- I want to say its surging, but its not really fast enough.

The Brilliance of Vintage Specials

They're awesome and you know it. You know you want to read on.

Before I start, I want to clarify 1 thing. A vintage car is officially a car from 1918 to 1930, although, in this article, I will be going for the entirety of the period between the two World Wars.

So, why did people start doing this?

Well, originally, vintage cars were 'specialised' for a few main reasons, such as for saving money; or specialised uses, to improve certain aspects of the vehicle to improve performance for specific circumstances, like hillclimbs or trials, or simply to make your car lighter and therefor faster than everyone else in your class.

On the other hand, many people just wanted to show off and look good in their unique cars, which is basically where hot/rat rodding comes from, which I'll come to later.

Hot Rod's aren't designed for subtlety, are they?

Hot Rod's aren't designed for subtlety, are they?

Trialing Specials

A Ford Popular trials special

A Ford Popular trials special

I don't expect many of you to be particularly familiar with trialing, so I'll catch you up quickly.

Trialing is, very simply, some people who have nothing better to do on a Sunday morning than drive up a muddy hill and try and get further than anyone else can. In other words, its quite idiotic.

The reason specials were made for this sort of thing is relatively self explanatory - to make it lighter so it doesn't get bogged down in the mud.

An MG trialing special

An MG trialing special

There are even specialized companies who make cars specifically for trialing, like Cannon.


The best thing about these things is the fact that they are all rear wheel drive, with engines often less than a litre, or at least not much more, yet they go more extremely off road than almost anyone who actually owns a 4x4 off roader.

Hillclimb specials

Hillclimbing is a popular form of racing for all cars, and it is especially loved by the vintage car community.

The problem with vintage cars going up hills fast is that...well...they can't. For this reason, some geniuses came up with the idea of modifying their cars to be more powerful, have more torque and lighten them, making them hillclimbing machines, literally

A hillclimb Austin 7 Special made by my dad and his friend.

A hillclimb Austin 7 Special made by my dad and his friend.

Some of them are so specific that they are specialized to a particular hill, Shelsley Walsh being a particular favourite for many. The advantage of this is that you can make your special good at particular things that increase speed on certain courses, like cornering, speed or acceleration.

A particularly famous hillclimb special, The Bloody Mary. sorry for the awful photo.

A particularly famous hillclimb special, The Bloody Mary. sorry for the awful photo.

The Bloody Mary is a well-known hillclimb special designed by John Bolster, a renowned name in vintage specials, with some school friends. It achieved its giant - slaying reputation by using a wooden chassis and motorcycle V-twin engine, producing 13hp (evidently this was going for cornering rather than power). This didn't remain the case, though, as after a few years it was producing well over 100hp.

These are my favourite types of special, probably because as a child, my father brought me to loads of VSCC (Vintage Sports Car Club) hillclimbs.

Hot Rods

Hot Rodding originated in the USA in the 1930's, in Southern California, when people began to customize their cars in order to drag race with each other in dried up salt flats.

The Ford Model T, Ford Model A and other, mainly American, cars, were popular choices, as they were cheap for young petrolheads, but they were boring with virtually no sex appeal. Luckily for them, spare parts were cheap and they were easily modifiable.

A hot rod. Maybe even a rat rod.

A hot rod. Maybe even a rat rod.

Hot Rod's may seem like crazy, wild, and as if they have absolutely no regulations, but this is not true. They were in fact, designed very specifically to the rules of the South California Timing Association, originally. On the other hand, Rat Rods were a deliberate attempt to make fun of Hot Rodders by creating mad, outrageous cars. They also originated as a rebellious display, in the theme of Punk, as a way of showing how cool they were.

Well that's all that springs to mind for the moment.

That's it, all the types of vintage special I can think of. If you can give enough examples of others in the comments, there might be a part two.

Can you come up with any others? Comment them below!

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Comments (4)

  • Lakesters. Usually bodied in an aircraft fuel tank or missile casing, but sometimes (most notably the Stuart Hilborn car) bodied in a custom lightweight, aerodynamic body, for land speed record competition and desert/dry lake bed racing.

    Hot Wheels 100% made a nice, true 1/64 one back around 2002-04.

      2 months ago
  • I love the trialling specials, they are fascinating cars

      2 months ago