In 1997, a kid living in the Los Angeles area named Jim Falschlehner pulled a ’34 Ford truck cab and bed out of a friend’s back yard with an idea for a hot rod pickup. The pieces weren’t much to look at –– they’d spent the previous thirty years or so in one of those southern California river beds that only get water running through them at certain times of the year. But no matter: the kid grew up working on cars and wasn’t afraid to dig into this thing.
Jimmy Shine ended up turning that cab and bed into one of the first major ‘bare metal’ hot rods that also bridged the Rat Rod movement with the opposite end of the custom car spectrum: the high-end custom shop. When he was hired on at the fabled So-Cal Speedshop in Pomona, CA as a fabricator, he walked his Rat Rod tendencies right into the fab shop behind the showroom and got to work.
Working on his truck after hours and, some nights, just sleeping beside it before work the next day, Jimmy toiled away on his project and just naturally employed the aesthetics of the Rat Rod movement he’d been drawn to. He’d grown up with the Orange County Hardcore music scene, surfed southern California beaches since he was a kid and brought the tenets of Ratrodding to Alex Xydias’ venerable old speed shop with his ’34 truck project. And in the typical style of those early days of the movement, it was built with the highest quality materials, best vintage parts and every ounce of Jimmy’s expanding set of skills.
The truck’s metalwork was never compromised and was brazenly exposed when it first saw sunlight in its bare metal. With no paint and a constant sunscreen-lotion-application of WD40 and Scotchbrite pads to keep the metal clean, Jimmy also let the world know that his truck –– though built by hand in the back shop at So-Cal –– was going to be driven. And driven like he stole it.
Hand-made custom ‘artillery’ wheels, perfect metalwork, hand-formed steering arms, perfect stance/channel/chop and a host of rare, vintage parts doesn’t stop Jimmy from tear-assing around on the dry lakes, running to the taco truck in it at lunch time and even taking us for a ride in it back in 2002. We can say with certainty that the guy built it to drive it. Matter of fact, when he finally exhibited the truck at the Grand National Roadster Show, his display was made of a few hundred pounds of dry lake dirt, a few tumbleweeds and the truck itself was caked with the dust he had kicked up in it from tearing up the ‘lakes just a few days prior. The stunt brought the venerable old show entrants to their knees: this was the venue for outspending each other on cars and displays and typically reserved for the Old Guard…So-Cal Speedshop’s biggest customers, in some ways. Jimmy had single-handedly brought the Rat Rod movement right through the front doors of the Big Show and won first place in doing so.
Jimmy Shine’s ’34 was one of the first Rat Rods to come out of a shop like So-Cal. Sure, it was Jimmy’s own car and yes, he had the juice of Pete Chapouris behind him as an employee of the place. But it was 100% Jimmy and it totally embodied the spirit of the original Rat Rod movement: envision it, build it yourself, drive the hell out of it as soon as it can move under its own power. And most importantly, never claim it’s really ever finished.
The truck launched a thousand good ideas from a thousand backyards and home garages all across the hot rod land. It’s gotten a blower and some other neat additions over the years, but all in all, it’s still the same mindblower it was when Jimmy first rolled it out into the sunshine. It’s a testament to good design, good taste and a healthy reverence for the past while ignoring its unwritten rules. That’s what the original Rat Rod was all about.