Frequently Asked Questions


Where is Hot Rod Institute located?

It’s located in the beautiful Black Hills, Rapid City, South Dakota.

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How long has the HRI been around?

  Doug LaRue the founder has been building Hot Rods for over 45 years.  He has also been a professional instructor for 30+ years.  He has developed similar programs for two different schools and expanded those programs many times.  Hot Rod Institute opened its doors in 2008, but the instructional staff is very experienced and you can rest assured that if you want a high quality education in the hot rodding industry this is the school for you.

Would I have to take a collision or automotive course before attending Hot Rod Institute?

 NO. Hot Rod Institute  is about building hot rods and old car restoration.  If you have already taken some kind of repair industry training from another school it could help, but it is not required and it's not the same.  The classes are largely self-paced. It’s our goal to help you achieve a very highest level of competence and make you very employable in the specialty car industry.

How long is the complete course?

  It depends on you and your goals.  You can elect to take any number of the three month classes or all 6 classes, which would total 18 months.  Here are the programs and a brief description. 

HRC – Hot Rod Chassis – Chassis Building, General Fabrication, TIG and MIG Welding 

HRB – Hot Rod Body – Sheet Metal Fabrication, Weld on panels, Motorcycle Tanks 

HRBA- Hot Rod Body Advanced – Advance sheet metal shaping, Copped Tops, Power Tools HRR – Hot Rod Refinishing – Final Body Work, Priming and Top Coats, Custom Paint HRP – Hot Rod Performance – Engine, Transmissions, Trans-Axles, Wiring, Brakes
HRU – Hot Rod Upholstery – Custom Interiors, Seats, Carpets, Headliners, Door Panels 

Is Hot Rod Institute a part time school?

 NO. Part of our training is to prepare the student for the work place.  The student will go to school 7.5 hours a day five days a week. 8 am till 4:30 pm is our school hours.  Hot Rod Institute is very serious about the training we offer our students and we want our students to be very successful in the specialty vehicle industry.  

Do I need to know how to weld before I get there?

 NO. But if you did that means you could move on a little faster during the welding training.  If you’re weak in welding don’t be concerned, you will be an excellent welder by the time you graduate.  Welding is something we will have you practice and perform almost daily. 


Will I be held back because of slower students?

 NO. The majority of your training will be self paced.  Each student will work at their level of expertise.  If you require more time to achieve completion of a task or if you achieve the task quickly you move at your individual pace.  The more skill you have coming in, the quicker you move up the knowledge ladder.    

May I bring my own project?

 YES with approval. Students work on student owned projects, but it must be approved by the School Director. A student project are not required to attend, but it is an opportunity for students to build their own hot rods. There is always plenty of work in classes for students without projects to obtain a wide base for their education. All materials used in student projects are the responsibility of the project owners.

Are female students allowed to take the course?

 YES. Female students are encouraged to enroll.  We have experienced many very capable female students.  The hot rodding industry is an excellent opportunity for any student with some artistic and highly motivated desires to succeed.  The gender or race does not matter.

What is the appearance code?

We require the student to be well groomed.  If he has a beard it must trimmed and cannot be too long for safety reasons.  Hair must be kept well groomed.  Long hair must be tied back.  We maintain a professional atmosphere.


What is the student to instructor ratio?

 Max student to instructor ratio should not exceed 15 to 1 (most of the time much lower).  In order to give the student the best training possible, Hot Rod Institute maintains a very low instructor to student ratio.

How much does it cost?

 Our number one goal is to give a student a high quality education at a reasonable price.  We are not a corporate or government backed school.  Hot Rod Institute is just a small private school.  For about the cost of a good used truck or a cheap new car, you get one year of awesome car restoration training.  After graduation a student could be out in the work force making a good living doing what a true hot rodder loves.  Price varies between options, such as a $300 discount on tuition for taking a Diploma Program (4 or more classes). Contact the Director of Admissions for the actual cost. We don’t like to beat around the bush, we will tell you the cost, straight up. Give us a call today!  (605) 342-1195

Is there financial aid available through the school?

  YES. We are approved to offer student financial aid through Sallie Mae Financial Corporation. The loan is a Career Training Smart Option Student Loan.  Most training loan interest rates are based off of the credit rating of the applicant and/or cosigner. We do not recruit a large number of students.  We are a high quality, elite school; not a high quantity school.  

Does Hot Rod Institute accept any student that has the money to attend?

 NO. We interview interested students (in person or over the phone) to make sure we are right for the student and the student is right for us.  We don’t want to waste anyone’s money or our time. 

Does Hot Rod Institute offer on-campus housing for students?

 NO. But we will help you do the research and try to locate affordable housing and a possible roommate for the students that need help.  One of the reasons we decided to locate Hot Rod Institute in the Rapid City area is because of its affordable cost of living for the students of Hot Rod Institute.  Make sure in your financing that you take housing and living expenses into consideration. In our info package we have a full house list and some pointers for renting.

Is there part-time jobs available in the area?

 YES. This is one more of the reasons we chose this location is because there are good part time employment opportunities for students.  This will help offset some of the living expenses.


Does HRI have health or accident insurance for the students?

 NO. It is highly recommended that the students have health and accident insurance before attending Hot Rod Institute.  We are looking into finding a group provider for our students.

Does Hot Rod Institute assist with career opportunities?

  YES. As a part of the curriculum the students will be taught how to develop a portfolio and resume’.  Students will keep a daily log book of shop tasks preparing them for industry situations. Students will also discuss interview questions to help them prepare them for the job interview.   

We are in contact with many of the industry leaders to assure our curriculum is based on the actual tasks performed in professional shops from all over the country.  The school is increasing its data bank of contacts on a regular basis.  There are plenty of careers opportunities out there, and you have to have the determination to pursue your dream job.  HRI does not guarantee employment, but we guarantee to help the student in every step of the way. 

Final comments:

If you are considering Hot Rod Institute or any other school you should know exactly where you stand and have no surprises.  AT HRI our main objective is to make sure the student gets their monies worth out of their education.  Remember “If you love the type of work you do, is it really considered work?” 

Contact Doug LaRue, the President & Director of Admissions today to answer any questions you might have.