What is a “Rat Rod?” Over the past several years the term rat rod has become as common as any other hot rod. There are now websites and magazines dedicated strictly to the rat rod and all the intensely creative people who build and drive them.
Looking through some of the Internet auctions you will now find people posting everything from an early 80’s Lincoln LTD that has had a funky paint job and a set of 24″ wheels to the 70 year old rusted pile of metal sitting in the woods using the term “rat rod” to describe their car.
Are you one of those who have a rat rod and will drive it everywhere you possibly can? Are you amazed at the creativity and thought that goes into building one? Or maybe you just don’t like them at all and can’t understand what it is about these rust buckets that people are so crazy about. No matter where you fit, one thing is certain, rat rods are definitely raw, mean and bleed with attitude.
The guys (and gals) we have met who own these rides come from a different breed of rodders. Most are incredibly open and willing to tell you everything they can about their car. Many may not consider themselves as “grease monkeys,” however they do the majority, if not all of the work and fabrication themselves.
We have heard so many stories (and never get tired of hearing them) about how they have rescued these cars from a life covered with weeds and decay. The imagination these people possess for taking parts most would toss away as junk are sometimes out of this world. It’s as the old saying goes, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”
Rat Rod Ronnie And His Barn Find
This couldn’t be more true than with Ronnie Jones of Union Grove, Alabama. Ronnie has owned many different styles of hot rods and muscle cars, but one day he thought it would be cool to build a rough and nasty rat rod. So he began his search for a car he could transform into what he envisioned to be the perfect rat.
We don’t have any meetings and no dues. We are just a group of guys getting together to have a good time.
Even though the sedan had definitely seen much better days and was basically just the shell of a car, he knew this was the one he wanted to save and bring back to life. He called a bunch of his friends to help him load it on a trailer and the 33 sedan had a new home.
One of the first things he had to do was get a frame under the car and that was accomplished by using 2×3 steel tubing. When finished with the frame it had been Z’d 8-inches in the front and 23-inches in the rear. This would allow the body to sit real low to the ground. He then drilled 3″ holes in the front section of the frame, more for looks than anything else.
Something Old, Something New…
When it came to the suspension, Ronnie used more of his creativity to make it look just right. The front he stole from a 1941 Ford car, with the drums and leafs. The rear of the car is a little more updated by pulling a 9″ rear end out of a 1984 Ford Explorer. Ronnie then found some old tractor parts that he used to fabricate a triangulated 4-link, which he says, “worked real good.” He also bagged the rear in order to lay it down. He didn’t use an air tank, only an air compressor to raise and lower it. When all is said and done, the wheel base is a whopping 11 feet 6 inches center to center.
When it comes to the rest of the car there are no other words we can find to describe it except pure backyard ingenuity. Pushing the power to the rear is a fairly radical 1973 Chevy 350 which has a high rise intake, topped with an Edelbrock carb.
Ronnie took a hub cap from a 1950 Mercury and used it to top off the air cleaner. Taking a drive-shaft out of a Chevy S-10 and having it shortened and balanced was a perfect fit for the Chevy Turbo 350 transmission.
When Ronnie pulled this car out of the woods behind that barn it had a piece of sheet metal welded to the top. He cut out the old metal and replaced it with a sheet of cedar. If any of you have ever sat inside one of these old rats, you know there isn’t much room for much of anything.
So after chopping the top 4-inches, Ronnie added a luggage rack to the top so when he is either in the dog house or running to the next show, he has a place to strap his bags that won’t get in the way of the interior of the car.
When we were looking over this incredibly insane creation, we noticed how much detail Ronnie added. Every where you look on this car he was sure to pay attention to the little things both inside and out. That in our opinion makes this car a true rat rod. From the 1932 Ford radiator shell to the hand crafted spike, this car has enough attitude and flare without sacrificing the over-all look.
This Rat’s Got Some Creature Comforts
Ronnie also wanted to make sure this reborn 33 Plymouth was a driver, which is why he added a pair of good headlights from a ’34 Ford and for comfort he installed air conditioning via a kick out windshield. A sun visor from a 1931 Ford Model A pick-up keeps the glare off and adds a little more character. With a set of 17″ Coker wide whites wrapped around four Model B wheels, he will definitely keep this car rolling to the next show.
Like most hot rodders, Ronnie is a great guy to hang out with. In fact he is a part of a group that call themselves the Dirty Rascals Rat Rod Club. Ronnie tells us, “We don’t have any meetings and no dues. We are just a group of guys getting together to have a good time.” “That’s what it’s all about, Having a good time, riding down the highway, enjoying life. And that’s what we do.” Well said Ronnie.
Ronnie’s rat is one of the coolest hand built cars we have seen. He combined his passion and knowledge together to create a one of a kind rolling piece of art. We think Ronnie probably explained rat rodders the best when he said, “We aren’t outlaws, just a bunch of working class guys that enjoy building affordable hot rods and having a good time”.