I have read this entire post today because I asked that same question my whole life, well since I was 10 and was able to work on cars anyway. I found my answer and want to add to this philosophical discussion. Hotrodding is defined by the asker. Meaning changes from person to person. And I would like to add that a hotrodder is someone who is acceptant of those that do not accept him/her. A lot of people do not understand/like us because we think outside the box. But I would advise to be careful if you meet someone who is confrontational, someone else may be listening who is watching your attitude. And if you become someone's hero(knowingly or not), you need to be a good example. I don't believe this has happened to me, but I have seen it at meets and car shows where a 12 yr old is listening intently to two guys talking about this same subject. He gets that gleam in his eyes. What if that kid will never be able to use one of his arms properly, wouldn't be able to build it himself. You just crushed him, and you didn't have to. I believe that to be a hotrodder, you should be as much involved as you can, if you don't know then learn, if you can't do then at least understand. I also believe that we are a very passionate bunch,hence all the different answers, but most of all I agree it is more in the soul that it comes out.
When the only people that really get what drives you are hottrodders, then you are.