While modifying cars for fast acceleration over a short distance is said to date back to the 1930s, many will associate the rise of the American hot rod with the James Dean era of the 1950s. Nowadays, rodding has gone global, with hundreds of enthusiast gatherings organized every year by clubs and associations so that members can proudly show off their creations. Given this popularity and the recent upsurge in electric car development, it's hardly surprising that the two have been brought together in the shape of the Lightning electric car from EnviroTech.
If you're looking to turn the heads of shoppers as you roar into the mall's car park with the kind of engine growl immortalized by ZZ Top on Manic Mechanic, then the Lightning definitely isn't for you. The only sound likely to register from this two-seater electric hot rod - revealed at a press day earlier this month hosted by the Eau Claire, Wisconsin company - is the roll of Goodyear tires on the asphalt.
The Lightning electric car features a 156V DC electric racing motor capable of powering the vehicle above 100 mph (160 km/h) and from 0 to 60 mph (0 to 96 km/h) in under five seconds. The 12V Delco deep cycle batteries under the hood - 13 in all - are only good for around 40 miles (64 km) before needing some charging relief from a 110 or 220V socket, but that should be more than enough for a few drag runs at the disused airfield or dry lake bed.
Not unlike its gas-guzzling cousins, this vehicle - which was four years in development - is not particularly about practicality (no roof, in Wisconsin!) but about the enjoyment and thrill of motoring.
"I felt like the electric cars available aren't that fun to drive," says EnviroTech's Mark Kalish. "They're just for transportation, a four-door sedan. I wanted something that would really bring back the real driving experience."
Although some dedicated rodders may spend a lifetime searching for authentic components, the Lightning is all about today - with modern steering, front and rear disc brakes, and cantilevered internally-mounted front shocks.
Complete Lightning electric cars can be built to order for around US$28,000 a piece, or individual components can be made available for the more hands-on, do-it-yourself enthusiast - such as a rolling chassis featuring an independent rear axle starting at US$3,995, and fiberglass bodies for US$4,200 and up.