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What got you into rat rods?

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  • What got you into rat rods?

    The board seems a bit slow. Lets start a conversation about what it was that got you into rat rods in the first place.

    I'll start.
    I grew an addiction to fast cars when I was young, probably around 10. Back then is was the old coupes racing at our local dirt track. Then it was hanging around guys that had fast cars. Money was always tight, I figured out that if I wanted to have a fast car for myself, I was going to have to learn to make it fast myself, and I was going to have to do some serious scrounging to get it done.

    The 1st car I drove was a 64 Oldsmobile 4 door. The car was dad's and he was going to trade it in on a new used car, but the dealership was going to charge him $50 more to trade it in, so he kept it. No 16 year old kid wanted to have to drive a 4 door car, but that Olds had a big motor, and it was FAST! Some of my buddies had cool cars, but the Olds was faster then any of their cars were. I had a lot of fun until I broke the transmission. Dad picked up a use trans someplace, but I had to change it. It was still fast after the trans change.

    Fast forward to moving out of the parents house and into my new wife & my apartment. That apartment happened to have a garage, and I discovered I could buy cars, sell off parts and make money, and junk the remains and make more money. Since my full time job paid the bills, the money from selling parts could go into a hot rod. It didn't take long before I discovered that making those hot rods pretty cost a lot of money that could make them go faster. Screw the pretty, lets go fast. Rat rods, before they ever existed. Because cars were worth a lot more in parts then they were complete, I found myself buying cars that had lots of good parts to sell. Those same cars were also pretty easy to make fast. In my 20s & 30s, there were a lot of different fast cars, but most were from the performance era of the late 60s and early 70s.

    About that time I fell in love with cars from the 1930s & 1940s. Those cars required a lot more work to make them fast, and to make them stop fast enough to keep you out of trouble. The time it took to build them was years, rather then a few weeks it took to build the performance era cars. It was worth more effort to make then al least presentable, because they would last longer, and bring more money when sold. The 30s & 40s car were worth more running and driving, and being presentable added to the value.
    After that 1st 35 Dodge sedan, I discovered how to build them faster, and for less out of pocket money. The 2nd one was a truck, and I built it while I was driving the 35. When the truck was road worthy, I sold the 35. The money from the sale of the 35 funded the build of the next project, which took place while driving the truck. The cycle is still going.

    The way I build my stuff doesn't really fit into many "normal" vehicle classifications. I sure was happy when the rat rod style caught on. The shock rods don't do much for me (if that is your thing, carry on), but I sure do like the variety of different build perspectives the rat rod segment of hot rods has opened up. Gene

  • #2
    I think rat rods sought me out. LOL. My first hot rod stated in 1980 when I was 22 years old. Back then it was simply a hot rod. ’30 body channeled on a 2x3 t-bucket frame, ¾” plywood floor, gas tank removed and firewall moved back for engine clearance, ¾” firewall, built on the cheap. I like good “thought out” rats more than any kind of hot rod now. Glad they caught on. It sure pulled me in.

    Rat rods: Creative. Unique. Cool. “Against the grain”.
    https://www.killbillet.com/forum/30s...the-30-chevyMy 1930 Chevy truck build link:

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    • #3
      Growing up poor (or, not flush with cash, anyway), pretty much all of my cars would have been considered 'rat rods' by today's standards...we made-due with what we had at the time, and we had fun doing it. That was sort of a natural progression for me to continue building rat rods with my sons, and why I still do it today (in a limited capacity).

      Flash-forward to today, where I'm much older, have a wife and grown kids, and are close to retirement with more expendable income than I ever had before, I still do it for fun... it's just getting harder to lay under a car and wrench all day on a rod, and expect to be able to walk upright for a few days afterwards, lol.

      Given all of that, I still really enjoy it... especially now that I don't have to rely on the old car to get me back and forth to work or haul the family on a daily basis (I have a Kia SUV for that, lol). Now it's just for fun and attending car shows....no pressure.

      Like everyone here, if I had kept every classic car that I have ever owned, I would have retired early...even though most of them were junk, lol.

      I've been on the forums since 2007, and although I haven't been as active in the last several years (real-life stuff taking precedent of my time), I made several good friends here...and I'm not even sure if they're still active now....and I wouldn't trade that experience for the world.

      Rob
      '62 Ford Falcon 2-door ratwagon
      '75 Dodge Monaco Bluesmobile w/440
      '43 Ford GPW
      Lookin' for:1966-1968 Cadillac

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      • #4
        I have an interesting, or unconventional story......

        I am a car guy, born and raised. My grandfather was a tech at the Pontiac Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan his whole career. He always had cool cars, and ever since I was little he let me help work on them.

        I'm younger, so most of my personal cars and projects up until 2001 or so have been tuner cars. Small cars, and big turbos. But about 20 years ago I started working on classic cars and enjoyed it. But through the process of working on cars, I got into photography. I shot photos of all types of cars, and got quite good at it. I shot photos for several automotive magazines, and helped create Ratrod Magazine.

        Ratrod magazine really exposed me to rat rods. I really enjoy shooting them and talking with the owners about how they are built. Every one of them is different.

        So now here I am, building my own car. And I am combining my rat rod exposure and tuner car knowledge. I am building a 1930 Chevy Coupe and powering it with a 2/3L turbo engine from a Saab. Using a 6 speed manual transmission from a BMW.

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        • #5
          Ive always loved old cars, since I was little. But growing up lower middle class meant there was no way I could afford to do what the street rod or hot rod guys were doing. Seeing how rat rods are made, and how cool they really are meant that this is something that is accessable to low budget guys. If you can put the labor in, with a little skill, find budget parts here and there that were never really meant to go together and make it all work, with patina paint and honest rust. And with that get more attention at a show than a cookie cutter street rod. I know there are big budget rats too, but I think they are a minority.

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          • #6
            Everyone has a story to tell and a journey they followed. Mine is the same but.... different. I live in Windsor, ON which is an automotive town so its hard not to be influenced by "The Car" . My aunt was a secretary at the Chrysler Canada HQ in Windsor or as we call it in Windsor.....Chryslers. Every Christmas as kids my Aunt would get us model cars...a Plymouth Duster or a Super Bee or something like that and we went wild with delight. That's how it starts. Fast forward a few years and I went to university in suburban Detroit. Engineering degree and worked for the most part for the Big 4 then 3 then 2.5 and many auto suppliers. Always wanted to build a car. And I did in 2005-6. A Lotus Super Seven kit car (...its okay...you are allowed to hurl) but that is what I was in to. Then the Big Nap came and I was out of work and that car was sold without ever really enjoying it. My house as well. Many life events, some out of town job survival moves and bad decisions and living in lousy places that could never host a car build. But a few years back things stabilized. I looked at the 7 thing and just could not do it....something had changed. I knew about Rat Rods. The more I looked into it the more I could see the creativity and freedom and the lack of bull**** and constraints that appealed to me. The fact is that not everyone likes Rat Rods...but then I don't like everyone either. Right now I have my TIG welder going and like to make parts....arms, headers and components. Not sure I could ever want to build a car again after the kit car BS....and extreme cost but would love to help out others.
            Last edited by allenparkpete; 01-06-2022, 05:28 PM.

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            • #7
              I'm loving these stories! Keep them coming.

              We all got involved somehow, at some level. Not everyone is a builder, and that is OK. If no one wanted to look at them, or talk with us about them, they probably wouldn't be as much fun.

              What got you into rat rods?

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              • #8
                Originally posted by allenparkpete View Post
                ..............Not sure I could ever want to build a car again after the kit car BS....and extreme cost but would love to help out others.
                Don't give up on it if you see something that catches your attention. Remember- you do need a "parts truck" to pick up materials for stuff you're building. (Trying to give you a usable excuse!)
                https://www.killbillet.com/forum/30s...the-30-chevyMy 1930 Chevy truck build link:

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                • #9
                  Old Stuff....my mind changes everyday. One thing I have paid attention to is cost. Doing 'the sums' a RR is far cheaper than even a full motorcycle build. Did some mental and write down math and do realize up front some cash has to be spent. Tires and rims. Tire bolt pattern is key as well as overall tire diameter Then the axle diff. Does it work with your tire rim bolt pattern? From that an engine and transmission. After that some basic planning and design can begin. This can go anywhere from 1 to 4K. Just my calculations.

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                  • #10
                    It is true building rat rods isn't a cheap hobby, but then neither is any other hobby cheap. The way prices have gone up the last year doesn't help. Then, as we get older, our expectations seem to grow and our acceptances of shortcuts that may have been acceptable when we were younger has seemed to disappear. This also drives up the costs.

                    The thing about building a rat is that the perimeters are very loose, one doesn't have to start from scratch to have a little fun. I know a few guys that step up to the plate to see just how cheap they can put a rat together. Doing that may take some time, but when the challenge of scrounging the parts that work together as cheap as possible is the goal, time isn't as important, the pursuit of the deal is the top priority. I really enjoyed that when I was a younger man, but these days, the old man that has snuck in is a lot more picky then that young guy was.

                    My son is pursuing the deals these days. I don't mind at all tagging along, and helping him out with his projects some. Its a lot cheaper to help him spend his money! In fact I'm going with him to look at a new project car for himself tomorrow. He has a bigger budget then I have, so his toys are more expensive. So I get the part about helping others too. Gene

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                    • #11
                      Its a lot cheaper to help him spend his money!......I like that

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                      • #12
                        My son bought that new project he wanted me to ride along and look at with him. He handed me $5,000 in $100 bills to count out, to be sure he had counted correctly. It was kind of fun holding all that money and knowing it didn't come out of my pocket.

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