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From Wikipedia - Hot RodRead Full From Wikipedia
Hot rods are typically old, classic American cars with large engines modified for linear speed. The origin of the term "hot rod" is unclear. Roadsters were the cars of choice because they were light, were easy to modify, and could be bought for a low price. The term became commonplace in the 1930s or 1940s as the name of a car that had been "hopped up" by modifying the engine in various ways to achieve higher performance. A term that was common in the early days to refer to a hot rod was a "gow job". This has fallen into total disuse except with historians.
The term can also apply to other items that are "souped up" for a particular purpose, such as "hot-rodded amplifier".