While many classic car enthusiasts love their old Fords and Chevys to shine in the sun and shimmer in the rain, restored to their original showroom floor glory, some of us opt for something a little different. Some of us pass an old car on the edge of a junk yard, or abandoned on a dirt road, and we stop to have a look. Admiring the brown and red rust amid flat black and faded sea-foam green chipping paint, we are able to see something beautiful in a work of art and engineering that shows its age on its surface. We appreciate a vehicle, as we tend to appreciate anything, that tells a story and carries with it a strand of history.
If this rusted and aged automobile is in good working condition, then it an be called a “Rat Rod”. Like a hot rod, a rat rod is meant to be souped up and customized. The Difference: A rat rod, unlike a hot rod, should be rusted and weathered, inside and out. You cannot put a smooth glossy paint covering on a car and call it a rat rod. If you paint it anything, then spray-can flat black is the only option, though you may be able to get away with some primer grey if it fits well. All auto-body parts must come from scrap or junk,often requiring machining (part of the fun) to fit the vehicle, with no after market replicas allowed.
A rat rod engine exists for speed. It is a perfect example of function over form, taken to an extreme. While this is true of hot rods in general, the rat rod has no need for show, nor does the rat rod owner have any need of explaining what has gone into his or her engine. Many rat rod engines are cobbled together from various other machine engines, usually other cars, but sometimes boat as well as plane engine parts can be found “under the hood”(most rat rods have no hood).
Popular with members of both the classic Rockabilly subculture, as well as the newer Steam Punk subculture, you will likely see more of these on the road in the coming years. Thankfully, while these subcultures are growing, they remain comparatively obscure, guaranteeing that your car will still likely be the most unique on the road. One added benefit as a Phoenix Valley resident is that the red rusted hues of the average rat rod match perfectly with the Arizona desert and architecture.
While more experienced and adventurous rat rodders often build their cars from the ground up, a beginner may do well to start out on an old scrap car from a friend or a craigslist ad, and then add and subtract parts from there. Phoenix Arizona residents can find parts from any of the Phoenix Valley area junk yards. It may also be a good idea to go to craigslist for a second “parts car” to service the building of the first. Have fun!