Hot Rod used to mean the tonearm is attached directly to the plinth without an armboard. I owned one. I don't know if the design has been changed and it means something else now.
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The VPI web site has a copy of a review of the TNT Mark V Hot Rod by Roy Gregory in the magazine HiFi+:
The article describes the Hot Rod upgrade as involving a new bearing assembly that is quieter, an air pod suspension that provides better isolation, the elimination of the three pulley drive system to further reduce noise, and replacing the armboard with a hole in the plinth -- losing arm selection flexibility but gaining rigidity and design simplicity.
I trust the article's information is accurate, in part since the article is accessed via the VPI web site. Of course, one implication for potential second owners would be to make sure that the tonearm hole is in the right place for the arm they intend to use. Good luck.
My understanding is the "Hot Rod" designation refers to the tonearm being mounted directly to the plinth rather than using an arm board. This should result in better sound since the arm is more firmly attached to the plinth. The downside is you can't mount another arm unless you want your plinth to look like swiss cheese!