Cruisin' the Coast

A guide to Cruiser terminology


An older vehicle, generally one that is at least 25 years old

Basket case

A disassembled vehicle or engine, requiring major effort to return it to cruise-worthiness (“It was a basket case when I bought it”)

Big Three

Ford, Chrysler and General Motors are the biggest three auto manufacturers in the United States and Canada

Blower or supercharger

An air compressor, typically mounted on top of an engine, designed to increase power by increasing the amount of air that passes through the engine


Slang term for a four-cylinder engine (“It’s got a lot of pep for a four-banger”)


A vehicle is “bobbed” if a portion of it (frame, fender, etc.) has been shortened for appearance purposes

Bone stock

A vehicle or engine unchanged from its factory condition (“I only gave it a new paint job: the rest of the car is bone stock”)


A hot-rod body has been “channeled” if it has been lowered by recessing the floor to allow it to hang down beneath the frame rails, rather than sitting on top of them (see “dropped”)

Chopped (roof)

A hot-rod roof line has been “chopped” if it has been lowered by shortening the supports that hold up the roof; this requires also cutting the window glass down

Chrome reverse wheels

Chromed wheels that appear to have more depth and width than normal wheels

CID (cubic-inch displacement)

A measurement of the volume of air an engine uses to produce power


A vehicle that has gained wide popular appeal that has lasted over time


A car whose top (typically made of fabric, but may be a hardtop) can be folded and stowed within the body lines


A two-door car

Cream puff

A used vehicle that is in exceptionally good condition


A vehicle whose appearance has been altered to suit its owner’s tastes

Dropped (suspension)

A “dropped” vehicle has had the suspension and/or frame modified for a lowered look

Dual quad

An air-intake system that has two four-barrel carburetors


A two-door car with an aerodynamically contoured rear roofline

Fender skirts

Removable coverings for rear wheel wells that result in a more streamlined look


Tailpipes modified to produce large flames, usually by injecting unburned fuel near a spark source at the end of the tailpipes


An earlier engine design that has valves in the engine block rather than in the engine’s head. The Ford flathead V-8 is an extremely popular engine with early hot rodders


A body style characterized by a lack of a supporting post (“B-pillar”) between the front and rear side windows


An arrangement of steel tubes designed to create more efficient exhaust flow (“After I put the headers on, the engine really breathes”)


An engine whose combustion chamber is shaped like a half of a ball or hemisphere, shortened to “hemi”

Hot rod

Typically, any vehicle that has had extensive performance and styling modifications

Kit car

Vehicle that can be bought in any of several stages of completion from an aftermarket manufacturer, which the buyer can then assemble


Generally, a post–WWII vehicle extensively customized for the lowest ride height possible

Mags or mag wheels

Early hot rodders used lighter, stylized wheels for performance advantages, most often cast from lightweight magnesium — hence the nickname mags. Modern wheels are often cast from aluminum, but the nickname persists


The parts, service and customer care organization within Chrysler auto manufacturer; the name has become synonymous with Chrysler-built vehicles, including Dodge and Plymouth


An affectionate nickname for the early small-block Chevrolet engine (see “rat”)

Muscle car

Starting with the Pontiac GTO, a production vehicle that offered a speedy combination of lightweight body and high-performance engine (see “pony car”)


“New original stock” or “new old stock” — parts manufactured but never installed at the time the vehicles they were designed for were built; NOS parts are highly prized by auto restorers and hot rodders


Vehicles or parts unchanged from the way they were produced


A body decoration of fine lines of contrasting color(s) applied with a brush to accentuate body lines or other features of a vehicle

Pony car

Small-bodied muscle car (e.g. Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, American Motors AMX, Chevy Camaro)


Heads or intake manifolds are “ported” when they’ve had their air passages enlarged and/or reshaped to increase performance (“I had my heads ported, and I gained 5 mph in the quarter-mile”)


Another term for an engine (“The original 6-cylinder powerplant was replaced by a screaming V-8”)

Pro street

A car customized to emulate drag racing’s pro stock race cars, but which is still street legal; skinny front tires, fat rear tires and large-cubic-inch engines in stock-appearing bodies are hallmarks of pro street cars


An affectionate nickname for the big-block Chevrolet engines (see “mouse”)

Rat rod

A hot rod put together on a shoestring budget, and often using shoestring and baling wire, because appearance is not a priority — very often resembling the original hot rods of the late 1940s and early ’50s. So called because they can be ratty-looking (“That rat rod doesn’t look like it’d make it down the driveway, but it’s super-fast”)

Resto rod

Generally, an older vehicle with a modern suspension and drivetrain (“This 1962 Corvette body has a 2010 Corvette chassis”)


A car in poor shape is “restored” if it has been returned to its original showroom condition (“He found it behind an old barn and restored it lovingly”)


An open-wheeled, open-topped hot rod, usually from the pre-World War II era (“A ’23 T-bucket is a fine roadster”)


“Revolutions per minute” — the number of times an engine makes one turn of the crankshaft in one minute (“She turns over 7,000 rpm in first gear”)


A body style characterized by a supporting post (“B-pillar”) between the front and rear side windows


Slang term for a six-cylinder engine


An intake system with three two-barrel carburetors


A vehicle made to look unassuming, but which is surprisingly fast (“That S-10 pickup is a sleeper — it’s got a small-block V-8 under the hood”)

Street machine or street rod

A street-legal vehicle modified to provide an exciting drive


An open roadster from the early era of Ford Model T

Trailer queen

An extensively customized, detailed vehicle intended for car shows that is trailered rather than driven to events — the car may be perfectly roadworthy, but the owner chooses not to risk damaging it by driving in traffic

Kim Anderson: 228-896-0545