THE HISTORY OF THE RAT ROD IN AUTOCULT

HRRmain
photo: Emily Frye

See that featured channel off to the right of this post? The one at the top that says, “History Of The Rat Rod?” We got so much traction over that series of blog posts that we thought we’d have no choice but to continue it in this new magazine.

Now, you can read all about what we were thinking and how we went about this feature in the magazine, so we won’t ruin it here. But what we can talk about here are some of the issues that came up. Surprisingly, we got some push-back on this thing. “You don’t know what you’re talking about…” and “How could you know anything about this –– you weren’t living in Califas back in The Day” and “You’re gonna stir some shit, bro” and “Fuck rat rods…”

And we get it. Really, we do. But here’s the thing. Nobody else has done it, yet. Nobody else has looked at the Rat Rod/Revivalist movement that started some twenty years ago in the light of historical survey and said, “Hey, love it or hate it, this shit is the most monumental and important movement in American car culture in the last few generations and it needs to be treated as such.” Well, that’s exactly what we said. And we decided to do something with it.

As we dug into the earliest days of this movement, we realized two things: 1) “Rat Rod” did not start out as a four-letter word and 2) there’s a 10-volume set of great stuff in this and we’ve only got so many pages in this magazine. So, we’ve concentrated our efforts on the very earliest days of the scene and we’ll unabashedly call it the Rat Rod Movement. We’ll tell you right now that we wanted to talk to twice as many people as we were able to. But the people we sat down with, the never-before-seen photos we got, the stories we heard…we think you’re gonna not only appreciate it, but you’ll probably want much, much more. We do, too.

If nothing else, we got the conversation started and we’re looking forward to hearing from you on this one. As if gearheads were opinion-challenged…

14 Responses to “THE HISTORY OF THE RAT ROD IN AUTOCULT”

  1. verne says:

    Oh, the beginnings…

    Many claim to have been there, but very few were.

    And none of us called our cars “rat rods” back then.

  2. Stoner says:

    Verne, you WERE the beginning…

  3. Miki Dora says:

    Bullshit Stoner!! I AM THE BEGINNING!! :D

    -I remember being blown away and intimidated by a lot of people that started showing up at Famoso with tattoos and cars that looked “unfinished”.

    -I didn’t start paying attention until around ’94 or ’95

    -My dad wasn’t some greaser guy and I wasn’t surrounded by a bunch of Ed Roth stuff when I was younger.

    -I had to learn/research a lot of stuff on my own.

    -I remember guys like the shifters, the choppers (I don’t think they were the choppers then). the immortals? something called West Coast Scrap metal?

    -Two things saved this “loner” kid who felt like I never fit in, Punk rock & *Hot Rods

    -it sounds funny but seeing all those dudes back then made me feel like I could do the same thing, it was almost like hearing the Ramones for the first time.

    -Nowadays I think I’m getting sick of the crowds that show up at the March Meets & CHRR, but it’s all good.

    *I have been around hot rods all my life but not anything that was built to pre 1970 specs. That explains why I was in such a culture shoq when I started paying attention to everyone that started showing up.

  4. Brian says:

    I was lucky enough to grow up in it from both the “step” and “blood” sides of my family. And both with East Bay roots.

  5. GRANT says:

    that little T-bucket of Kevin’s will always be one of my favorite hot rods. Lots of good times in that car…

  6. Jim Aust says:

    I was there with a car- remember when Jon, Verne and Weesner all found their first cars. NONE of us wanted a “Rat Rod”. I still HATE the fucking circus all of that bullshit created. This year at SEMA seeing the flat black Rolls Royces and big rigs made me embarrased that I worked so hard painting my car flat black in 1990. I was the only person in my part of So-Cal with a hot rod ’32 that color and it still seemed pretty novel- now I avoid anything that color knowing I’m going be let down by the ratness. Funny how many of today’s “Rat Rod Heroes” weren’t even involved 20 years ago- let alone 10. To me it’s all just a bunch of Mini Truck shit wrapped in early rusted sheet metal.

  7. STONER says:

    That’s EXACTLY why we did this, Jim…

  8. Jim Aust says:

    I hope it’s VERY clear that 20 years ago we wanted to build nice cars that weren’t pastel “street rods”. They were hot rods in the purest sense- just the fact that weren’t finished in shiny paint, lame interiors with billet wheels and accessories made them “rat rods” to the casual observer still stuck in the Boyd Coddington created community (itself a distored view of what a “hot rod” is about). Some took it a little further retaining patina on certain parts, but the stupid “body drops” with 18-inch Z-ed frames weren’t even considered. All the stuff we wanted to use was actually very easy to get as the stuff wasn’t back in style yet. Got to be friendly with many of the coolest old-timers that knew what the stuff was and sadly many of those guys have gone in the last few years. It was cool to build cars that the old guys appreciated. The stuff that is being built today that only comes up to your knee with tires taller than the decklid or even roof don’t impress the old guys- those are for the quasi-rockbilly circus side show. I hate to sound like an old unopen-minded “street rodder”, but just will NEVER appreciate early metal being contorted into such unflattering shapes.

  9. STONER says:

    Have you picked up your copy of the magazine yet, Jim?

  10. Jim Aust says:

    I live in the sticks of Texas now, building hot rods- I’m going to need to order one.

  11. Jim Aust says:

    Anywhere in Austin I can buy it?

  12. Jim Aust says:

    This topic has been burning in me for days. I read so much from the “1999 OG Traditionalists” who think they started hot rodding- or atl least since that’s when they started the rest is crap (unless it’s pre-65-HA!). And it makes me think beside building a few unmemorable “me too” piles of crap what makes so many of these people “Rockstars”? From the inside I’ve felt the sense of hiarchy some of these people feel and I just don’t get it. See them in a room with an Alex Xydias and Vic Edlebrock and the rat rodders think they are the celebrities. Beyond hauling their piles to car shows and having really cool coats and haircuts what have they accomplished? I just spent 2 weeks doing some work inside the doors of a customers car that NO ONE will ever see that was more time spent then on some of the rats I’ve seen.
    Don’t mean to be such a “hater”- but I’m so sick of all the anti-street rodder sentiment and shows street rods aren’t allowed into brecasue they have “Trad Police” at the gates “kepping it real”. The topper today was the self-gloating quote about producing “the largest traditional car event”. Really? Laying frame with a rusted out shell set on “frame” IS NOT Traditional. What’s in Hop Up is “traditional- what’s in OL’ Skool Rodz is not.
    Maybe I’m just too old for this- OG Traitionalist since 1970 when I saw my first picture of Jack Chrisman’s ’29 Tudor. Yeah- I’m OLD!

  13. STONER says:

    Don’t even get us started on the word, “traditional,” Jim…

  14. Jim Aust says:

    Hair Police. I’m reseting my clock back to 1986 before all this went off the rails. Building a Fat Jack inspired HOT ROD fueled on by a freshly solo DLR and the Cult when they switched from goth to greasy American rock. Don’t need a coat and plaque.

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