Friday, May 13, 2011
Rat Rods. Lots and lots of Rat Rods
Which goes to show, there is some confusion out there on what exactly a Rat Rod is.
In a way, it is sort of hard to pin down a definition. Typically, a Rat Rod is a, home-built ‘50s-style hot rod that was constructed from vintage parts. They’re often channeled roadsters from the 1930s, but they can also be sedans, trucks, coupes, wagons; anything that “might” have been around 50-60 years ago. That’s not set in stone, though. A ‘20s car or a ‘60s car could all be accepted as a Rat Rod if the modifications are right.
To some guys, the term “Rat Rod” is offensive. One of the things that makes a Rat Rod a Rat Rod is the finish, which is usually left rusty or finished in primer. Welds and seams are typically exposed. Don’t expect a $10,000 pearlescent paintjob. If a guy spends five years massaging all the blemishes out of his ’49 Mercury 'Kustom', and the first time he shows it someone calls it a Rat Rod, you could see how he might get bent out of shape.
Rat Rods could be looked at more as a caricature of the traditional ‘50s custom. Sure, the parts and pieces are there. The pinstriping is Von Dutch-ey enough. They’ve got the vibe. It’s just amplified.
Like anything else, Rat Rods can be awful, but they can also be extremely creative. Tacking on that old CASE tractor radiator shell that was purchased at a garage sale may just make the whole car look like a monkey butt. On the other hand, if it works, the results may be nothing less than rolling folk art. It takes a real visionary to figure out what combination of parts will make a pile of random junk into something cool.
There’s a whole culture that surrounds these cars that often includes ‘50s-style clothes and hairstyles and Rockabilly music. People that are really serious about it also may go crazy at the tattoo parlor. The people are just like the cars—if, for example, soldiers back from World War II had a tattoo on their arm, a whole armful of tattoos must be better. If a two-inch section from the body of a car was cool, eight-inches must be better.
The rather sizable slideshow below contains pictures of Rat Rods, or at least things that I considered to be Rat Rods, from various car shows all over Kansas City. I’m sure you’ll see something interesting in there, because there’s no shortage of creativity among the Rat Rod crowd.