A brief history lesson. Feel free to correct any incorrect info or oversights. Just trying to provide a primer. The 914 should be out of the shop and back to me this week, so stay tuned for regularly scheduled programming.
You probably know what hot rods are (and if you don’t, they’re usually old, classic American rides with large engines and are modified for speed), but there are particular styles within hot rod culture. One such style is a Rat Rod, which are hot rods that are highly exaggerated versions of classic cars (mainly 1950s style jaloply rods). Basically, Rat Rods look like unfinished hot rod…and that’s done on purpose. Rat Rod builders create their unfinished rides by throwing together old junk parts to fix up their classic and throwing them on the vehicle with little regard for safety or proper construction (sometimes). Rat Rods look like hot messes and to the average auto enthusiasts may come off as piles of junk.
But to those who live and breathe Rat Rods, their junky creations are everything! Like other automotive trends, the Rat Rod style has evolved over the years and has gone through many changes. Actually, when the trend first began in the late ‘80s, Rat Rods looked closer to their hot rod brethren than junk on wheels. But the first true Rat Rod was built in the early ‘90s by Robert Williams - an artist known for his Low Brow art. He had owned several hot rods and wanted to build a Ford hot rod similar to those he remembered from his childhood days. Many of these hot rods were simple and never finished because they were mainly owned and built by tens with no funds to make them fancy.
When Williams finished his build, he touted it at various car shows in So Cal, and Hot Rod editor Gray Baskerville was the first to refer to his custom as a “rat rod.” According to Baskerville, this was a term he created that was a spin on the term “rat bike,” which was a motorcycle that was built with a cheap budget. Others were then inspired to crate their own “Rat Rods” that they’d throw together since it was an affordable hobby that was fun. By the late ‘90s, the Rat Rod trend had caught like wildfire and many would showcase them at various car shows. Up until this time, many were building their Rat Rods to be period correct like Williams’, while others started to create rods that were similar to hot rods in Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s artwork, who Williams worked under as the art director.
By the 200s, Rat Rodding has exploded on the car scene and there were entire car shows devoted to the style. Many Rat Rods at these shows were literally thrown together and were not safe to see the road, making them “Rat Rod show queens.” Although many might think that Rat Rods are merely junk on four wheels, it has inspired a new generation of car enthusiasts who love hot rods, but don’t have the money to properly build them.