The term rolling chassis is used to describe a vehicle with no engine, transmission and typically no rear end gears. The vehicle does, however, have tires and wheels and can be rolled and trailered with no difficulties. The rolling chassis can include a body and interior, or it can consist of a bare chassis or any stage in between. In motorcycles, a rolling chassis can include a bare frame with tires and wheels or it could also include a gas tank, oil tank and other small bolt-on parts. Commonly used when selling or buying race cars and hot rods, the term designates a project that will require a drive line.
The advantage in purchasing a rolling chassis for many consumers is the freedom to install the engine and drive line of their choice into a vehicle. The average hot rodder is able to assemble an engine and transmission in his garage using ordinary hand tools. This allows the builder to create an engine that serves his every need for performance and also serves to be visually appealing to him as well. The restoration of a rusty body and the subsequent painting of the vehicle, however, is above many home mechanics' abilities. Purchasing a rolling chassis saves time and money in many cases by allowing the consumer to purchase a vehicle that has had the body work and painting already completed.
In some circumstances, the consumer will purchase a rolling chassis without a body. This plain chassis will be used to mount a replica fiberglass body of a very rare vehicle that would otherwise be out of the builder's budget. Commonly called kit cars, these body and interior kits are mounted on a finished rolling chassis and the builder then installs an engine and drive line to complete the build. Most of these kits are installed on purpose-built chassis, however, some of the kits mandate a specific year and model of production of vehicle chassis be used to complete the build.
In racing vehicles, a rolling chassis is commonly purchased from a renowned chassis builder and finished in the consumer's garage. Most racing classes are filled with vehicles constructed by a small handful of chassis builders. These builders have designed and built a winning chassis and offered it for sale to race teams that wish to be top contenders. The competition chassis can be bought as a plain chassis or as a rolling chassis in order to best fit a customer's budget.