Since Onsager’s seminal work, hard rods have been taken as a prototype of nematic liquid crystals, characterized by uniaxial order and a uniform director field as a ground state. Here, using Onsager theory to calculate the free energy in the presence of arbitrary deformations, we find that hard rod nematics have an intrinsic tendency to twist around their ordering axis (double twist), driven by a mechanism in which the orientational fluctuations of particles play a key role. The anisotropic hard core potential used here is arguably the simplest form of interaction able to originate spontaneous breaking of mirror symmetry in a 3D fluid. Our results are discussed in relation to the recent discovery of a double twisted ground state in cylindrically confined lyotropic chromonic liquid crystals.