Modern V8 power, unconventional mods and a severed head hanging in the cabin, how could anyone not love this ratty pair? The Ratrod and Rat hauler are owned by a mate of mine, Kev, a fan of classic yanks with an infectious enthusiasm for building, owning and driving the unorthodox.

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I first met Kev a few years ago when he tried to convince me that this Ratrod made perfect daily transport. Based on a ’37 Ford pickup his is tax and MOT exempt, insurance is a pittance even when modifications such as the barbed wire engine bay trim are declared. Parking dinks only add to it’s weathered appeal. There’s more to this than just rust, though. The ancient running gear has been binned for a crate V8. The 5.7 litre Chevvy Goodwrench 350 engine cost just £1800 delivered and is mated to a 4 speed auto ‘box and Ford Mustang diff. Considering the whole thing weighs only c.850Kg and sits on 15” wheels with tall tyres this mad contraption is quite a lively performer. Kev has done much of the work himself but it’s such a robust package underneath that his ‘to do’ list nowadays consists of encouraging rust, buying more bits of skeleton and raiding EBay USA for even louder pipes. Bits for this are cheap and maintenance is simple.

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The Ratrod’s details make me smile. The compressed air tank that powers the horn is painted with a ‘rat poison’ warning, a fake severed arm never looks good funny from the boot of an MPV but suits the ratrod perfectly. The overflow for the radiator is a whisky bottle. The rear lights are old coach lamps. Anything too new gets sanded down to the metal and sprayed over with WD40. It must be liberating not to have to faff with polish and wax or whatever fluids detailers rub into their precious bits. Skulls and home-made signwriting finishes the look. Kev, eloquent as ever, sums it up the rat look perfectly; “It’s supposed to look a bit shit”. He loves it. It’s brown and battered and in regular service, clocking up 7000 miles in the last few years. It is, for me, the embodiment of the rat look. For the kids sanding down MK4 diesel Golfs and sticking random litter on the roof; this is how you do it.

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The formula for the Rat hauler is the same as the Ratrod. Take a classic design and sit it on a modern, torquey drivetrain, then cover with Fe2O3·nH2O and (FeO(OH), Fe(OH)3) – that’s rust to you and I, then chrome the pretty bits and finish with a hula-hula girl on the dash. Ahem. On the road the Rat hauler, with the Ratrod on the back, is completely ridiculous. The gearlever has a throw measured in feet, the noise is terrific, and your mirrors are filled with skulls and rust. The sensation of driving something that feels like it’s built from welded offcuts of Dreadnaught is heightened by the fact I’ve just stepped out of my Caterham, a car seemingly made from binbags and coathanger. A bit of a traffic jam forms as we throb along in the Rat hauler. I’m sure they could overtake if they wanted but people like to gawp. I can see drivers smiling and laughing and a terrified kit pointing at the severed head.

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The Rat hauler has exactly the same crated V8 as the Ratrod. The cab and chassis are a ’38 Diamond T, a model made famous for it’s extremely robust design. Early trucks were typically car chassis’ with a flatbed conversion, the Diamond T was designed as a truck from the outset, they made nearly half a million. None look as good as this. Military types will know that these trucks were so good off-road that they were the main tank transporter for the goodies in the second world war and pulled many a tank out of the desert in North Africa. The British army ordered over 1000 of them and some remained in service until 1971. Yanks call them “the Cadillac of trucks”.

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Today the Rat hauler’s main job is hauling the Ratrod to the many shows Kev attends across the UK. Say hello if you see him. You might find yourself agreeing that this ratty pair is just the kind of mad project every MotorPunk should have in their garage, or better still, out on the road.

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Words and pics by Rich Duisberg.

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