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Car ownership is a personal thing and a matter of individual taste. Sometimes peoples choices makes you wonder and sometime ago I had to solve a mystery of the more ingenious kind.

I came across the word FRENCHING in a car magazine, and not illogically I put it in the context of something French. I was later on the phone with a good friend who always seem to know something about something. Did she know anything about frenching and cars? Yes, yes. The friend suggested something with the Pin-Up Girls and French cars. I myself, on the other hand, came across something with tongue kiss, the French Kiss. Again, I must emphasize that it is NOT Friday, and I know that the vast majority of you – platoons – right now are wondering about something else entirely. Just stop the association row immediately – the erotic lesson is over.

This was Frenching a car for me until I got wiser.

Frenching, on the other hand, is a very regular discipline within the Hot Rod and Custom movement in America. And it’s about making the body look as “clean” and smooth as possible. Most often it is lights, antennas and the like that are rebuilt to give a more “clean” look. One can find explanations that it should provide a slight improvement in aerodynamics, but I stick to the idea that it is a cosmetic case.

Frenching a headlight or taillight is often done in one of the following two ways: Either by removing the headlight ring, mounting the headlight deeper into the car’s body and using headlight rings from another car or a pre-made kit as the finish. Or it can be done by changing the fittings so that it can be removed from behind. Both require welding the body ring to the bodywork, and when any chrome plating is removed, it must be all painted in the body color. This gives a visual effect that extends the car, as well as a “cleaner” and simpler appearance.

From when I was at an international chef’s school many years ago, I remember the English-speaking students using the concept of “to french a bone”, about what one does in French cuisine with pieces of meat with bone. Namely, to cleanse the leg stump on a cuticle shaft or the numerous ribs on a lamb crown for meat and tendons. Then you get a clean piece of meat, which goes out decorative on the plate after frying. This sounded like a connection to why it is called frenching a car in the US.

It is usually the headlights and especially headlights that undergo transformation when performing frenching. Quite simply, it’s all about making the parabolic glass visible, the rest having to be colored in the body color.

Here is a standard headlight on a Chevy vintage 1947 – 54. Beautiful and with curves that fit the body. However, the Hot Rod people will probably go for a Frenching of the lamp.

If you are in the business of Frenching, there is a wealth of options in spare parts for Hot Rod building. Here is a lantern kit for Frenching the aforementioned Chevy.

Frenching is hard diet. It requires thorough intervention in the original form of the car.

The lamp kit and hole, which should now fit nicely, are then welded together with a fine weld seam. Then finish with lead fill or putty, and later it will be painted into the body color. Photo: Hagan Street Rod Necessities.

The headlights are clearly the most common to perform frenching on, but taillights, antennas and license plates sometimes have to work during the French treatment.

Here is a Frenching of the headlights on a 1951 Ford. Photo: Street Rodder

Personal taste or destruction?

It later emerged that there was no connection between the Hot Rod culture and French cuisine in connection with the above lamp modifications and the scrapping of leg bumps. By contrast, the word frenching refers back to a French cuff. The cuff is the term for the outer part of the shirt where the sleeve buttonhole and button are located. On a finer shirt, there is usually a double cuff (also called French cuff) folded back so that the inside becomes visible. In English, the cuff is called French cuff, and it is the look of the turnbuckle that has inspired the Hot Rods and Custom builders – and therefore the name.

One Response

  1. yrhmblhst

    Interesting…learn something new every day. Ive known what ‘Frenched/Frenching’ was since I could walk, but never knew the origin of the term. Cuffs on a shirt? Really? Interesting…


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