Trying to describe what makes a car look cool is a little like trying to capture lightning in a bottle. With such a variety of tastes and build styles out there, you’d think there wouldn’t be a lot in common between them, but there are a few nearly universal traits that will cause any car to fall short in the visual appeal department.
In preparing this story, we realized we had the perfect example of how to do everything right in the stance department. Seth Wagner’s ’67 Charger was built by Alan Johnson and crew at Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop in Gadsden, Alabama. Alan is considered one of the top muscle car and hot rod builders on the planet (he’s built both Ridler and Street Machine of the Year winners), so with his permission, we took the Charger’s “rake” apart with a fine-tooth comb for analysis.
…we decided to morph the JHRS Charger into 13 different fake cars, with crimes ranging from minor misdemeanors to blatant felonies. "
To be sure, we’ve found plenty of cars with stance “violations,” and we’ll even confess to featuring a few of them. Rather than dredge up old photos of real cars that are sure to incite venomous responses from their very real owners, we decided to morph the JHRS Charger into 13 different fake cars, with crimes ranging from minor misdemeanors to blatant felonies. For this task we turned to automotive rendering wizard Kris Horton for his computer illustration talent (www.CarsByKris.com). We worked with Kris over the course of several weeks fine-tuning our violations, and we had a ton of good laughs in the process.
In the course of “destroying” Seth’s magnificent Mopar, it became obvious that we needed to have a sense of humor about it. Stance is one of those things that—with the exception of really egregious examples—isn’t going to change a car’s performance or value all that much one way or the other. No harm, no foul—so do watcha want, magazine opinions be damned. By the same measure, it doesn’t cost a lot to get the stance right; in fact, it ought not to cost any more than getting it utterly wrong. Every car needs wheels, tires, and suspension, so you might as well nail it. As a muscle car owner, you’ve already paid the high price of admission—so why look like a doofus?
And about that sense of humor we were talking about? This author has been guilty of several stance violations over the years, some of them very public ones. I count “Stinkbug,” “Gasser,” “Slamma,” “Low Exhaust,” and “Wide Track” among my past indiscretions. I point the finger in the mirror as much as I do at the many violations we see at shows and tracks around the country, so it’s been a bit of a learning experience for me too. This exercise is partly for fun, and partly to raise awareness of what makes “cool factor.” Before diving in, please check your pride at the door, load up on some levity, and keep an open mind. If you want to flame us anyway, throw your Molotov cocktail my way at John.Hunkins@sorc.com, and don’t forget to enclose a photo of your machine—violator or otherwise.
Unless you’re building a gasser (and this rendering is not), you want the frontend lower than the rear. This is called “rake.” Too many non-gasser hot rods have the gasser look, and that equals epic fail. Check out the huge gap between the top of the front tire and the fender lip.
Violation: Frontend too high relative to the rear
The cause: When asked why the front is so high, most people will tell you the rear springs have sagged over time, which may be a contributing factor, but it’s not the root cause. Aftermarket springs are the biggest factor, and “gasser look” happens when the front spring pigtail does not fit correctly inside the spring pocket on the control arm. Beyond that, most spring manufacturers build their coils for a “worst case” scenario for legal reasons. A 2-inch drop may be advertised, but if you’ve got a lightweight V-8 that’s been stripped, and the manufacturer built them to handle a big-block with factory iron heads, original A/C, power steering—i.e. fully loaded, you might not get any drop at all. In fact, it might end up higher than stock.