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Everything Wrong With Hot Rod Shows

Bradley Brownell August 10, 2016 Car Shows 115 Comments


I spent last Friday here in Reno venturing out to see the sights of “Hot August Nights”. Every year, for a week, hot rods of all flavor invade the city and take over parking lots everywhere. Thousands of vintage V8s rumble down the road, and trundle through the lots. Every casino hotel has their own show, there’s a major parade downtown, and there are auctions around as well.

In my travels I’ve been to a bunch of hot rod shows, and I’ve noticed that there are a lot of common themes people use to attract attention to their cars. It all needs to stop. I plead with you, do not do any of these things.

Fake drive-in food.


This is just awful. I don’t know why people do it, but it’s terrible.


These STUPID crying children.


They’re creepy, and tacky, and awful, and I can’t stand them. I want to punt them across the parking lot every time I see one.

Antrhopomorphizing your car.

Eyeballs are not necessary. And eyelashes are even worse.


This Porsche also fails for showing up with ten tons of extraneous shit.

Speaking of extraneous shit… Don’t make your own placard for your car. It’s like you’re shouting from the rooftops about how much of a douche you are.


Nobody needs to see your restoration photos. Tell people about your build thread on CorvetteForums.com and leave it at that.


The Tiger Tail. Okay, first of all, this is a GTO thing, so why is it on a Mercury Meteor? It isn’t even cool on a GTO.


Miniature versions of your car.


This is so played out, it just needs to end. This is probably an extension of the “Extraneous shit” rule, but dammit it’s done so often it needs its own thing. Keep your models at home, let your car stand on its own merit.


Fuzzy Dice are dead. Stop it.

Whatever this is.

ANYTHING BETTY BOOP! That weird faced bug-eyed cartoon monster does not belong at car shows. Let her stay in my nightmares where she belongs! She’s worse than those stupid minions. And stop making her “sexy”, because if you’re fetishizing a cartoon, you’re part of the problem.

Flames. Man, this is just personal preference, but I hate flames. This one is less egregious than most, because it’s been executed in a way that is different and interesting. But still, no flames.


KEEP YOUR HOOD ON AND CLOSED! This is another pet peeve of mine, but it’s important, and everyone needs to hear it.


When you open the hood of your car, it makes it look 10000% uglier. The entire point of a hood is that it covers up the ugly bits in the engine compartment. Unless it’s something wild swapped in, like a Rolls Royce Merlin or something, then keep it closed. I can only handle so many mostly-stock small block Chevy engines. Your car look better with the hood on, I promise you.

You might disagree with me, which is fine. It’s your car, ultimately do what you want with it and to it. What do I know, I still keep going to shows like this.

Thank you for your consideration.

  • JayP

    You forgot cotton ball tire smoke:

  • Is it possible you just don’t like hot rod shows? A lot of the things you point out are so common, I can’t imagine shows without them.

    • Bradley Brownell

      I like cars. I hate Baby Boomers.

      • Dabidoh_Sambone

        Least words & best opinion award winner. I curtsy at you.

      • Sjalabais

        My nuance-o-meter just broke.

        • Bradley Brownell

          What’s nuance?

          • It’s like a baseball bat, but smaller and lighter.

          • Sjalabais

            Never mind, turns out it’s just a flaming paint job.

      • dukeisduke

        I’m a Baby Boomer, and I agree with just about all of your points. I want to scream when I see fuzzy dice, or those creepy dwarf dolls.

  • “The Tiger Tail. Okay, first of all, this is a GTO thing, so why is it on a Mercury Meteor?”

    I know about the whole GTO/Tiger association, but I believe the tiger tail itself is just a bit of advertising for Esso gasoline. It would be weird on an electric vehicle, admittedly, but it’s fair game on a Meteor.

    • smalleyxb122

      The tiger tail was absolutely Esso (later Exxon) and had nothing to do with the GTO. A lot of GTO owners latched onto it because of Pontiac’s early advertising efforts to force the “tiger” nickname on the GTO.

      But the tail was Esso. “Put a tiger in your tank!”

      • kogashiwa

        I would be highly amused to see it on a Leaf.

      • Bradley Brownell

        I’ve been told that elsewhere, and I will apologize for the misconception. I have seen this hundreds of times, and its always been on a GTO, I’ve never seen any tails on anything other than a GTO.

        I was aware of the Esso advertisement (I studied advertising in college, and really latched on to petroliana because of it), but I’d always thought the GTO “It’s a Tiger” ads were the progenitor of such dumbassery.


        • smalleyxb122

          I actually had the same misconception until I was corrected by my dad about 25 years ago. It definitely seems more common among GTOs, but the Esso campaign predates the GTO, and the tails were from Esso stations.

    • nanoop

      I’m sure it’s Kellogg’s Frosties.

  • You forgot one: undercarriage mirrors. Just. Don’t.

    • Likewise, anything that involves putting your car on ramps or jackstands. And while we’re at it, the same could be said of the ropes. Your car isn’t any more special than the rest of them.

    • Let’s not rush to judgment: Not everyone can afford a proper set of drip pans.

    • On the other hand, on certain British classics…. or British moderns for that matter, a permanent garage floor mirror is essential for easy viewing of leaks, rust, etc. etc.

      • Vairship

        In fairness, you won’t have much rust as long as you remember to NEVER fix the oil leaks!

  • Can we also say NO to girlfriends in 40’s–50’s clothes and hairstyles? Especially at rat-rod shows and Greaserama, typically looking like an anachronistically over-tattooed pin-up.


    • Bradley Brownell

      I have always liked that look, but I don’t really go to car shows to ogle women, so…

      • Anonymous

        I think that is what strip clubs are for.. haha

    • jeepjeff

      We normally agree on things, but I’m going to have to strongly disagree here. Particularly the tattoos. Go ahead. You’re free to dismiss me and my beard as the millenial hipster dipshits we are.

      • nanoop

        My beard is a millenial, too.

      • Mr. Ollivander

        The tattoos are incongruous with the rest of the look. I won’t complain if someone wants to wear a retro costume. At a recent car show there was a blonde attendee wearing a poodle skirt. She was drawing as much attention as the cars.

    • crank_case

      Can’t really agree on this one. Now, I have to qualify this by saying haven’t been to Hot Rod shows, because Hot Rods aren’t really part of the car culture in Ireland like in the US or even Scandinavia or mainland UK. It’s not that people don’t build or own them, but the car scene is so small they don’t really get their own show, so they turn up at classic shows, or the one or two American car events during the year.

      Anyway..the nearest thing I can think off to that sort of 50s scene is the Goodwood Revival just over the water in the UK and I think the whole thing of people dressing up helps create a fun atmosphere and makes it attractive as a day out for your other half, even if she’s no interest in cars. A bit like the way a day at the races has absolutely nothing to do with horses for a lot of women. Motorsport is perhaps missing a trick there… vehicular racing and events is often spartan and unglamorous compared to the four legged counterpart.. Of course where Goodwood differs from the rockabilly crowd is it tries to be a totally immersive recreation of all aspects of the period and not a single subculture where one aspect of the 50s is distorted and exaggerated through a post-modern lens to something it never was. Even the baddest of the bad girls probably never sported that many tatoos. It’s more like the Cramps interpretation of rock and roll than the Chuck Berry one. That’s interesting or annoying depending on your perspective I guess.

      • Goodwood is not your typical car show. Anything less than one full day, just wear normal street clothes, okay?

        I guess my point is that it falls under the category of needing attention a little too much, which puts in the same category as display placards, mini-me cars, and fake food trays.

        • crank_case

          Agreed that it’s not your typical show, but it does show the potential for a car event to be something more universally enjoyable than just a bunch of nerdy dudes, but Lokki makes my point way better. I think it’s great if car shows are an enjoyable experience for wives/girlfriends or kids then everyone wins, car shows get support, it’s easier to go along with out either leaving your OH behind or her being bored if she comes along.

          I don’t mean to sound patronizing to female car fans of course, lots of women have petrol in their veins, but many don’t, just like a lot of guys don’t, but if you get your non-petrolhead spouse along, maybe they’ll start to be more sympathetic to the hobby, maybe they themselves will take an interest. At the very least the won’t have a problem as a way to spend the afternoon.

          Hot Roddings always had this rockabilly culture surround it though surely? It’s part of what makes that culture? I mean anyone into rods now, is sort of a world away from the original rodders really. I think the people are more kindred spirits with hot rodders are the people who turn up at track days / speed week / the local drag strip and just want to go fast. They are more likely driving something relatively modern and cheap to buy/modify. Building up a 30s Ford, even if you run it at the likes of Hotrod Hayride or Race of Gentlemen is just nostalgia, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s good fun, but it’s all sort of contrived role playing in a way.

    • Lokki

      I am going to disagree. It’s often enough to get the girls to come to our boy’s toys displays, if you let them play dress up. Then they have a good time too. They compare outfits the way we compare customizations…pretty similar if you think about it.

      Besides, after all my obsession with my car, I am not going to argue against somebody else enjoying their hobby.

      • dead_elvis, inc.

        More women at car shows is a plus by me, regardless of motivation & attire. Otherwise, they’re just a big sausage fest, and that’s just the wurst.

        • Bradley Brownell

          Puns. Man…

          Clap it out.

          • dead_elvis, inc.

            STI joke? Excellent.

            No offense, flatbillers.

      • crank_case

        Made my point better with less rambling.,

    • Wayne Moyer

      The look is fine if they aren’t tattooed up like you said. If you want to look like you are from that time then you need to look like you are from that time.

    • Alff

      Please don’t discourage the bettys. Especially at Greaserama. I need other stuff to look at besides cars.

  • smalleyxb122

    Flames are cliche, but on the most cliche of hot rods, they work.

    Some cars (’57 Chevy) aren’t complete without fuzzy dice.

    Most of the rest, I mostly agree with. Except (as mentioned above by mdharrel and my subsequent reply) the tiger tail was not a GTO thing. Well, not exclusively, anyway. I will grant you that it isn’t cool on anything.

  • Jeff Glucker

    I don’t mind an open hood when there’s something cool to see between the fenders. I agree on nearly everything else though… especially those creepy kids.

    It’s like they saw the Blair Witch or something.

  • Alff

    Damn you’re grouchy.

  • jeepjeff

    I’m going to have to be That Guy™.

    Betty Boop: Awesome.
    Hot Rod Flames: Awesome. Both on excessively cliche vehicles and highly ironic vehicles.
    Hood open? Yes. Please. I want to see that engine. It’s usually my favorite part.

    Tiger tails, eyes/eye lashes, dice and whatever that other thing is, eh, whatever. I don’t mind.

    Ok. Fake food and the crying kids? Dumb. I don’t get either of these either.

    As for small versions of the car, well, save the best for last. In defense of this practice, I present you with this, courtesy of Eric Rood: https://scontent-sjc2-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-0/s552x414/13669633_10103553951923959_6647140495234426752_n.jpg?oh=593db197771c35f46fc465d719346f29&oe=5815107E


    • Bradley Brownell

      Can you explain to me why Betty Boop is “awesome”? She straight up frightened me as a child. She looks like an alien.

      • And few realize that she was conceived as “adult” entertainment – a promiscuous 1920s flapper party girl, which was a trending thing at the time. It would be like a cartoon version of a bubble-butt rapper whore today.

      • jeepjeff

        Given the context that Tanshanomi mentioned, she was an interesting character to create for the time. She’s tied up in the history of censorship of television and cartoons, and she’s not a Mrs. Male character (like Minnie Mouse and any number of other characters). She’s an early sex symbol and an easy icon for the freewheeling, partying side of the jazz age (and the Depression).

        She didn’t scare me as a kid, but I definitely think I like her better as an adult.

        • nanoop

          I didn’t particularly like her, but with your explanation she became more attractive by tickling my nerdy nerves.

    • It’s like I don’t even know you.

      • jeepjeff

        I’ve never been quiet about liking played out cars like ’33 Fords or Cobra replicas. They’re played out for a reason. Likewise for played out paint jobs.

        I’m still not a fan of trailer queens.

        And the small version of your own car was probably funny twice. Once when the first person did it, and then a second time when the guy with the Gremlin did it after eleventy billion other people did it.

      • jeepjeff

        Also: still the sort of dude who’d rather spend his project time budget vinyl wrapping a TW200 for some LeMons stupidity rather than tracking down Bowling Green Original parts for a bolt-perfect Corvette restoration.

        • dead_elvis, inc.

          Sounds like you’ve got your priorities straight.

          Also, Bowling Green! (not the original – better!)

          • jeepjeff

            Random example wasn’t random. I’ll have pictures tomorrow. I just got the fairings back on, but it’s too dark to snap a couple photos.

            And Neko Case is ever wonderful.

            • dead_elvis, inc.

              Yes, yes she is. She’s never been less than stellar any of the many times I’ve seen her play. And I just got tix to her November show in Tacoma! Should be a great hometown gig. Almost 20 years in and I’m still completely in love with her voice & writing.

              Biased? Oh hell yes.

              Edit – how ’bout those TW-in-Lemons-related-wrap pix?

  • Sean McMillan

    Yes to flames. Yes to hoodless, provided the engine is cool and its a 20’s or 30’s hotrod. Anything later needs a hood. The drive in trays of fake food are dumb as are the timeout kids. Mirrors and display placards are for big time indoor shows only. I don’t mind models or pedal cars. We were all kids once. Ladies can dress how they like and I like to see them. The other stuff doesn’t bother me too much.
    My biggest peeve is the cheesy bar band playing every cover that has a car name in the title. We get it already. It’s a car show. Book a cool Surf or Rockabilly band that plays their own songs. They exist and could use the exposure (and a regular gig could keep them working) and then it wouldn’t be Mustang Sally and Little Deuce Coupe every goddamn time. End of rant.

    • Bradley Brownell

      Agree on the music.

      This car show had a Beetles cover band that looked like the Wiggles joined a biker gang.

      • dead_elvis, inc.

        Beetles cover band? C’mon man, I don’t care if this is a car site.

        • Bradley Brownell

          Yeah, okay. I’ll take that one. My bad.

    • Maymar

      I could never hear Mustang Sally ever again and die a happy man.

  • Sean McMillan

    And WTF is up with the nose on the mustang next to the Porsche with eyelashes?

  • Dave Ross

    Sounds like your a Grumpy old man, stay home if its that painful, just saying.

    • Bradley Brownell

      If you want to see the stuff I did like, perhaps check out the 6 other posts I published this weekend regarding the show.

      Sounds like you’re a grumpy old man. Don’t read my articles if it’s that painful, just saying.

      • Dave Ross

        Well, ya a little grumpy. Most of the stuff you point out is a generational phenomenon. We agree on that it is all about the cars not the trinkets and trash. What about all the greazer style and leather jackets, poodle skirts, etc etc. Celebration of cars as freely expressed by its passionate participants relates to the lifestyle in many different ways. Love it all, participate, enjoy the freedom, get out there and do it the way that makes you feel Great! Oh ya, great coverage, thanks.

        • Bradley Brownell

          Much better comment. Thank you for contributing.

  • Anonymous

    Speaking of Douche bag.. The person who wrote this article.. Hey If you don’t like cars, then don’t go to events like this.. If you don’t like how a car is displayed, then keep walking.. Why I do not care for the fake food and the dolls. It is called accessorizing.. Some do it that way, some like strap surf boards on their wagons even though the nearest ocean is a full days drive away, some put vintage luggage in the trunk or roof even though they are empty. You don’t like flames, then don’t look at them.. Welcome to the wonderful world of hot rodding and car customizing. People do not have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend to have their cars done up by Foose or Kendig or… So if you hate everything then why did you bother going to a car show.. Don’t be that guy…

    • Bradley Brownell

      You’re right. It’s probably best that I not have an opinion. Thanks for enlightening me.

      Fabulous formatting on this comment, by the way.

      • Anonymous

        Yeah your right, everyone has an opinion, just like everyone has a butt hole. But in times like this, it is best not to show them in public. And after seeing what you drive I am not sure you really have ANY room to talk about what people do to their cars.. SERIOUSLY!!! You and your totaled then reconstructed red Porsche or is that White Audi your daily or is that Amanda’s? You know I hear Fox News is hiring, your BS view on reality would fit right in. All you are is a professional bullshit talker that relies on others to do help you out because you can’t afford to do what you bitch about others doing. Seriously look at your cars and your house..Really?? And your bitching about others? I want to know who really wears the pants in your house? You whine like a girl.. For someone so savoy and smart why you not cover your tracks better.. Does 1441 Kinglet Dr, Sparks Nevada sound familiar??? Who is clever now jack ass?

        • Inliner

          Your first post said all you had to, and this second one was unnecessary.

        • jeepjeff

          I probably shouldn’t bother replying to you, since you’re being an idiot on the internet. While I also disagreed with the post, and I commented as such, I tried to do it in a respectful, playful way.

          Why? Because not only do I like Bradley’s writing, I’ve hung out with him in person on a few occasions. And from both those things, I know he’s a stand-up guy, and I can disagree with him gently. And then we can have more of a discussion or possibly just screwing around telling jokes.

          Doxing and this level of personal attack isn’t what Hooniverse is about. It’s about bsing about cars and having a relaxed place to hang out on the internet. Some good automotive journalism happens. Sometimes a writer vents negative opinions.

          So, pick a handle that shows you get it and relax, or go back to 4chan.

          • Bradley Brownell

            I like to think of myself as a generally agreeable guy. My only general rule for life is “don’t be a dick”.

            I have no idea what Mr. Anonymous posted up there, and I likely never will. I’m not really sure what I did to rile him up, but hey ho, life goes on.

            There’s a reason I included that last paragraph. “It’s your car, ultimately do what you want with it and to it.” There are a lot of people who don’t like my car, and that’s fine. They’re allowed to have an opinion, just like I’m allowed mine. The only difference is I’ve been writing for a decade, and I have a taller soap box to stand on.

    • Maymar

      So, I assume your fetish is those weird crybaby dolls? It’s cool, everyone’s got a thing.

  • Alff

    I go to one car show a year. It’s horrible in a good way and features none of these things…


  • For the most part, I have to say I agree. I’d love to see a standard format – it may seem boring but I’d like to see lines of cars, all displaying a subtle placard in the same format, listing mods and history, leaving it up to the viewer to decide to ask for a view under the hood or just admire the form. Sadly, not all those who attend these shows are genuine enthusiasts- a lot are just up for a fun day out with lots of shiny things to bounce between.

    Accessorising the display is silly and adds nothing, especially if everybody else has the exact same accessories. The only skill it shows on the part of the owner is his ability to go on eBay.

    This is why I tend to stay clear of single-marque or single-genre shows. Painting with broad strokes here, but they tend to attract narcissistic types who need to be showered with compliments every moment. Any original thought or action spreads like a virus. The first person to strip the paint from the hood of their Golf was a folk hero, then before long if your VW has any paint on it at all you’re seriously uncool. Same with rat rods. The aesthetic is secondary to the status of being seen driving a rat-rod.

    I love cars, bikes, boats, planes, trains, anything engineered, built or crafted. But I don’t particularly want to belong to any specific scene associated with them, nor do I want to wear a uniform that marks me by association. If I owned a Harley I’d ride it in full Dainese neon leathers and tassels would be banned. If I bought an old Ford F150 I wouldn’t go straight out, buy a Stetson and enrol in line-dancing lessons. Love trucks, hate stereotypes.

    If only it was all about the cars, and not about belonging.

    • Bradley Brownell



      Thank you, I thoroughly enjoyed your comment and contribution.

  • Mr. Ollivander

    I’m just extremely happy that owners of these cars are willing to bring them out and share them. I wish I had more time to visit more shows. There is a social element to these events that leads to a lot of the add-ons and things noted here. Many of the persons who bring their cars to share have grown to be friends with the other car owners at these shows. We are there to ogle the cars. They are often there to say hello to friends they have made through ownership of these wonderful machines.
    Some of these things are silly to me. Some are pieces of the past lives of the owners. I will gladly indulge their behaviors for a chance to enjoy the machines.

  • CruisinTime

    Bitch…Bitch…Bitch…..If you got nothing good to say? Stay home.

    • You should apply your “rule” to commenting.

      • CruisinTime

        Rebound shot..

        • CruisinTime

          Hooniverse was interesting a long time ago,now it is becoming “Gawker Lite”.

          • Monkey10is

            By my memory you’ve been an active and engaged commenter here for much longer than me, so I’m surprised at your ‘Gawker Lite’ barb; is it the journalism or the comments that you think are deteriorating?
            (My thoughts on this; Brad could perhaps have chosen a less ‘clickbait’-style title for this article, but after a series of solid articles on various hot rod shows over the last week or so this read as a lighter humorous post-script. Like many ‘verse articles it got a discussion going with pro- and contra- arguments and pictures of good and bad examples. A couple of new commenters joined in (perhaps the title?) to disagree with the article; one acted like a dick and disappeared, the second toned down, re-posted and got an up-vote from Brad for that.
            It seemed to me like a good day at the ‘verse: What was it that you didn’t like?

            • CruisinTime

              The whole tone of the article,we drive all types and we own all types from around the world.Brownell bitching about fake drive in food and he does not like this and he hates that just rubbed me wrong.
              I mean the man was bitching about OPEN HOODS!

              • Manic_King

                Yeah well, I agree with Bradley, many of these things are stupid. And having an opinion about something is certainly not bitching.

                • CruisinTime

                  Perhaps Brownell should stick with GoodWood,he can walk around with his nose in the air along with the rest of the stuck up British.

                  • Manic_King

                    Not very nice. I hate that junk they use to accessorize, too. Does it make me a snob……maybe in your head. Calm down.

                    • CruisinTime

                      Just my opinion.

                    • CruisinTime

                      My opinion.

              • Monkey10is

                I get that.
                I guess that there is a line somewhere between “provocative so it makes me ponder what I think” and “provocative so it triggers a stream of ‘cool!’/’fool!’ responses”. We come to the ‘verse hoping for the first and I (speaking for myself) avoid Gawker because of the second.
                Even if Brad stepped the wrong side of the line for you this time, don’t you take heart a little from the fact that most of the 90+ comments were constructive (whether agreeing or disagreeing) and it turned into a discussion?

  • Krautwursten

    I don’t mind a few accessories, after all it’s a car SHOW, not a Third Reich DIN car register. Surely trays with real food would be nicer, but that stuff would just get stolen or you’d have to throw it away or eat it cold afterwards. The one thing I agree is utterly pretentious though are placards. We get that you’re proud of your build or restoration, but you’re not driving a museum car and most likely you’re not driving a Hot Rod feature article car, so please stop acting like you need to educate people about it. If we want to know about your car we’ll ask you.

  • Gofa Kyoursel

    the worst thing about car shows is the old people. Not everybody is interested in your rock-a-hula Elvis, Buddy Holly trip down memory lane. Most of the car shows I go to the vehicles are from the 1970s anyway, but for some reason all they play is freaking 50s rock. Poodle skirts, there’s always some dummy selling neon signs. My car is a classic and it’s European. not everyone is interested in your stupid Chevy. I would much rather go to a place where an impromptu car show just kind of pops up because somebody notices you parked, and they come over to talk.
    another terrible thing about car shows is that people are absolutely inconsiderate. They will bad mouth your car while you’re standing right there, eat over it, touch it, steal things out of it. People are fucking scum.

    • Vilma Oropeza

      Retarded racist! Why you are disrespectful to legends who are bot between us anymore?They deserve respect!

    • Vilma Oropeza

      You are so stupid and unintelligent that you even have no idea!