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  1. #1

    Default Complete newbie.. where to start.. how to finish?

    To introduce myself first, I've never even seen a rat rod in person, let alone attempted any sort of build.. I ride bikes and modify them to bobbers/choppers with just basic knowledge. I'm starting a business and would love to utilize a rat rod. I'm hoping to get a lot of answers from all of you.

    1. Is it cheaper to build one or buy one?

    2. If you're building, what are some great places to get the goods? I'm wanting a slammed model A with something like a small block, but am super flexible.

    3. Could I pull something like a 16 foot enclosed trailer with one?

    4. Is there a step by step guide somewhere for a new builder? (I do have friends with a lot of mechanical and welding experience).

    Thanks a lot, in advance.

  2. #2


    First advice: Get to some shows, and check out some rats. They come in all forms, and suit many purposes. Until you actually see and touch a bunch of them, you will have no idea what you really like.

    1) If you have never built a car before, its a ton of work, and many hours of labor. With limited skills, even with a lot of help from your friends, you will probably be much farther ahead to buy something that runs, drives well, is titled, and you can legally get plates for in your state, and in your name, and will do what you want it to do, which brings us back to the first advice.

    2) You have to know what goods your looking for, before we can direct you to where you might find them.

    3) You can buy or build a rat to tow a 16' enclosed trailer, and it can do so quite well. That Slammed model A probably won't do so well pulling a loaded 16' enclosed trailer, but there are several rat trucks that that loaded 16' trailer wouldn't faze.

    4) Sure, lots of step by step guides posted right here! They are known here as "Build Threads". I suggest you read several. Gene

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    South Florida


    I would have to agree with Gene on all points made. You can see how much work it is by looking at my thread under 50's rat rod cars. This is my first build and have been working on cars for a while. I started back in the Mini-trucking days with a S-10. But these older cars have a lot more parts and those are hard to find. Thing get more difficult when you want a specific item for your build, for me it was my six pack log intake. I found it in the virgin Islands of all places and took 18mo to find, but I got what I feel the car needed. You can build a "rat rod" cheap or expensive that is up to you. I have friends that build one for 1500.00 and an other that spent 50 grand. it just up to you. What I like the best about building a car is that its your car. Build it to your style and not what others like or say. unless you what to sell it right a way. Like my Caddy is mine and most don't like my style but hey wtf ever. Its my style and I love the way every part is coming out and if I find some parts that I don't like on the caddy I just rebuild it to what I like. Just have fun with it since you like bikes you can all ways add bike parts to you car their are no rules. I got a guy that used two Fat boy head lights on his 37 chevy truck and some bike mirrors as well.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    New Jersey


    Oranges and tomatoes.

    I agree with the points that Gene made. You should really get to some shows and look at some rats before blindly going into this. See what you like and talk to the builders. Building a car or a truck from the ground up is a momentous task. It is probably cheaper to buy something that runs and drives already than build something from ground up. Pulling a 16' enclosed trailer with a model A that is on the ground would be a little interesting considering that the car very possibly might be 3/4 as long and less than half of the height.

    Get some ideas of what direction you want to go before just going in a direction.

  5. #5


    Building means engineering, which for many of us is trial and error. I've been a mechanic/welder my whole life and I wouldn't attempt another ground up build, one was enough. I spent most of a week just getting my pedals right, probably tore them out and started over at least 3-4 times. Getting the steering right was even more tedious. And then there's the look. It's obvious a lot of guys don't pay as much attention to that as I did but I even tore the whole back off the frame and re-did it to lengthen the wheelbase a couple inches because it just didn't quite have the right balance.

  6. #6


    I had an old guy tell me many years ago that a guy has to build at least 3 hot rods before he gets what he really wants. According to him, you build the 1st one the way you think it will be perfect. Then you drive it a couple of years, and you will know some things that need to be changed.
    You build the 2nd car as close to perfect as you can, but you incorporated the needed changes, and made compromises for those needed changes to take place. Then you drive it for a couple of years. and you will know what needs to be changed.
    You build the 3rd car by making the changes that need to be made, then you build the rest of the car around those changes, then you drive the car a few years. Then, you either make the changes that need to be made, or you build another car!

    I've discovered the old guy was dead on, and now I'm passing his wisdom on to you!

    Perfection is hard to achieve, and its a never ending goal. Your choices are to build perfection that may never get out of the garage, or you build something close and drive the wheels off of it.

    I've built a lot of cars since that first one back in my late 20s (I'm 60 now). A perfect build is something that fits perfectly in that time of your life. As you grow older, the vision of perfection changes. I believe a guy should build a car to the best of his abilities, and drive it. When the vision changes, build something else! Another thing I've discovered through the years is if you think you need to make a major change to your build, mid way through, DON'T change it! Finish it as originally intended. Changing mid way through a build is super expensive, and creates a huge time delay. Its better to finish (or at least get drivable remember,at least 3 cars?) and drive it as you start the next build. Gene
    Last edited by Gene; 02-05-2017 at 07:47 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    south of detroit


    Check out a lot of build threads.Keep safety in mind.And build it strong.Add extra gussets and fish plates.You don't want things to start coming apart while you are doing 70mph.While not really a rat rod my old race truck probly would have qualified as one.Ford Ranger cab on a ladder type frame with a jeep drive line.She wasn't pretty but she was runner.

  8. #8


    To answer your questions, it's almost always cheaper to buy a car than build one, if you can find what you want.
    You find the stuff where it's at. I'm lucky to live where there is a lot of solid tin but A sedans are a little hard to find here. I suppose it all depends on where you live and how far you are willing to travel. Swap meets can be a great source.
    To pull a 16 foot enclosed and load, just figure the equivalent chassis to a pickup truck. and a pretty good wheelbase, 115 inches minimum I'd say.
    As far as a guide, I guess just read a lot of build threads, there isn't a definitive "how to build a ratrod" book that I know of. I did find Bishop and Terdel's book on the AV8 somewhat helpful.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Westlock Alberta


    I am building mine to work if I want it to as I live on a farm. Cummins diesel 12 valve. Standard Trans. Dually Dana 80 rear axle airbags 4 corner 4 link suspension. I used a hitch receiver as my rear crossmember. Overbuilt everything I could. And have provisions for auxiliary hydraulics so I can have a mini dump box or run a log splitter if I feel the need.



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