Hot rods and guitars have always been kindred spirits, sharing a bond that extends all the way back to the earliest days of rock ‘n’ roll. As devotees raced souped-up coupes across California, the first solidbody guitars emerged from Fullerton, poised to offer a new world of performance and style. Both worlds would eventually intertwine, drawing in the same “fringe” members of society—the rebels, the outsiders, the gearheads—into a culture of technical and visual experimentation. Charlie Ryan’s “Hot Rod Lincoln” appropriately summed up this new American aesthetic, where speed and power conspired with raw sex appeal to drive parents crazy and all the girls mad.

The automotive hot-rodders saw their enterprise burst onto pop culture’s radar in the fifties. Guitar hot-rodders really got their start in the late seventies, but reached center stage during the mid-eighties in the flashy, over-the-top environment of metal, when shredders began using specially-modified custom guitars more conducive to the speed and tone of their chosen style.

The automotive and guitar worlds have never strayed too far apart. It’s still about being noticed and having the fastest machine on the block. It’s about transforming an existing guitar into a dream axe… dropping in a set of hot pickups, a custom paint job, upgrading the neck. Hot-rodding remains a personal expression of passion. This month, we take a look at five people who can help you realize the hot rod guitar of your dreams. From one who can wind you the perfect set of pickups (Lindy Fralin) to one who can promise you the fastest neck you can imagine (Ken Warmoth) to artists who live to paint and design (Lee Garver and Sara Ray), and one builder who completely embodies the “Hot Rod” lifestyle in both worlds (Jim Cara), these people love to soup things up. We talked to each of them, and we found out what “hot-rodding” guitars is all about: giving you what you want

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