StiffSpeed Exotic Cars

Saturday, 28 February 2009


A Gasser is a term that refers to a certain style of hot rods. Typically it will have a straight axle front end, raised suspension and the car will have been substantially lightened for drag racing purposes.

Gassers are usually connected with 40's, 50's and 60's cars. They were at their most popular in the late 50's and 60's although they have seen a bit of a resurgence of late.

The Gasser craze helped guide the sport to sponsorship through the incorporation of engine component manufacturers selecting teams to use and promote their speed equipment.

Street Sleepers

A sleeper or Q-car is a car that has high performance and an unassuming exterior. Sleeper cars are termed such because their exterior looks little or no different from a standard or economy-class car but internally they are modified to perform at higher performance levels. The American term possibly comes from how an aggressive animal can seem gentle or perhaps friendly until awoken, while the British term derives from the Q-ships used by the Royal Navy.

Some cars are equipped this way at the factory to suit the tastes of those who want performance without attracting attention of the police or car thieves. For instance, many high-performance sedans look hardly any different from the lower-powered models in the range. Cars with obvious external badging, or overt visual elements that give the impression of high performance, are not true sleeper cars.

Donks and Hi-Risers

Donks and Hi-Risers are a type of highly customized automobile, typically an inexpensive American-built sedan modified by significantly increasing the ground clearance and adding large-diameter wheels with low-profile tires. Depending on the model and build year, autos customized in this manner can be labeled "donk," "box," or "bubble."

Hi-risers originally grew out of the Dirty South drug, pimp and hip hop subculture but the trend has spread across the United States. Vehicles customized in the hi-riser style are distinguished by their oversized (even disproportionate) rims, ranging from 22" to 30" or more in diameter, as well as fanciful custom paint-jobs and expensive audio equipment.

Suspension modifications similar to those employed on lifted pickup trucks are made to give adequate clearance for the large rims. Often the suspension is modified so the front end sits slightly higher than the rear end, giving the car a swaggering appearance. Because of the exaggerated look gained from installing a lifted suspension and enormous rims, donks are also known as "hi-risers" or "sky-scrapers."

Friday, 27 February 2009


A pimpmobile is a pejorative term used to describe a large luxury vehicle, usually a 1970s or early 1980s-model Lincoln or Cadillac vehicle, that has been customized in a garish, extravagant style.

Aftermarket features or modifications such as headlight covers, hood ornaments, expensive stereo systems, unusual paint colors, and shag carpet interiors were used by car owners to advertise their purported wealth and importance.

These customized vehicles were popular with pimps, drug dealers, and gang leaders in the ghettos of large cities of the US in the 1970s and 1980s, especially New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles as a symbol of their power. By the 1990s and 2000s, the term was used to describe any large, extravagantly customized vehicle, such as a customized SUV truck.

The most status-obsessed customizers even added small crystal chandeliers for interior lighting and small 12 volt-powered colour TVs, VCRs, bar-size refrigerators, and, in a few rare cases, in which former hearses were converted into pimpmobiles, a small bed in the backseat area.

Continental Kit

A Continental Kit is an upright, external, mounted spare tire behind an automobile's trunk compartment. The term also describes a non-functional bulge that is stamped into the trunk lid or a cosmetic accessory to the rear of the car giving the impression of a spare tire mount.

The legend of how the “Continental kit” was born was from the complaint by Henry Ford II that the trunk of his personal Ford Thunderbird, did not have room for a set of golf clubs without removing the spare tire. The 1956 Thunderbird had its spare tire mounted outside. However, adding weight behind the rear wheels was said to adversely affect steering and handling.

For 1957 the Thunderbird's trunk was stretched 5 inches (127 mm), allowing the spare tire to migrate back inside, although the Continental mounting was still optional. This external spare wheel mount became a customizing aftermarket appearance accessory during the 1950s.

Contemporary examples of Continental kits are sometimes found on customized automobiles. It has become an accessory that typifies "the spirit" of the 1950s. Continental kits were also made popular by the pimpmobile craze of the 1970s.

Street Rods

As automobiles offered from the major automakers began increasing performance, the lure of Hot Rods began to wane. It was no longer necessary to put a Cadillac engine in a Ford roadster to be fast. It was now possible to buy a Pontiac GTO that outperformed just about any Hot Rod, with more passenger room, and without having to expend the effort of building and tuning the car oneself.

After the 1973 Oil Crisis, the public called on automakers to offer safety and fuel efficiency over performance. The resulting decrease in an average car's performance led to a resurgence of Hot Rodding, although the focus was on driving Hot Rods over racing so the term 'Street Rod' was coined to denote a vehicle manufactured prior to 1949, often with a more reliable late model drivetrain.

Street Rodding as it was now known was a different phenomenon than Hot Rodding, as Street Rodding was mainly family oriented. National events were hosted by the National Street Rod Association (NSRA), which also stressed safety as the NHRA did 20 years before, but this was safety for the street as opposed to on the race track. Each NSRA event has a 'Safety Inspection Team' that performs a 23 points inspection process that goes beyond what normal State Safety Inspections Require.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Prototype, Concept Cars

A Concept Car or Prototype Car is a vehicle made to showcase a concept, new styling, technology and more. They are often shown at motor shows to gauge customer reaction to new and radical designs which may or may not have a chance of being produced.

General Motors designer Harley Earl is generally credited with inventing the concept, or show, car, and did much to popularize it through its traveling Motorama shows of the 1950s.

Concept cars never go into production directly; in modern times all would have to undergo many changes before the design is finalized for the sake of practicality, safety and cost. A "production-intent" vehicle, as opposed to a concept vehicle, serves this purpose.

After a concept car's useful life is over, the cars are usually destroyed. Some survive, however, either in a company's museum or hidden away in storage.

One unused but operational concept car that languished for years in the North Hollywood, California shop of car customizer George Barris, Ford Motor Company's "Lincoln Futura" from 1954, received a new lease on life as the Batmobile in the Batman series that debuted in 1966 on the ABC Television Network.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Cal Look

A Cal looker is any aircooled Volkswagen that has been modified in a style that originated in California in the late 1960's.

The California Look has changed during the 30+ years of its lifespan. The most typical (and traditional) way to customise the exterior is to change the wheels and lower the suspension of the car. The favorite wheels are period-style EMPI 5- or 8-spokes, Speedwell BRMs, or Porsche factory rims like Fuchs from a classic 911.

One of the original California Look modifications is to replace or remove the bumpers and trim, either to give a cleaner look or to reduce the curb weight; if bumpers are removed, push bars are common. The stock bumpers are usually chromed or polished, sometimes painted or powder coated.

Cal Look has also been exported to non Volkswagen vehicles, such as the Hillman Imp, Fiat 500, Porsche 356, early Porsche 911, its VW based sisters and many others. These cars have the same modifications as their Volkswagen counterparts and are seen as alternatives to the Beetle, either due to cost or the desire to be different.

Supercharger, Blower

A supercharger is an air compressor used for forced induction of an internal combustion engine. The greater mass flow-rate provides more oxygen to support combustion than would be available in a naturally-aspirated engine, which allows more fuel to be provided and more work to be done per cycle, increasing the power output of the engine.

A supercharger can be powered mechanically by a belt, gear, shaft, or chain connected to the engine's crankshaft. It can also be powered by an exhaust gas turbine. A turbine-driven supercharger is known as a turbosupercharger or turbocharger. The term supercharging refers to any pump that forces air into an engine, but, in common usage, it refers to pumps that are driven directly by the engine, as opposed to turbochargers that are driven by the pressure of the exhaust gases.

In cars, this device is used to increase the "effective displacement" and volumetric efficiency of an engine; it is a blower that pushes the fuel air into the cylinders, as if the engine had larger valves and cylinders, resulting in a "larger" engine that weighs less.

Kit Cars

A kit car is an automobile that is available in kit form, which means that the client buys a set of parts and needs to assemble the car themselves. Usually many major mechanical parts such as the engine and transmission are taken from one or more donor vehicles. Kits vary in completeness from as little as a book of plans to a complete set of all the components required.

The definition of a kit car is usually taken to mean that a number of kits are produced by a manufacturer for sale to the public. A car built at home as a one-off to the designs of its builder is termed a Special.

Current kit cars are often replicas of well-known and expensive classics and are designed so that anyone with a measure of technical skill can build them at home, to a standard where they can be driven on the public roads.

Many car drivers react sceptically when they first hear about kit cars as it appears to them to be technically impossible to assemble a car at home and also use it on the public roads. They may also be worried that such a car would not subsequently pass the mandatory quality control (road worthiness test) that is required in most countries.

Several of today's sports car producers such as Lotus and TVR started as kit car makers.

Beach Buggies

Beach, or 'Dune' buggies with glass-reinforced plastic (fiberglass) bodies come in many shapes and sizes. The origional, The Meyers Manx dune buggy was designed by Californian engineer, artist, and surfer Bruce Meyers. It was built by his company between 1964 and 1971.

The car featured a fiberglass bodyshell coupled with Volkswagen Beetle frame and engine. It is a tiny car, with a wheelbase 14 1/4 inches shorter than a Beetle for lightness and better maneuverability. For this reason, the car is capable of very quick acceleration and good off-road performance.

The Meyers Manx received widespread recognition when it won the inaugural Mexican 1000 race, the predecessor of the Baja 1000 and beating motorcycles, cars and trucks in the process.

Approximately 5,000 of the original Meyers Manx dune buggies were produced, but when the design became popular many look-alikes (estimated at a quarter of a million worldwide) were made by other companies. Meyers tried to stop the copies by suing under the patent process but the patent was not upheld in court. Since then countless buggies continue to be produced today. Many people recognize this body-type simply as the "Dune Buggy" or "Beach Buggy"

Hot Rods

Hot rods are typically American cars with large engines modified for linear speed. Nobody knows for sure the origin of the term "hot rod." One explanation is that the term is a contraction of "hot roadster," meaning a roadster that was modified for speed. Open roadsters were the cars of choice to modify because they were light.

The term seems first to have appeared in the late 1930s in southern California, where people would race their modified cars on the vast, empty dry lake beds northeast of Los Angeles under the rules of the Southern California Timing Association. The activity increased in popularity after World War II, particularly in California, due to returning soldiers, many of whom had been given technical training in the service. The original hot rods were old cars (most often Fords, typically Model Ts, Model As 1928-31, 1932-34 Model Bs, or V-8s) that had been modified to reduce weight and improve aerodynamics

There is still a vibrant Hot Rod culture worldwide, especially in the United States, The United Kingdom Australia and Sweden. The hot rod community has now been subdivided into two main groups: hot rodders and street rodders. Hot rodders build their cars using a lot of original, old parts, and follow the styles that were popular from the 1940s through the 1960s. Street rodders build cars (or have them built for them) using primarily new parts.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009


Bōsōzoku ("violent running gang") is a Japanese subculture associated with motorcycle clubs and gangs.

They were first seen in the 1950s as the Japanese automobile industry expanded rapidly. The first bōsōzoku were known as kaminari-zoku ("Lightning Tribes"). It is common to see bōsōzoku groups socializing in city centers and playing loud music characterized by their lifestyle, such as The Roosters, and the Street Sliders.

Bōsōzoku motorcycle gangs share an interest in modifications (often illegal) for motorcycles, such as removing the mufflers so that more noise is produced.

Bosozoku also have a distinct style of car modification, eponymously called "bosozoku style". These cars are often modified with large exhaust pipes, bright paint, and large aero kits. Also popular are oil coolers or less commonly large turbo or supercharger intercoolers with highly polished tubing, usually mounted in a prominent position in the front bumper.

Bonnet Scoops, Hood Scoops

A bonnet or 'hood' scoop is an air vent on the bonnet of an automobile that either allows a flow of air to directly enter the engine compartment, or appears to do so. It may be closed, and thus purely decorative, or serve to enhance performance in several possible ways.

One possible use of a bonnet scoop is to admit outside air into the engine's intake ahead of the air cleaner and carburetor or fuel injection manifold. In most modern automobiles, internal combustion engines "breathe" under-bonnet air or air ducted from under the front bumper through plastic and rubber tubing. The high operating temperatures in the engine compartment result in intake air that is 28°C (50°F) or more warmer than the ambient temperature, and consequently less dense. A bonnet scoop can provide the engine with cooler, denser outside air, increasing power.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Woodies, Woodys

A Woodie is a type of car, more specifically an early station wagon (US) or estate car/shooting brake (UK), in which the rear portion of the car's bodywork is made of wood. Frequently this wood is visible, since it is covered in a clear finish, either over the entire wooden area or sometimes just on the framework with the interior panels painted.

The vast majority of woodies were produced before the end of the 1950s at which time safety regulations and changing automotive fashions meant the effective end of the style. Woodies were generally not produced by the original car manufacturer, but were third-party conversions of regular vehicles. Some were done by large, reputable coach building firms, while others were built by local carpenters and craftsmen for individual customers.


The turbocharger was invented by Swiss engineer Alfred Büchi. His patent for a turbo charger was applied for use in 1905. Diesel ships and locomotives with turbochargers began appearing in the 1920s.

A turbocharger, or turbo, is a gas compressor used for forced-induction of an internal combustion engine. Like a supercharger, the purpose of a turbocharger is to increase the mass of air entering the engine to create more power. However, a turbocharger differs in that the compressor is powered by a turbine driven by the engine's own exhaust gases.

The first turbo diesel truck was produced by the "Schweizer Maschinenfabrik Saurer" (Swiss Machine Works Saurer) 1938.

The first production turbocharged automobile engines came from General Motors in 1962. The A-body Oldsmobile Cutlass Jetfire and Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder were both fitted with turbochargers.

The world's first production turbo diesel automobile was also introduced in 1978 by Mercedes-Benz with the launch of the 300SD turbo diesel. Today, nearly all automotive diesels are turbocharged

Opera Windows

Opera Windows
are small porthole sized side windows in the C-pillar of some cars. Typically offered in unison with a vinyl roof, they were a very common design feature of American automobiles during the 1970s.

The design was new at the time and would prove to be very popular, indicated by its imitation by almost every domestic manufacturer. The opera window was a fixed rear side window surrounded by a vinyl roof.

Automotive designers hoped that incorporating opera windows in their cars would serve as a marketing tool by helping to evoke in consumers' minds the elegance and romance of a night at the opera.

Sunday, 8 February 2009


A Lowrider is a car or truck that has been radically lowered, normally for 'show' rather than 'go' so that it rides as low to the ground as possible. (This is sometimes acheived with the use of hydraulic systems)

Although the term can be applied to many early Customs, it is usually associated with a conspicuous Californian automotive sub-culture.

The term is also used to refer to those who drive or own such cars. A traditional Lowrider will have many factory offered options and often many after-market accessories added.

The exteriors typically feature expensive custom paintjobs, small gold or chrome spoke wheels, detailed engines and lavish, often wild, interiors.

Carson Tops

Carson Tops are a low, deeply padded soft top for convertibles. This car styling design was invented by Bob Houser in 1935 whilst working for Amos Carson at the Carson Top Company.

The Los Angeles based company continued to manufacture the tops through the fifties and sixties. Nowadays they are still used widely on Customs and Hot Rods but are either owner built or farmed out to specialist builders and upholsterers.
It's rumoured that the very first Carson top was built for a Ford Model A convertible.