to 100 percent or greater rear antisquat to be dialed into a chassis with the benefit of compact dimensions due to much shorter link length than radius rod suspensions. Adjustable four-link designs are important for optimizing suspension in a competition car, where track conditions and chassis configurations, such as wheel and tire choice, can change. However, by setting up a street car chassis within geometric parameters, up to or greater than 100 percent rear antisquat can be achieved with a four-link suspension that doesn’t provide for adjustment.” This translates into a car with superb handling characteristics.
So what does all this mean? I suppose there is always room for one more style or purpose-built hot rod. The bigger question is, “Have hot rodders evolved to the point where performance handling will continue to grow even if it means tampering with age-old adoration of traditional styling?” There’s little doubt that the Factory Five Racing Hot Rod 33 takes liberties with traditional styling cues while the Voodoo Evolution 32R pays closer attention to the original image but it too is a departure.
It could be said that both the traditional look and the performance handling packaging will coexist just nicely. I hope so, for it’s fun to go to a Goodguys event and see hot rods doing what hot rods were always meant to do—be hot rods. It may be time for more of these performance-oriented events to start popping up and give rodders another avenue to travel down with their rides. You can only sit in a lawn chair for so many events before you ask yourself, “There must be something else I can do with this hot rod?” There is.
Autocross events have been around for many decades and the sporty car crowd has enjoyed the benefits of these events for as long. Maybe we rodders will see the day when we have our cruiser hot rod and also in the garage will be a skeleton of a hot rod that’s purpose-built to enjoy the benefits of performance handling. You have to admit the thought of zipping in and out, around, and over (a few) cones is exciting. The idea of having horsepower, massive brakes, tuned suspension, bucket seats, and three pedals all working to usher you around a timed course a dozen times a year, or more, is fun to think about.