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How Bare Metal Hot Rods Work

        Auto | Unusual Cars

A Nudist Camp (of sorts)
A quick search of Google Images will reveal that bare metal cars run the gamut from gritty to glamorous.
A quick search of Google Images will reveal that bare metal cars run the gamut from gritty to glamorous.
(Creative Commons/Flickr/JOHN LLOYD)

Hot rodding attracts a diverse following, so there's always friendly debate about styles, approaches, technique and even an individual car's purpose (such as whether it's raced, rolled out for shows only, or kept as a toy for sunny days). Bare metal cars make up a relatively small subculture of hot rodding, but even so, there's still a lot to of possible paths to take. A quick search of Google Images will reveal that bare metal cars run the gamut from gritty to glamorous. Some embrace the rat rod approach, allowing the car to showcase the bad along with the good, while others are polished and pristine.

That decision is often (but not always) influenced by the builder's skill set. Restoring a hot rod takes a lot of time and effort, as well as metalworking skill. High quality metal work is always important, but in most cases, the welds and other evidence are covered by a few coats of primer and paint. Setting out to build a bare metal hot rod means that every step of the process will be open to scrutiny on the finished product, so clean, quality work is really important. Inexperienced fabricators and welders should probably practice before attempting such a project -- especially if perfection is high on the priority list.

The exterior of a bare metal car is the obvious attraction, but it's far from the only consideration. Hot rod culture also plays a role in other aspects of the build, such as the powerplant and the interior treatment. Original engines are a prized commodity in the hot rod community, yet it's rather rare to stumble on a project car with the mechanicals left totally intact, so upgrades and modifications are totally permissible. Some builders choose to take the "naked" theme as far as possible, eschewing almost all creature comforts and interior finishes [source: Nguyen]. In these extreme cases, even the shift mechanism and drivetrain components are left bare and exposed, although seat cushions are a common concession. If you get to the point where your bare metal hot rod is finally ready for the road, and you decide you want a comfortable interior to help make your drive more enjoyable, even the most hardcore rodders wouldn't fault you for it.


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