Hooniverse Asks: What's the Best Paint Treatment for a Hot Rod That Isn't Flames?

When it comes to hot rods—whether an un-fendered Deuce, shaved ’50s coupe, or whatever—what first comes to mind? Is it fuzzy dice hanging from a rearview mirror? Or, is it a paint job that’s come to define the genre; the classic flowing flames?
Painted flames look awesome on generally anything; witness Alton Brown’s stand mixer, or this place to drop another kind of deuce. The thing of it is, maybe flames are a little too played? What do you think, if not flames, what’s the best—at least until it also gets overused—non-flame hot rod paint scheme?
Image: Pinterest

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45 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What's the Best Paint Treatment for a Hot Rod That Isn't Flames?”

  1. Tiberiuswise Avatar

    Black. All black.

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      Make it flat black chalkboard paint, so you can scribble on whatever design suits you at the moment.

    2. kogashiwa Avatar

      Flat black, encrusted with Bonneville salt.

    3. calzonegolem Avatar

      With red wheels.

  2. Kiefmo Avatar

    Originality. Whatever color the car came in, whatever state you found it in, preserve it and let it be.
    Provided the current state isn’t so rusty the car isn’t usable.

    1. Guest Avatar


      If you haven’t seen them, any of ICON’s Derelicts demonstrate this quite well.


  3. Maymar Avatar

    Proper pinstripes are pretty cool. A friend’s dad got it done to his ’28 Ford Tudor (obviously not pictured), and ended up having it done on his wife’s Camry at the same time.

  4. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    Traditional flames are king. Scallops had a decades long run attempting to usurp the throne, but now the flames look classic while the scallops look dated. More recently, realistic flames came in hot, but burned too brightly and flamed out after a few short years. (sorry)
    Done right on a period hot rod, traditional flames or scallops could both work. A solid color is still a better, and timeless, choice.
    The answer is not fake patina and airbrushed rust.

    1. Tiberiuswise Avatar

      I always wondered what PMY stood for.

    2. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
      dead_elvis, inc.

      Love that license plate nod to Lucas’s (Lucas’? that final “s” always confuses me) previous film.

  5. HycoSpeed Avatar

    I have an inappropriate set of feels for the early 90’s Pro Street style paint jobs involving pastels and side graphics. I a musty stack of Car Craft and Hot Rod magazines I acquired right as I hit automotive puberty…

    1. salguod Avatar

      I had a Chevy Monza in college that I had painted a Caddy dark metallic blue around 1990 and then added pink and teal sticker pin stripes to it. I have scans of snapshots somewhere, but can’t find them now.

      1. salguod Avatar

        Found it. The upper right is as I bought it in 1986, the other two are from ~1991 as I’m graduating from college.

        1. HycoSpeed Avatar

          That pin stripe set is fantastic!

  6. CruisinTime Avatar

    Watson did some nice work back in the day.

  7. Sjalabais Avatar

    To start with, I considered it really wrong, as this is the #1 reason of death for cars everywhere around me, and has been for countless decades. But the irony is growing on me, so I vote: Rust.

  8. AnE30=fun Avatar

    There something really cool about black and gold..

  9. Alff Avatar

    The car chooses the finish. That said, I am partial to candy, especially candy rootbeer, like in this photo from the H.A.M.B.

    1. Inliner Avatar

      All coppery colours look good.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        +1. They should be an option on every new car with respect for itself, too.

  10. George Goshgarian Avatar
    George Goshgarian

    I always thought scallops were cool.

  11. Krautwursten Avatar

    Clear coat, lots of it and nothing else.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      Another thing I didn’t even know existed. This is hot.

      1. outback_ute Avatar

        That puts the pressure on the quality of your metalwork!

    2. Alff Avatar

      Ford with Buick headlights and ? grill?

      1. longrooffan Avatar


  12. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
    dead_elvis, inc.

    Red primer & black steelies.

  13. CruisinTime Avatar

    Pink and white should make a comeback.

    1. CruisinTime Avatar

      Or Salmon

    2. Tiberiuswise Avatar

      But on what car? The 02-05 T-Bird is the last one I can think of.

      1. CruisinTime Avatar

        I could see that.

  14. discontinuuity Avatar

    I’m partial to the lace paint jobs on customs/lowriders.

    1. 1slowvw Avatar

      I’ve always found this very cool. Unfortunately up here in eastern Canada we don’t see many low riders.
      On a mildly related note a few years ago I did see someone lay down mesh and lightly spray a coat of white over a black hood to recreate the look of carbon weave.

    2. Prince Halibrand Avatar
      Prince Halibrand

      In that same vibe, airbrush fish scales were cool.

  15. Letstakeawalk Avatar

    I think the “shark mouth” is an obvious second option to flames. Fits in well with the post-war aesthetic.

    1. nanoop Avatar

      Strange that many contemporary versions seem to eat tires.(random example I happen to like)

      1. Vairship Avatar

        And considering it’s rear-wheel drive, it’s even eating the wrong tires. Maybe it’s a comment on the bad alignment job?

  16. Prince Halibrand Avatar
    Prince Halibrand

    You can’t go wrong with gold leaf lettering or door numbers.

  17. longrooffan Avatar

    I don’t know what this is called but this olelongrooffan kinda likes it

    1. Fuhrman16 Avatar

      I believe it’s called scalloped.

      1. Vairship Avatar

        I REALLY like that Falcon. Very understated and clean.

  18. Tanshanomi Avatar

    WHAAT? Nobody said good ol’ racing stripes? Down the center, off-center, down the rockers…always great. I’ve never seen ’em on a true (’48-earlier) “hot rod,” but I would love to see twin stripes on something like a track-T or a Topolino-bodied gasser.

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