There are many individuals who pushed the limits of creativity, ingenuity, art, and engineering to create and race beautiful hot rods. These individuals were the spark that pushed the industry forward. Each made their mark in their own right.
Looking back in time to the foundational roots of hot rodding, one can't help but acknowledge those pioneers who helped launch the industry, or the women who made their mark and proved that hot rodding is not a man's only-club. Of course, the modern-day hot rod heroes who hold a flame to those legends past while forging their own way with innovative and expressive designs deserve a nod, too. With that in mind, here's a list of ten famous hot rod builders that you should know (if you don't already).
9 Boyd Coddington
Boyd Coddington's name is synonymous with hot rods. Star of TLC's show American Hot Rod until he passed away in 2008, Coddington owned Boyd Coddington Hot Rod Shop where he developed innovations like custom-fabricated alloy wheels which was an industry first. His designs which became known as the "Boyd Look" were typically clean and elegant while evoking an old-school feel. Along with colleague John Buttera, Boyd pioneered a technique that machined solid aluminum billet, which he applied to wheels and throughout the vehicles he worked on.
While Coddington has been commissioned to work on a number of celebrity cars, one of the most famous is the CadZZilla, work he did for ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, in which he customized a 1949 Cadillac for the rocker.
8 Vic Edelbrock Sr.
When it comes to famous hot rod builders, Vic Edelbrock Sr. is known as one of the first. Vic Edelbrock Sr. had a speed-equipment company where he used the 1932 Ford roadster to develop and test equipment like the Edelbrock Slingshot intake manifold. His techniques helped others in the industry gain valuable information about how to improve speed and performance.
In particular, he's known for keeping the fenders on the 1932 Ford roadster when street racing, but removing them when dry-lakes racing. Eventually, this vehicle sold and then Vic Edelbrock Jr. bought it back and had Roy Brizio restore it to its glory days as a tribute to his father.
7 Roy Brizio
Roy Brizio has owned Roy Brizio Street Rods, which is located in South San Francisco, for more than twenty years. Brizio's name is well known within the industry for work that has defined modern hot rodding. Some of the shop's better-known projects include building numerous Roadster Show winners as well as Hot Rod Magazine's T roadster for the publication's 50th anniversary.
According to his website, Roy Brizio Street Rods' "greatest pride comes from building dual-purpose show winning drivers. No other shop in the world can boast of putting more miles on their cars than Roy Brizio Street Rods."
6 Shirley Muldowney
Think hot rods are just for guys? Think again! Shirley Muldowney learned about dragsters from her husband Jack Muldowney, who was a highly skilled mechanic. However, it was her lightning-fast reflexes that helped her succeed in racing at a time when it was a sport dominated by men.
Muldowney began racing in 1958 and became a pro in 1965. She was best known for racing "funny cars," which History.com describes as an "altered-wheelbase dragster with a fiberglass body."
Her career was full of championships; Muldowney was the first woman to win the NHRA Top Fuel Dragster National Championship (she did so three times in a pink car).
5 Chip Foose
Throughout his career, award-winning hot rod builder Chip Foose has been involved in at least nine cars that have won America's Most Beautiful Rodster award. His first vehicle, a 1956 Ford F100 was featured in his show Overhaulin'. It's a particularly important vehicle for Foose because his father, Sam Foose, who was a hot rod builder himself, helped build it.
Chip Foose has worked on so many different vehicles over the years, it's quite impossible to mention them all, but the Hemisfear, which was done for Chrysler is of particular interest because it was the inspiration for the Plymouth Prowler.
4 Bill Burke
Bill Burke is known for pushing the envelope in terms of engineering and design. Originally racing a modified Ford roadster, he was looking for more speed but knew that there were aerodynamic issues with the squarish-Ford. The solution for Burke was the belly tank.
Burke introduced the belly tank to lakes racing after putting a model-T frame in a belly tank along with a 1934 Ford V8. Over time he perfected the modification, enclosing the belly tank (which added a little more safety for the driver). As president of the SCTA in 1950, Burke helped launch Hot Rod Magazine, and, throughout his career, he had a huge impact on early hot rodding.
3 Karl and Veda Orr
Karl and Veda Orr were a husband-wife team that owned one of Southern California's first hot rod shops dedicated to speed. Karl became known for initiating the change within the industry from modified four-cylinder engines to flathead V8s.
From their shop, they managed the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) Racing News, and, at a time when most hot rodders were fighting in WWII, veterans like Tom Medley credited Veda as being "the glue that held hot-rodding together during the war years."
Veda was more than an enthusiast, though. She was the first female member of the SCTA where she set numerous records in the Full-Fendered Roadster competition. After the war she wrote Hot Rod Pictorial and Dry Lakes Pictorial, becoming the first person (man or woman) to write a hot-rod book.
2 Ed Roth
Ed Roth is a well-known car designer from the 1950s and 1960s whose vehicles were often chosen for the cover of Hot Rod and Custom Car magazines. Roth was the first to use media like Plaster of Paris to build his cars, which allowed him to create new shapes and concepts.
Roth's vehicles were pure art forms, but they actually worked, too, and the most famous is arguably the Druid Princess which he designed for The Addams Family TV show. His vehicles were so weird and odd, especially for the time, that he became known within the industry as the "Salvador Dali" of hot rods.
1 Joe Bailon
Love hot rods with intense metallic colors? You have Joe Bailon to thank for that. He is best known for customizing Zsa Zsa Gabor's Rolls-Royce, Sammy Davis Jr.'s Vega, and Dan Martin's Cadillac, but customizing vehicles for some of the most well-known entertainers of the era isn't all he's famous for.
Bailon is the hot rodder who created the iconic Candy Apple Red color, which had a metallic base-coat, transparent color coat, and final clear coat. Beauty was Bailon's trademark from the look of the paint to the car's interior, engine, design, and even suspension. For Bailon's appearance mattered.