Rats, We’ve Got Rats!

rat-rod

We’ve Got Rats And They’re Recession Proof

Recession, recession, recession! Like a freakin’ broken record – and a bad one at that – it’s all your used to hearing about in the news these last few years. Since the economic down turn in 2008 we’ve all had to tighten our belts, trim the fat and make sure we look after the things that really matter in our lives. For those of us who have families to care for, all to often it is the hobby that is the first to be surrendered, especially if the past time is one of great expense. 

RatAlmost no one and nothing has escaped and the Hot Rod market is no exception, with some forecasters even measuring economic health via the Hot Rod, the last 5 years have not made pretty reading. So, with guaranteed car finance harder to come by these days and with less disposable income to spend on our passions, where can a petrol head turn to get his kicks for a price that’s practical? Welcome to the realm of the Rat Rod. To the Hot Rod purist this may seem like a blasphemous concept.

Indeed, to many Hot Rod commentators the Rat Rod is little more than a rolling junk yard. There is no high gloss finish here, no polished chrome or billet components, but the passion and dedication to craft is no less abundant. These machines have a massive ‘Do It Yourself’ appeal and are about as far from custom shop design as your ever likely to get. Often parts come from scrap with any nonessential – environmentally friendly – components cast aside, making these beasts affordable and heaps of fun.

What Exactly Is A Rat Rod?

You might think that you know, but this is matter of some conjecture and no end of debate in the Hot Rod community. It’s a craze that has been around for pretty much 20 years now, and over time the lines between styles have become blurred meaning it is often a matter of opinion; one guys Rat being another guys pride and joy. Here are a few classifications of a Rat Rod that, depending on which side of the garage your on, you may or may not agree with.

Retro Rods

These are the high end of rat rodding – if there is such as thing . Cars designed and built the way the original Rods of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s were, using the components of the period in an effort to recreate those early hot rods as closely as possible. Flathead to nailhead engines, wide whitewall tires to skinny blackwall bias-plies, black primer to hand-rubbed paint, they are home built and low budget with their owners striving to craft the best cars they can achieve with the talent and funds available, whilst always looking to improve where possible. You might call them Rat Rods, but the guys that build them are quick to distance themselves from that term.

Purple-People-Eater-

Caricature Rods

What we have here is, in some ways, the complete opposite of the Retro-Rods; in that they are in no way supposed to be period correct – although there is often a vintage feel. If your thinking of the designs of Ed Roth then your thinking along the right lines. Low, Loud, often with open pipes and enormous rear tires, owners mix and match parts from various era’s to make amusing, imaginative interpretations of 40 and 50’s period cars. Once again however, the owners of these Rods would be more than a little irritated to have their creations labeled as Rats.

The Real Rats

Of course, it is impossible to ignore the fact that there are builds out there that deserve the Rat moniker and all it stands for. Indeed, there are those out there who take great pride in having their creations branded a Rat. These cars are not era-correct, nor do they conform to any recognizable rod design, old or new.

Rat-02

There are dos and don’ts when it comes to rat rods – unfortunately, this one falls on the side of DON’T.

They are heavily accessorized with the likes of iron crosses, rubber rats, beer-tap shifters, often appearing to have been thrown together using any rusty junk or scrap the owner could find. Much controversy surrounds these machines, with many questioning their safety and build quality, as frequently there is a distinct lack of proper engineering, and they are designed specifically with shock in mind.

As you can see there is plenty of debate as to what exactly constitutes a Rat Rod, with a large range of car designs and builds that could fall under the Rat umbrella.

You Can Go Your Own Way

It is perhaps this problem of definition that makes the Rat so fascinating, most everyone knows how a good classic Hot Rod should look, not so with a Rat Rod. Whether you want a period perfect 30 or 40’s Hot Rod or you just want to make a hybrid based on parts that you already own or can find cheaply, the choice is yours. In the end the quality of the finished product lies with you and the time and effort you put in. Rat rodding was in part born out of the economic slump of the early 90s and it has always been driven by a desire to be creative and different, the driving force behind almost all Hot Rod builds.

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The very nature of the rat rod highlights the fact that, whereas rodding was once stringently trend driven, today you can build any style or era of rod you want: high or low-tech, modern or retro, polished or rust covered, the choice is yours. Whether you would consider your creation a Rat, or others would label it so, is almost irrelevant. Creating a rod has always been about self expression, a Rat Rod is no different, and what’s more it doesn’t have to break the bank.

About the author

Mike Alexander

With over a decade of automotive print and editorial experience, Mike Alexander enjoys shooting and writing about cars, and has several projects cars in his stable.
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