Rat rods are popping up all over the place in my region. I travel between 4 states quite frequently and I see these creations a lot. I was under the impression that a “rat rod” was just a vehicle that was completed enough to drive until it was finally finished. That’s the way my rat rods were back in the day even though I didn’t call them that back in the day. I always followed the same formula when I was restoring a vehicle way back when. I made sure the body and frame were rust free then rebuilt the engine if needed. I always left the transmission rebuild, if needed, to someone else because I’ve never been a transmission guy other than dropping the pan and replacing the filter and fluid. As soon as I got the engine fired up and tuned in…I started driving it while working on the interior and paint. Depending on my financial situation at the time…I might drive it that way for many, many months.
These new rat rods seem to be unfinished and the owners have no intention of never completing them. They all have the satin flat black paint and look unfinished until you take a closer look. I know of one guy in our town who has a 1949 “3” Chevy window pickup truck with satin flat black paint, a blown 350 engine with a narrowed rear end and tubbed out with wide rear tires and wheels. He has been driving this pickup around here for over 20 years. I spoke to him a couple of weeks ago right after he added the blower and rear end. He told me that his rod was now completed and it was in the condition that he wanted so he could give it to his son when he could no longer drive. The guy is about 50 years old so his son may be in for a long wait. My aunt still drives every day at age 85 (she looks 75) and has no intentions of ever giving up her independence.
I like these vehicles but they are far removed from the ones that I used to drive. I drove them because I needed to get back and forth to work while leaving our new vehicle at home for the wife. The cars and trucks I drove while working on them were fairly reliable but I would never trust them to drive across the country. I saw a rat rod in a local supermarket parking lot that was from Oregon. It didn’t look like it could make it across town much less across the country. The owner said that he had no problem driving that far because of the fact that the running gear came out of a 2010 model Camry which included air conditioning. The only air conditioning that I ever had in one of my restorations was when I rolled down the window. I complimented him on his ride which looked like a cross between a 1930’s car and a truck and he went on his way…smoothly and quietly. It was a rolling contradiction but the guy and his wife seemed satisfied that they owned it. I always enjoyed my creations even though they were instantly recognized for what they were.