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Greased Lightning

I’m searching for an answer about classic car terminology.

This summer I am directing a production of Grease. The song “Greased Lightning” features a character bragging about a car that he is building. I’d like for the kids to know what they’re singing about, so I’m needing to know what some of the terms used in the song are. Could you tell me what some of these objects are or what they would do for a vehicle? Thanks for your help!

Overhead Lifters

Four Barrel Quads

Fuel Injection Cut Off

Chrome Plated Rods

Purple Pitched Tail Lights

Thirty Inch Fins

Palomina Dashboard

Duel-Muffler Twins

Well, most of the lyrics don’t really apply to a hot rod.

Overhead lifters. These do exist. It means that the lifters that push the valves open are in the head instead of in the engine block.

Four barrel quads. There are four barrel carburators. But this is also called a quad carburator. This would have mean that there are four, four barrel carburators mounted on the engine.

Fuel injection cut-off. If you have fuel injection on an engine, there’s no reason to have carburators.

Chrome plated rods. Nobody chrome plates rods.

Purple pitched tail lights. It’s against the law to have purple tail lights. The pitched part could refer to how they’re positioned.

Thirty inch fins. This would look like this only bigger.

Palomona dash board. Never heard of it.

Dual muffler twins. A car can have duel mufflers or twin mufflers. Same thing.

The lyrics are more for entertainment purposes for those who aren’t car savy.


Maybe the purple pitched tail lights could refer to Blue Dots. Some tail lamp lenses used on custom applications have a small round blue dot either made into the lens or that can be added. Some of these lamps can take on kind of a purplish tint; legal or not.

The Palomina Dashboard throws me; never heard of one unless they’re referring to a color (possibly Palomino with an “o”.)

Yep, it’s Palomino, therefore a pale cream - gold dashboard.

I wonder if the OP really knows the full lyrics to this song…for kids…

At least we know now the tail lamps are not “pitched”; they’re “frenched”. Illegal nonetheless.
It’s hard to think of 30" of big finned '59 Cadillac burning up the track no matter what’s been done to the engine since you’re talking about 3 tons of boat anchor.

I think a real car buff would be embarassed by both the song and the terminology; the latter of which is mostly wrong.
If “kids” are involved in this then why not clean up the wording and make it technologically correct? Both are very easy to do.
I can be about as crude an sxb as anybody and downright volatile at the right time and place; and that time and place does not include children of any age.

If this production is for “kids” then add a little class and dignity to the production by rewriting that lousy song or find another one; unless being in the gutter is the order of the day.

Most of these terms are exaggerations, or redundant, and do not reflect “real” car terminology.

“Four Barrel Quads,” for example. Four barrel carburetors are, or were, often referred to as “quads,” as in “dual quads,” meaning two four-barrel carburetors. Thus, the term “four barrel quads” is redundant.

“Overhead Lifters?” Yes, there are lifters (valve lifters), and they are overhead, meaning “above the cylinder head,” on most American cars, especially from the 60’s, but no one refers to them as “overhead lifters.” They are “lifters.” Period.

Why anyone would want to cut off fuel injection is beyond me.

Chrome plated rods? I doubt it.

Purple pitched tail lights refers to “blue dots,” I suppose. These are small blue “dots” you can install in a car’s tail, or brake, lights, to make them appear “p
urple” to the people behind your vehicle. Blue plus red equals purple.

Thirty inch fins can only mean one thing: A 1959 Cadillac.

Palomino dashboard? I give up.

Duel Muffler Twins? Once again, redundant. Duel mufflers refers to duel exhaust outlets, or “twins.” Two tailpipes.

I’m almost afraid to think about what your students will “learn” about cars from this. It’s completely bogus, and has almost nothing to do with real cars.

Totally agree on the class and dignity point, I didn’t actually know the words to the song until I Googled them.

And don’t forget that boat anchor has chrome rods, good for at least an additional 50 horses…

“Duel-Muffler Twins” Well, obviously, this must be a reference to twins who are dueling with mufflers, rather than with swords.


Now, if one wants to talk about DUAL mufflers instead, that simply means that the car has two exhaust pipes, and hence, two mufflers. Dual-muffler twins would seem redundant, as that sounds like two sets of dual exhausts/mufflers.

Or, I guess that it could mean dual exhausts, each with two mufflers–but that would hardly be a “hot-rod” set-up as a result of increased backpressure. Now, I guess if the fantasy car in question had four exhausts…

unless it refers to something like this:

I think the lyricist was also not really a car guy. He was rattling off stuff as he thinks he heard it for car guys. And, bungled it, but made it still sound good. “Overhead Lifters” most likely meant overhead valve, since a lot of cars of the period he’s singing about were flat heads. “Chrome plated rods” probably mean to describe chrome-[bold]MOLY[/bold] rods, a popular high-strength option.

I guess it’s the equivalent of any one of us writing the lyrics for ‘Shampoo’ the musical…I for one am proud of my lack of hair dressing knowledge, the only term I could think up would be overhead rollers.

BustedKnuckles is right about the song’s writer not being a car guy. Also understand that the character singing the song may be wanting to SOUND like a car guy without actually being one. I have no idea of the context of the song. For the most part, I think you have to call it poetic license. S/he wrote what sounded good or rhymed properly.

Twins dueling with mufflers is absurd. Do you s’pose it might be duAl muffler twins? Still convoluted, but a bit less absurd.

Is this a Wichita production singinshocker? You could always substitute “I’m as corny as Kansas in August”. Oh no, wrong play.

(purple pitched tail lights)…well…people used to insert (purple dots) in the tail lights.they are probably still around.i sold them in my business a few years ago.i think you can still buy them. anyway they are round purple inserts maybe 3/4 of an inch. you cot a round hole in the tail light and insert the purple dots in the hole. like the other guy says. they are against the law. some places might let you get by with them and then other place wont. so anyway, they give the tail lights a purple look. right now the cobra eyes, washer spray nozzles are popular. they come in different colors. they are against the law to use blue or red. most places will let you by if you use white , green, or purple though.

chrome plated rods. there is all kinds of rods on cars.they could be talking about the tie rods on the suspension maybe. the center link,inner and outer tie rod ends.that would make since, but not the push rods inside the engine.they do make internal engine parts out of a metal called chrome molly.that could be what they are referring to.

For Pete’s sake! It’s just a FUN song! Who says a song has to be a technically correct tutorial?! Next, I suppose somebody will say that you have to catch lightning to lard it up and call it “greased lightning”!

Ok, keep it technically incorrect. Odds are that only a few in attendance will catch the discrepancies, but at least clean the language up since “kids” are involved.

“If this production is for “kids” then add a little class and dignity to the production by rewriting that lousy song or find another one; unless being in the gutter is the order of the day.”

Aw, c’mon! This is a Broadway show, not a car show! Allow a little poetic license to make the lyrics rhyme. That’s the important thing in Grease.

The kids aren’t the problem. In the US most kids over about 6 talk worse than that – when their moms aren’t around. It will be the moms who raise Cain over the lyrics in front of their sweet, innocent, little kids. The result is the same. And, some women are themselves offended by expressions like p***y wagon. (Note that I even had doubts about posting the actual word here.) Yeah, better read those lyrics carefully with your thinking cap firmly in place.

With summer coming, hot rod shows are popping up everywhere. Perhaps you could arrange a field trip to one? That would give them a feel for the subject.

Samuel French Publishing Company, who owns the rights to the Grease Lyrics, has it listed as Palomina. Odds are because of the “goomba” dialect being used by the character in the song. Thanks.