Chapter 1

"Man, that T-bucket is really tricked out" ... "Check out that cherry lead sled" ... "Park over there by that resto rod parked next to the low rider just behind the kemp" ... "Who owns that shoebox over there by the spotted beater?"... "That worm-burner is really down in the weeds!"..."I go for these big balonies!"... "Who owns that nifty garage queen over there with the Hollywood chop?"... "Personally, I think those weenies look outrageous on that thing!"

Now, if you've been hanging around rod and custom people long enough and spending time at the right car events, you could probably translate what you just read into English. If you're just getting into customs, vintage and classics you look at that stuff and scratch your head and say, "huh, what in the world are they talking about?"

We don't want anybody coming across a term in this book they don't understand, or feeling like a fifth wheel at a car event, because they don't understand some term they run across. That's why we are not going to do what the typical book would do -- they put the glossary definitions at the back. We're going to put it up front, like headlights, to shed some light on "car speak", to help you get a handle on all those terms most commonly used at cruise-nites, car shows, swap meets, and other car events. After all, who wants to be bench racing, comparing their favorite slope-back with some other guy's flat-back or garage queen and not knowing what in the heck they're talkin' about?

If you understood immediately what that last statement means and know precisely what kind of cars were referred to -- year and all -- and if you can translate the first paragraph of this chapter into plain English -- you might want to jump to Chapter 2. Because if you can easily handle all this, you probably could have written this chapter yourself!

But if you stumbled the least bit over "bench racing," "slope-back," "flat-back," "garage queen," "worm burner," "kemp," "balonies" or "weenies," stick around. You might find something helpful in what's coming up.

Car Speak-To-English Glossary of Terms:
Car Lingo Made Simple

When people get together to talk cars, there's a certain lingo that you'll hear that is the jargon comfortable to the car buff, like the lingo you hear on CB radios, it's unique to that circle of people -- car people have invented their own special words. Here's a list of some of the most commonly used words and what they mean.

ANTIQUE -- any car from the '30s on back.

BEATER -- an unfinished car usually painted in primer. It may or may not be beat up.

BENCH RACING -- gathering around to talk about the good old days, old cars, engines, cars you've raced against -- swapping stories till they close the place!


BILLET -- large solid chunks of aluminum or steel used to make custom car parts .

BONDO -- a product trade mark for the filler used to fill in dents for painting preparation.

BONDOMOBILE or BONDO-MACHINE -- a car with a lot of dents in it that could use a few gallons of Bondo. You don't want to call someone's car a bondo-machine unless you're trying to start trouble!

BOTTLE BABIES -- engines that boost horsepower by bottle-fed nitrus oxide (laughing gas), also called "jungle juice."

BURN-OUT -- where the engine is highly revved and thrown in gear to squeal the tires. In the old days it was done to be macho or "cool", but now people at car shows and cruises won't put up with it.

CAR SHOW -- an event held to display cars for the purpose of competition, social enjoyment, and for supporting charitable causes.

CHANNELED -- a frame cut for purposes of lengthening or shortening the car .

CHERRY -- a really nice body job, block sanded and painted with a real high-quality gloss to it.

CHOPPED (DROPPED & CHOPPED) -- a section of the roof is cut and the roof is dropped and lowered.

CHOP TOP -- a few inches is whacked off the top of the car to give the car a lowered appearance.

CLASSIC -- an era or period car, like a '55 through '57 Chevy or Ford, or the '64 through '67 Mustang, or the GTO from '64, or '55 through '57 T-Bird, or the '53 through '67 Stingrays.

COLLECTABLE -- usually this refers to a car out of the '50s, although it could refer to any car that people get excited about at car shows and cruises.

COMMERCIAL VEHICLE -- pickup trucks, ice cream trucks, some station wagons, Rancheros, El Caminos.

COUPE -- a 2 door .

CRUISE -- nowadays it means to meet at a specific place to enjoy cars. In the old days it meant riding around from place to place.

CRUISE-IN -- a group of cars starting at one place and ending up at another, turning a lot of heads along the way.

CRUISE-NITE or CRUISE-NIGHT -- the place where the cruise or the event is held. It's not competitive like a car show, but is for fun with family and friends that's really low-profile.

CRUISER -- people who attend cruise-nites on a regular basis.

CUSTOM -- basically this has four or more body modifications, such as louvers, or lowering, changes in the grille or body, or a custom paint job.

DEUCE COUPE -- '32 three-window coupe. In 1932 they would take a '32 frame and put it under an earlier model body (like a '23 T) to make the car stronger and longer.

DIECER -- a dragster, a car built for attaining high speeds.

DOWN IN THE WEEDS -- a car lowered way down.

DROP SPINDLES -- modification of the front axle with a downward off-center so the chassis rides way low down to the ground .


FAT FENDERS -- any car from the mid '30s to late '40s that you can unbolt the fenders off of them. It's round-looking.

FLAT-BACK -- basically a '35 through '37 Ford two-door sedan. It's a fat fender car.

FUND RAISER -- events held for the purpose of raising money and gaining attention for worthy causes.

GARAGE QUEEN -- a car you generally don't see on the road because they keep it in the garage or put it in a trailer and hardly ever drive it because they don't want dirt or grass on their tires.

GRAPHICS -- artistic designs painted on cars (but not including pinstriping).

HAMMERED -- the top of the car is lowered, chopped and dropped.

HEMI -- hemispherical shape of combustion chamber over cylinder bore.

HI TECH -- using the latest technology on the market in the mechanicals of the car, like using tuned port induction (TPI) instead of a carburetor.

HOLLYWOOD CHOP -- a few inches is whacked off the front portion of the roof only to give the car that low-down look in the front.

HOT ROD -- in today's circles it might be a coupe or a roadster of the '20s, '30s, or even the '40s. Most don't have fenders. It might have large tires in the rear, small tires in front. No hood. It's the name of a magazine, but the term has been around since the '30s.

INDEPENDENT SUSPENSION (front & rear) -- each wheel's ability to act independently of the others in responding to road conditions. IFS - independent front suspension; IRS - independent rear suspension (not to be confused with the InFernal Revenue Service!)

KEMP -- a custom or lead sled that's a 1949 or '50 Merc, chopped and lowered and really tricked out.

KEMPER -- another name for a custom car.

LEAD SLED -- the opposite of a low-rider, it's a pre-'65 car all the way back to a '39. Before the days of Bondo they had to use lead when preparing a car body for painting. In the old days calling someone's car a "lead sled" was an insult. Nowadays it's a high compliment since there are probably no more than 300 or 400 lead body men in the United States that do that type of work. You can do a car using Bondo in 1 hour, where it would take 30 to 40 hours to do the same job using lead!

LOUVERED -- originally factory installed. In modified cars, slots are punched or perforated into the sides of the hood and other places on the car, typically done on Model As and Model Ts, but also in a wide variety of other cars.

LOW-RIDER -- a custom car from the mid '60s up through the current era cars, having fat tires on real skinny rims and hydraulics.

MODEL T & A -- 1928 -- 1931 Model A Ford, and 1911 through 1927 Model T Ford.

MOUNTAIN MOTORS -- engines over 500 cubic inches .

MUSCLE CAR -- '64 through '73 factory-built car with a large engine in it, like the Corvette with the 427 motor, the big Dodges and Plymouths with the 426 wedge or hemi. Also included the Pontiac GTO. Most muscle cars are about 400 horsepower.

PINSTRIPING -- stripes of various thicknesses painted on various parts of the car for decorative purposes .

POWDER COATING -- electromagnetic powder that gives paint a durable, film-like surface.

PRESTO ROD -- is when an old car is modified to make it safer, faster, pleasing to the eye, and fun to drive, but not spending a fortune doing it.

PRO-STREET -- is professionally built, or gives the appearance that it is professionally built (having a lot of magnesium, aluminum, or a hi-tech look), it may have tub fender wells, big tires on the back and lowered to beat the band!

RAIL -- a digger or dragster, a car built for speed.

RAKED -- the front end of the car is lowered way down.

RAT MOTORS -- big block Chevys.

REPRO -- reproduction replicas of classic, antique, or custom cars usually made of fiberglass.

RESTO-ROD -- a restored rod or a kit-car, a copy-cat car that you can buy from a supplier (like a pre-fab job), like a copy of a '67 Cobra. Most of them are made out of fiberglass, not metal.

ROADSTER -- an open-top car, ranging anywhere from a Model T to an early-'40s car.


RODDER -- someone interested in the street rodding phenomena with any type of vehicle and someone who is very active in car events.

ROD RUNS -- a group of car buffs making long drives together as a group for social or charitable purposes .

SCALLOPS -- straight-back or swept-back lines, or flames, appearing like they are blowing in the wind painted on the car .

SEDAN -- a 4 door.

SHOE-BOX -- a small sedan or coupe, terminology used basically in drag racing. The term is used a lot on the streets because of the disappearance of many drag strips. It's basically a '49 to '51 Ford, or a '55 to '57 Chevy that may or may not have a big motor in it for cruisin' around in.

SHOEHORNED -- taking a big engine and putting it into a car not made for that engine with not much room left over.

SLAMMED -- the top or the whole look is lowered way down to give it the pro-street look.

SLICK -- originally comes from drag racing, which identifies tires with no grooved treading, and are made of softer compounds that give them better traction. The term can also means a sharp, nice looking car.

SLICK RIDE -- a real nice-looking car that's finished off well (the opposite of a beater).

SLOPE-BACK -- a torpedo fastback '49 to '52 Chevy sedan. It used to be called a low-riders.

SMOOTHIES -- a custom car with all the chrome, door handles; hood ornaments removed and tail lights inset and smoothed out; typically done on '50 and '53 Mercs.

STEAMROLLERS (also called BIG BALONIES) -- big, fat, wide back tires .

STREET ROD -- is a car that is made prior to 1948 that has later-model running gear.

SUB 'N TUB -- narrowing of rear sub-frame with wheel tubs so the car can take big, wide tires to give it the pro-street look .

SUICIDED -- the doors on the car are reversed so they open out toward the front, like the '32 three-window coupe.

SWAP MEET -- a place where people go to sell or buy used parts or cars. Nowadays they also sell new parts at good prices.

T-BUCKET -- a roadster that's normally associated with an old TV program that had Norm Brabowski's kookie car in it.

TRICKED OUT -- a car that has a lot of easily-identifiable modifications on it, like hi-tech machining, aluminum billet material under the hood.

TUCK 'N' ROLL -- a diamond - shaped , pleated interior .

TURN-KEY CAR -- a car that is professionally built by someone, you just add gas and car keys and off you go. It could be any car someone has an expert (or different experts) build for him. The buyer may not have the knowledge or time to build it himself, but he sure will have the fun!

WEDGE -- elongated, wedge - shaped combustion chamber for high performance for Fords, Dodges and Plymouths.

WEENIES -- very thin, skinny front tires.

WHEEL STANDS -- the car gets so much traction on slicks that it can accelerate and lift the front end off the ground.

WOODY -- a factory-built car with wood sides, built from 1910 through the early '50s.

WORM BURNER -- a car that is so lowered and so close to the ground that it "burns worms."

Okay, now that you have mastered "Car Speak," let's speak about the excitement of buying, showing and selling those cars we speak about ...


* You can become a contributor to the next edition of "The Mother of All Car Books." If you come across any words we missed, or you discover some newly invented addition to the car speak vocabulary, send them to us with a good, simple definition. If we use it in the next edition, we'll mention your name.

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