By Evan Perkins
Restoring classic cars is an incredibly time consuming hobby.
It often involves tedious hours of scouring catalogues and vague
online databases in search of hard to find and often, quite
expensive restoration parts.
While the finished product is almost always worth all of the
exhausting hours of labor devoted to the project, finding that
exact replacement part is usually flat-out frustrating.
Too many times I’ve been in a situation where a part is simply
unavailable, too expensive or so poorly manufactured it’s almost
unusable. This persistent issue quickly sucks the enjoyment out of
restoring a car.
Most gear heads have run into this common dilemma, and at some
point, one of the smarter ones stopped and said, “To hell with the
rules, I will build my own machine out of whatever I can find.”
Hence, the rat rod was born.
Well maybe that’s not exactly how it happened, but it’s a likely
As someone who has always built cars that fall into rigid
guidelines of what “needs” to be done and how, the concept of a rat
rod seems quite alluring.
Maybe my definition of rat rod is still a little on the vague
side. Lets clarify. A rat rod is a home built automobile made out
of virtually anything.
Vintage iron undeniably has that “cool factor” newer parts do
not, but when it’s to hard to find or simply to expensive,
something else will always do.
Scratch-built frames are the norm, and most rat rods don’t have
more than two seats. Engines are usually pulled from whatever is
easy to find, and the only thing rat rods seem to have in common is
sound: They are all loud.
Rat rods are about originality and personal expression, much
more so than any car built on an assembly line. Occasionally,
speed and performance trickle into the mix and something truly
amazing is born.
Imagine no right or wrong way to build a car ” total creativity
” a canvas with no limitations and all the paint in the world at
Another selling point that has popularized rat rods of late is
their price. Rat rods are cheap to build. In economic times like
these where nonessential hobbies often fall by the wayside, rat
rods are a thrifty way for enthusiasts to continue doing what they
Despised by one half of the automotive spectrum and openly
embraced by the other, rat rods have never become a truly
mainstream automotive genre. However, in recent years, vintage
parts have become increasingly difficult to come by and rat rods
have greatly increased in popularity.
Something else that makes rat rods stand out is that these cars
have always been meant to be driven. Unlike million-dollar trailer
queens that leave the safety of the garage only for car shows
before returning to solitary confinement, rat rods are meant for
the thrill of the open road.
Some may see rat rods as the red-headed-step children of the
hot-rodding world, but I see them as a form of unbridled freedom.
Evan Perkins / The Poly Post
Gradual death of the sports car
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