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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

Rat Rods Customs: A Sub-Culture Gaining Speed

Rat Rod Custom Cars and TrucksAttend most any car show today and your certain to see a growing number of custom cars that are a tribute to the early hot rods of the 40s, 50s & 60s.  They are easy to spot with their bare, unfinished panels and deliberate patches of rust or maybe a coat of flat primer at best.  Rat Rods are low to the ground and usually will have their roof chopped a few inches or builders will channel and section the body over the frame to achieve that low profile style.

The chassis of the cars are likely to be from an older car or small truck or can even be custom built to adapt to the look and feel the builder is going for.   The drive-train usually is commonly powered by a Flathead V8 or Hemi engine as well as other modern small block V8 engines.  Beam axle suspension is almost a unanimous choice because of the hot rod look it portrays with the open front suspension and no fenders.

The intention of the rat rod is not to pass itself off as an originally restored hot rod like those that rolled of the production line decades ago.  Rather they are often built using spare or custom parts and a little ingenuity to replicate the hot rod lifestyle.  These cars are meant to be driven and not just sit in a garage or only to be brought out for show.

Many true “hot rod” enthusiasts scoff at these project cars as scrap and take offense if their “real” hot rod is ever associated with the rat rod culture.  However their tune is changing a little with the new generation of customs that are turning up at auto events.  Yes some of them are cheaply put together by amateurs that don’t know how to weld and had no better purpose for scrap parts, but some of the serious rat rod enthusiasts are really stepping up their builds and producing some seriously beautiful street machines.

Along with these new custom builds is an ever emerging sub-culture of owners to go along.  Rockabilly, Greaser, Punk… whatever you know them as, there is no denying the tight knit community that is really gaining speed.  The owners, both men and women alike, adorn the look of the classic hot rod culture that flourished in the 1950s.  They emulate the fashions of the era while bringing a modern edge to it with more elaborate vintage clothing, tattoos, music and hairstyles.

While some hot rod purists may still carry a chip on their shoulder, we welcome this community with open arms.  We encourage the innovation and love to see the new designs and creativity that these builders bring to the table.  Not only that, but it seems that “Rat Rodders” are also working to preserve or even reignite an extinct era of Americana.

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