Can A Hot Hatch Be A Hot Rod?

This car will divide you. It might make you smile, it might confuse you, or you might hate it. But I defy you not to feel something towards it

In fact, I’ve even gone back and forth as the whether to share this small spotlight with you at all, as this isn’t your typical Speedhunters car. But, in the name of embracing diversity and in order to find out what the great Speedhunters’ audience think of it, here we are.


When I first spotted Danny Stuart’s Mk5 Ford Fiesta Zetec S nestled in the hangar at Player’s Show last month I gave it a cursory glance from a distance. Hot hatches like this one were very much en trend around the time that I first started driving, as was the style of de-badging, flushing handles, bad-boy bonnets and over-the-top stereo installs. The Fiesta ticked all of those boxes, and while I briefly pondered whether I’d slipped back through some form of time wormhole, I thought nothing more of it and continued making my way around the show.

It wasn’t until the second or third pass through the hangar that curiosity got the better of me and I went in for a closer look. I’m glad I did, too.


Admittedly, the overall aesthetic isn’t to my tastes, but I can only commend the extensive work that’s been done, and the fact that someone’s not been afraid to go against the grain, and to carry out modifications that are very much outside of the typical scope of a car like this.


While the exterior is early ‘00s England in part, the interior is more akin to something you’d find in a ‘50s or ‘60s American hot rod. Features like the custom red leather interior, complete with bench front seat and lap belt conversion, completely go against what people usually do when modifying Mk5 Fiestas. I doff my hat to any eagle-eyed Ford fan who spotted that the front and rear bench would have previously been found inside a Mk1 Cortina.


Or the custom dash and door cards, also wrapped in red leather, which have been completely reshaped to house lots of bespoke billet details, from the AutoMeter American Muscle gauges, now relocated to the middle of the dash, to the retro billet steering wheel, bespoke speaker grilles and RetroSound head unit and controls. In fact, as you look around inside there’s not a panel that hasn’t been extensively modified.


In contrast to the deep red interior, the Fiesta’s bodywork has been coated in Land Rover Kaikoura Stone Pearl. Almost every exterior detail has been shaved and smoothed; the door handles, bumper inserts, indicators, boot badges, number plates, washers, aerial and even the mirrors are now in the parts bin.


The arches have been widened to make way for the copper-plated, two-piece OZ Racing Turbo split rims, measuring 15×8.5-inch up front and 15×9.5-inch in the rear. The wheels themselves have more custom hardware and modification work in them alone than some of the other cars at Players in their entirety!


The car is on custom hydraulic suspension, but there’s far more to it than just that as the chassis had to be extensively shaved and notched to achieve the desired drop. You’ll have to take my word for it, but the underside is spotless; the subframe is chromed and everything else is either painted or powder-coated.

The hydraulics are controlled with a custom control box inside the car, or can be activated remotely. Danny and his friend Kenny, who helped build the car, designed and coded their own mobile app to be able to control the suspension and doors via Bluetooth. In the event of no mobile battery there are hidden buttons to pop the doors.


Under the bonnet the 1.6-litre Zetec S four-cylinder is long gone, replaced by a 1.7-litre Ford Puma engine with a Kawasaki ZZR600 bike carb conversion. With more chrome than you can shake a stick at, all unsightly wires and hoses have been tucked away neatly, and the bay has been coated in Land Rover Firenze Red Pearl.


I’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of the full spec list here; almost every component, mechanical and aesthetic, has been replaced, overhauled and modified. It’s the sort of nut-and-bolt restoration that you’d expect to see carried out on a classic hot rod, except it’s been done on a Mk5 Fiesta, which is… well, very odd.

If you want to read up on the full specification, and see a handful of build photos, the owner has a handy build website. Otherwise, I’d love to hear your feedback on this in the comments.


Personally, what I like is that Danny and Kenny have thrown the rulebook out in terms of what you should and should do to certain cars. In doing so they’re created probably the most unique and most extensively-modified Mk5 Fiesta in existence. A strange accolade indeed.

Jordan Butters
Instagram: jordanbutters
Facebook: Jordan Butters Photography



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I appreciate the originality and quality of this car, it's definitely worth featuring here IMO. In particular the interior is cool and a breath of fresh air. I'm not about to rush out and buy a Fiesta to mod like that, but it's interesting. I wonder if it's actually driveable on the road or track, or if it's so extreme that it's become purely an object d'art ?


Yes they can be considered hotrods, but I would probably classify this as more of a streetrod (more show than go).


The interior is pretty sweet.


Well now, I don't think I've ever seen anything like that. Hats off to the builder for attention to detail and dedication to his car of choice! I am a bit confused myself over the mix of '00s exterior and '50s interior, but I suppose that is the entire point. To mix it up and create their own style. Definitely would turn my head if I saw it driving down the street.


I see no problem with the car at all. Everything is cleanly executed and the quality of work looks high.


I appreciate the work thats gone into it, but surely its now only a trailer queen as I wouldn't think(but my be wrong) that it wont get an MOT with only lap belts and no mirrors. Still an impressive amount and array of work


Attention to detail is amazing, I'd love to see this style of build on other platforms as well


Hot rods and hot hatches are different classes of their own let's not muddy the waters.

Hot rods are usually simple vehicles with big engines, little weight and very few bells and whistles that complicate things. Hot hatches are the antithesis of this, even in the weight sense these days.


I once read an article comparing modern 'tuner' cars to old school hot rods. One quote has stuck with me:

"This is a hot rod. Nothing's changed, you just got left behind."

I think it's all the same thing, regardless of the technology involved. If you modify a car for performance beyond what the manufacturer gave it, it's a hot rod. A Model A with a nasty V8 or something like that will always be the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the term, but it still has a pretty broad definition in my mind.


Some of the first "hotrods" were stripped down model t's and A's with hopped up four bangers. You wouldn't consider some hot hatches to be a modern interpretation?


Yeah i get that with the model a's and all that but hot hatches now have so much going on electonically and with all the added extras and safety stuff, they just don't fit the hot rod mold. My wife has a fiesta and it's by no means light, the doors alone weigh a lot. It's also complex in terms of the engine - to me a hot rod is something that can be tuned and messed with on a driveway with hand tools and a spare afternooon. Cars now need diagnostic software, laptops etc and god forbid you try and touch basic stuff like oli filters or change a timing belt.


I don’t think anyone is referring to new hot hatches, in the same way that people usually don’t consider newer muscle and sports cars as hot rods. They are typically older base model cars that have many hours (and sometimes dollars) invested in the pursuit of better performance. Hot rods have often been quite advanced for their time seeing as they are attempting to push the boundaries of what a certain vehicle was designed for. What people thought was technologically advanced 50 years ago (multi spark ignitions, mechanical fuel injection, turbos etc) is considered old tech today, much like younger people now consider early computer control and variable valve timing to be basic tech. Heck, kids can use cheap hand me down laptops to create fuel maps and timing curves on stand alone systems that cost less than a carburetor.




arrr thats a very kool car hats off to the builders for thinking out the box


I did not like it, car without a soul, a frankstein.


I was trying hard not to feel anything but about half way down I cracked a smile


Nicely executed


You slid into those Instagram DMs then?

My 2nd and 3rd cars were Mk5 Fiesta ZS's and I loved them. Lightweight and nimble, they were great to drive

Loved following this build on ZSOC!


IMO this is a modified car, buying the latest VAG model putting Air ride and a big name brand wheel with lots of stretch is barely a build at all. It should be about creating what you want to build, no matter if styles cross. I'm not a huge fan of this shape fiesta but this car is amazing! you have to appreciate the about of work that went into making it whether you like it or not. great write up!


Simple definition of a Hot Rod is pre 1949 so no it can't be classed as a hot rod. Nice car, the owner did an impressive job on it.


Well it is not a car build to everyone's taste, nor is it mine. But the insane effort this guy has done to this car, the quality of the overall look en the nice subtle changes surely are worth an appreciation. It is not something i would choose to build, but i respect that he did it!


Pre 1960s car and parts would be "hot rod". Post 1960s and it can be a street rod. This is about descriptive language. Blur terms and communication becomes ambiguous. It does not matter if the thing takes cues from another era. Call it a Mod(ern) rod. A hot rod would "fit" in a James Dean movie and Modrod would not.


It certainly is an interesting build and while its not my sort of thing I can fully appreciate the amount of time and effort that has gone into building it. There are features that I really like, the wheel colour is awesome and very modern, my kitchen is filled with copper items!

As an advertisement for what 2 guys can achieve its amazing. If they wanted to go into business then this is the perfect promo tool.


While I appreciate this build it can't be a hot rod as it clearly not driven. That interior is gorgeous but I feel sad that it won't ever be embraced. Would love to see more bench seat conversions, they're so perfect for "cruisers".


It's driven...just drove to Rotterdam and back for 100% tuning


Just to clear this up... the car is never trailered, it is driven to all shows it attends. It works as a car should, and that created some of the biggest hurdles when shaving and tucking the bay and building the interior.


That's good to hear!


Not my cup-O-tea, but it's pretty amazing how much attention to detail this thing has.
It reminds me of when I used to have a subscription to Euro Tuner in the late 90's or early 2000. It seemed like there were tons of cars very similary to this in build.
Also, I kinda had an image of a hot rod as a big ole classic car with a v8 in it. And I kinda thought a hot hatch was something that was more of a performance hatch, like an EG civic with a nice swap and mostly performance parts. Those were always the mental images I've had of those 'definitions'. I can't consider this car either of those.


Can appreciate the workmanship but it's not for me. I think it's the choice of base car as much as anything.


Sickest car ever!!


I don't see anything different, or divisive, about this build that I haven't seen done on Golf after Golf after Golf. A majority of this is keeping with current trends, albeit perhaps, a mixture of scenes. This build blends in seamlessly with any of the others coming out of the UK.


As a show car its spot on really, always liked mk4 and mk5 fiestas.

Loved the originality of the build VS the common street car, but it's a bit too much for me, as this is spotless and not really drivable.


For those of you who don't consider this a hot hatch, it was definitely a hot hatch of its time, the zetec-s was a huge improvement of its base model counterparts and with a small amount of fettling, they make a pretty capable and fun track day car!

I was always under the impression that a hot rod back in the days of the model A and model T was about losing weight by chopping and channelling and getting more horsepower to race on dry lake beds and salt pans? Then later on the definition of hot rod changed when people would modify then 'old' cars to LOOK like a hot rod and that was what a hot rod became? a 'style'? Don't get me wrong there are still FAST hot rods!

Matthew Everingham

You made the right decision to share this. It isn't a typical Speedhunter ride, but that's a good thing right? Sure it sits outside of the usual scope, but the ideas, the quality of the build and the owner's ability to create HIS perfect car without trying to please the masses are all feature-worthy.
Nice one, boys!


This particular build cannot be called a Hot Rod. No way. Hot hatches overall can, yes, but not this one. The reason is that it lacks the basic safety features that would allow for spirited driving. I'd be afraid to get in a collision going faster that 25 mph.

That said, the artistic skill that went into this build is something that should be noted. However, this is a show car and not something to go out and drive spiritedly.


This is one of the best articles I have come across. Keep up the good work.


This is so awesome.

Miles Hayler-MacMillan

Impressive build, but surely it's no longer road legal? Lap belts? No wing mirrors? No indicator repeaters?


I would love to see a Evo built this way!