The Dirty 30: A Fourteen Year Old Decides He Wants To Build A Rat

Many times we have heard statements such as, “These young kids just don’t get it,” or “This hobby is dying because kids are into those Japanese things.” As much as that may seem to be true, if you look around, you may find a few young guys who will carry this very cool hobby of hot rodding into the future if we show them the ropes.

This was definitely the case when we heard the sound of a radicalized small block Chevy with a hard hitting cam rumbling toward us at a recent car show. Here was this crazy ’30 Model A Ford that had been chopped, channeled and customized about as much as it could be done.

We were thinking there must be some old school rockabilly rebel who was driving it, however, to our surprise, out stepped a seventeen-year-old Austin Woods. Then we thought, surely Austin must have bought this car from someone else who had built it, maybe added a few details and started driving it. We couldn’t have been more wrong!

Austin, as we came to find out, has hot rodding twisted into his DNA. His dad, Brian, owns Woods Auto Body in Olney, IL where he watched his father build custom street machines and hot rods since he was very young.

“Grandpa Ron,” Brian’s father, is the person responsible for embedding this passion and has been an inspiration to both Austin and his father. Grandpa Ron is a long-time street rodder from years ago and has been one of the best custom fabricators for years.

Even though he had a team of experts with him, Austin wanted to do most of the work himself. After all it was his car.

Six inches off the top transformed this car to a mean looking street machine.

So It Begins

This is where this “Young Rat” begins his first car build. Austin was fourteen-years-old and about to get his driver’s permit. He had seen dad build many cool high dollar street rods, but that just was not his style. He wanted to build something that would go totally against the grain of dad’s rod shop.

Together this team was going to help Austin create a one of a kind custom rat.

Grandpa Ron had a ’30 Model A 2-door sedan that he thought had been a street rod back in the ’60s. Austin decided this would be a cool car to turn into something he envisioned. After some discussion, Grandpa Ron agreed to let Austin have the car for “a good price.”

Austin already had a clear idea of what he wanted to do with this old jalopy, however, being his first car build, he recruited the help of his dad and friends John Fulk, Tom Bauman, Tim “Tool Man” Allen and “Wab.” Together this team was going to help Austin create a one of a kind custom rat.

A whole lot of creativity, years of knowledge and sweat went into turning this tired street rod into a gnarly rat rod.

Getting Started

The team started by taking the body off the frame and began cutting and chopping it. They ended up taking six inches off all the way around. The body was then channeled over the frame eight inches to give it an aggressive low stance.

Grandpa Ron agreed to let Austin have the car for “a good price.”

While chopping, Austin decided to leave the original “chicken wire” and wooden bows in the top for a more rustic look. “Miss Nikki,” Austin’s mom, cut a piece of canvas and sewed it around the edges for the removable snap-on top so her son could run around topless in the summer.

He salvaged all the original glass around the car. The side windows are even functional and the vented front glass opens with no problems. Dad took two ’30 Model A dashboards, turned one upside down and welded them together. This, with a piece of custom cut sheetmetal, gave an incredible look for the gauges to be housed.

Turning this car into a two-seater gave them the ability to install the fuel cell behind the seats. Keeping to the theme, Austin bought a pair of custom-made bomber seats from Skinny Bitch out of Durham, CT. He then added a custom steering wheel and a tall shifter with a skull shifter knob to complete the interior.

Custom dash, skulls and chicken wire are just some of the necessities for radically chopped Model A.

Rat rods are about putting your style in to the machine, of course a little rust and patina doesn't hurt either.

Bare Bones Basics

With dad’s help, they went to work on the chassis. Some of the original chassis was kept, but it was lengthened, boxed, Z’d on both ends with holes were drilled in the front. A ’29 Model A axle was matched up with ’56 F100 Ford drum brakes in the front with a ’69 Ford 9-inch in the rear.

Austin didn’t want a small quiet motor to push his car down the road. That just wouldn’t be right. He found an early 70’s Chevy 350ci motor and decided to build it as radical as dad would allow.

This car has been a huge hit. Everyone flocks around the car.

After tearing it apart, he took it to Geoff Barnett of Right Foot Engine Shop in Parkersburg, IL to help with the engine build. All of the expert machining was done by Larry Eckle Machine Shop in their home town for the mill work.

To keep everything timed smoothly, Austin added a Pete Jackson geardrive to a very radical 292 Comp Cam. This hungry beast needed a fuel delivery system to feed it. A tunnel ram loaded with two custom built 4-barrel 450cfm carburetors by the famous Willy’s Carburetor & Dyno Shop in Mt. Carmel, IL. feeds the mill nicely.

All that horsepower is channeled through a rebuilt TH400 transmission complete with shift kit and a 3,500-stall converter. The ends of the axles are capped with original 1930’s American Racing Torque Thruster wheels wrapped with Firestone Bias Ply wide whites.

This small block Chevy 350ci whips out a bone jarring 475 horsepower!

Two 4 barrel carbs built by Willy's Carburetor & Dyno Shop feeds this beast.

Before the body was bolted back to the chassis, Austin painted the car in a nostalgic race car style adding the “Dirty 30” to the doors. With some custom old school pin-striping from Mike Ralston out of Terra Haute, IN. this car is cool, classy, and radical.

Altogether, the total build time for this car was only 30 days. It may not be the rod Grandpa Ron or dad would have built, but the whole family is proud of this “Young Rat” of theirs and all are excited about keeping this family tradition alive.

The car gets looks where ever it goes. Brian, Austin’s dad told us, “This car has been a huge hit. Everyone flocks around the car. It’s a ‘ton of fun’ car.”

It's great to hear stories about young people getting excited and keeping the passion alive for hot rodding!

At seventeen years old, Austin has to be the coolest kid cackling up to his school in this Dirty 30 Model A rat rod.

The car is very well known in their hometown of Olney, IL. When Dad drives his son’s car he cruises, waves and smiles. When Austin gets behind the wheel he tends to get pulled over immediately. Not because he is ripping up the rubber, but because “the kid” is driving; and what kid wouldn’t want to drive a 475hp monster to school every day?

Austin has taken his gussied-up patina rat to many car shows, to include the Goodguys Nostalgia Drags in Bowling Green, KY back in 2009. He was given an award in the “25 And Under” category for Best Rat Rod. He was also given recognition as the “Spotlight Car” at the Whites Grove Car Show.

We think Austin said it best when he told us, “Dad does the shiny stuff’, but this is my style.” Even though this may not be every one’s style, one thing we can say for sure is everyone should be proud that this 17-year-old is doing his part to carry the tradition of custom hot rodding into the future.

Working hard and fast, the team had this car done in just 30 days.

About the author

Robert Mills

Growing up with his parents owning a photography studio, it was only natural for Robert Mills to pick up a camera and begin capturing the world around him and after spending time watching his uncle run his front-engine dragster down the quarter Robert started getting the hot rod fever. He is a self proclaimed "Traditional Rockabilly Rebel" and enjoys combining his two passions in life to help share not only the cool kustoms he comes across, but also the people who bring the kulture to life.
Read My Articles

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