Mack Rat

Rolling on 22s and 24s, this rat-rod du­alie rides low with high in­no­va­tion

Diesel Power - - Contents - Words by JOE GREEVES + Pho­tos by JOE GREEVES

RAT RODS HAVE come a long way since the time when crit­ics were dis­mis­sive of the low-bud­get rides as­sem­bled from spare parts that high­lighted a builder’s lack of con­cern for paint or chrome. While these cre­ations have ev­ery­thing they need to be func­tional and le­gal, the goal is to drive and en­joy them, rather than have them be­come stars on the show scene. To­day, events not only have spe­cial classes for rat rods, but there are shows de­voted solely to the cat­e­gory.

Mi­ami, Florida’s José Lugo is fully aware of this change in at­ti­tude and is a big fan, with four hand­built patina cre­ations in his past and the fifth fi­nally ready for the cam­era. José works in his fam­ily’s elec­tro­static in­dus­trial paint­ing busi­ness and spe­cial­izes in pow­der­coat­ing. He reg­u­larly makes cool rides look even bet­ter and loves the chal­lenge. The project ve­hi­cle pre­sented on these pages got its start thanks to a junk­yard ex­cur­sion that uncovered the per­fect find: a ’40s vin­tage Mack semitruck cab, in­tact but dis­play­ing just the right amount of patina. A sec­ond lucky break was the grille, found months later at a

swap meet. To com­plete the pack­age, José needed a new bed for his cre­ation, but he faced the chal­lenge of en­sur­ing what­ever new pieces he added were a tex­tu­ral match to the rest of the pack­age.

Once the pri­mary el­e­ments were as­sem­bled, the project be­gan with the chas­sis. Con­struc­tion started with an all-new frame, made from 2x5-inch rec­tan­gu­lar steel tub­ing and braced with cross­mem­bers to sup­port an­tic­i­pated heavy loads. José and a cou­ple of friends cre­ated it, adding an I-beam dropped front axle from a Chevro­let 3500HD pickup, Sea Leg shocks, airbags, and a heavy-duty pit­man arm to con­trol a pair of over­sized front tires. Ra­dius arms hold the sal­vaged Ford rear axle along with another set of bags and shocks. Heavy-duty sway bars, front and rear, en­sure a sta­ble ride. When it came time for power, José by­passed the tra­di­tional flat­head Ford or small-block Chevro­let en­gine choices, opt­ing in­stead for a ’91 Dodge Ram du­alie as the donor ve­hi­cle, us­ing its 5.9L Cum­mins pow­er­plant and trans­mis­sion.

By def­i­ni­tion, rat rods stand out from the crowd, but José wanted his to at­tract at­ten­tion based on sev­eral fac­tors, be­gin­ning with a showy en­gine. Start­ing with the es­sen­tially stock 12-valve Cum­mins, he re­tained the fac­tory tur­bocharger, aug­ment­ing it with a sec­ond ma­rine-sourced Cater­pil­lar turbo plumbed on top. The air/fuel path be­gins with the huge Mack truck air cleaner mounted on the pas­sen­ger-side

fire­wall. At­mos­phere works its way through the first turbo, with the pres­sur­ized mix achiev­ing ter­mi­nal ve­loc­ity via a blast from the sec­ond ’charger that fires it into the en­gine. Ex­haust ex­its through a straight pipe mounted par­al­lel to the wind­shield and flow­ing over the roof of this waist-high ride. A cus­tom-built tank and fu­el­ing han­dled by FASS Fuel Sys­tems com­po­nents en­sure there’s a con­stant sup­ply of diesel feed­ing the en­gine. The com­bi­na­tion of ex­posed pip­ing, com­pound turbos, and the ver­ti­cal stack team up to cre­ate a pack­age that causes most folks to stop for a closer look.

Once the pow­er­train com­po­nents were in place, it was time to mount the dis­tinc­tive cab, com­plete with an ab­bre­vi­ated vi­sor on top, wrap­around two-piece wind­shield, and au­then­tic Mack bull­dogs on the mir­rors. Ini­tial in­put from friends sug­gested the semi cab was too wide for a rat rod, but José knew bet­ter, go­ing so far as to ex­ag­ger­ate the width even more with a set of

du­alie wheels in the rear. The wide cab is fit­ted with a fab­ri­cated bed and nar­rowed to ac­com­mo­date the rear wheels, and a raised floor is in­cor­po­rated to clear the sus­pen­sion. Lift­ing the wood planks re­veals the sal­vaged Ford du­alie rearend, airbags, huge re­serve tank, pair of Vi­air 450 com­pres­sors, and twin bat­ter­ies. Vin­tage barn-door hinges are the fin­ish­ing touch for the tail­gate. The unique tail­lights are re­pur­posed cylin­ders from the shop’s old air com­pres­sor mated with lenses from a ’55 Ford. Ac­cents in­clude fire ex­tin­guish­ers, a train whis­tle, and a trailer hitch des­tined to play a spe­cific role in the fu­ture.

Rolling stock can make or break the over­all de­sign, and the dis­tinc­tive Vin­tage II rims from Diesel Wheels catch ev­ery­one’s eye. José teamed up with Frank Car­ralero of Diesel Wheels to cre­ate the 22x8 and 24x8 pack­age. José be­gan by ap­ply­ing the translu­cent cop­per pow­der­coat­ing to all six rims and then turned them over to Frank for the pol­ished edges. Up front, the 22s have a five-bolt pat­tern while the 24s in the rear have 10 lugs hold­ing the du­als in place. All boast omi­nous-look­ing chrome spikes as a fin­ish­ing touch. Fury Coun­try Hunter M/T rub­ber gets the power to the ground.

While the patina’d truck might look a lit­tle rough on the out­side, ev­ery­thing changes when you peek in­side. José’s good friend Rolando “Rolly” Her­nan­dez from R Cus­tom De­sign in Mi­ami did the in­te­rior, and the guid­ance was sim­ple. “Al­though it’s a rat rod on the out­side, the in­te­rior should be lux­u­ri­ous.” The TEA’s De­sign–style bench seat is done in hand-stitched Peanut But­ter leather with match­ing door pan­els, trans­mis­sion tun­nel, dash, and car­pet. About the holes in the dash, José says the in­te­rior will be com­plete once the on­go­ing search for au­then­tic Mack gauges is suc­cess­ful.

This build took a short six months to com­plete. José en­joys the cre­ative process, say­ing, “This is the per­fect stress re­liever af­ter a long, hard day.” Fu­ture plans call for hook­ing up his six-wheeled ride to an air-bagged trailer that will haul his sec­ond rat rod. When it’s com­plete, the trio should cre­ate a head-swivel­ing sight rolling down the in­ter­state. Spe­cial thanks to Frank Car­ralero from Red’s Hy­draulics, Juan “Ve­neno” Gar­cia, and Or­lando “Puro” Perez for their help in cre­at­ing José’s dream ride.

The heart of the beast is the com­pound-tur­bocharged 5.9L 12-valve Cum­mins en­gine with its dis­tinc­tive pip­ing, au­then­tic Mack air fil­ter, and over-the-top straight ex­haust pipe.

Sim­ple yet ef­fec­tive, the front sus­pen­sion uses a dropped I-beam axle, Sea Leg shocks, and airbags for ad­justable al­ti­tude.

In stark con­trast to the patina’d ex­te­rior, the in­te­rior is lux­u­ri­ous, with plush quilted leather on the seats, door pan­els, dash, and floor. Nos­tal­gic touches in­clude an au­then­tic Mack steer­ing wheel and col­umn, along with an ev­er­ex­pand­ing col­lec­tion of au­then­tic Mack gauges.

Diesel Wheels’ 24-inch du­alie wheels in the rear are equally com­plex, with pol­ished alu­minum edges and cop­per, ac­cented with chrome bul­lets on 10 lugs.

The 22-inch Diesel Wheels rims up front are a com­plex blend of pol­ished alu­minum, translu­cent cop­per pow­der­coat, chrome bul­lets on the five lugs, and rugged rub­ber from Fury Off-Road Tires.

Jose’s Mack is adorned with such imag­i­na­tive ac­ces­sories as the tail­lights made with a com­bi­na­tion of re­pur­posed air com­pres­sor cylin­ders and vin­tage Ford lenses. The nar­rowed bed on the wide big-rig cab proved to be the per­fect choice when com­bined with the tucked-in 24-inch du­alie rims. Weath­ered barn wood makes up the bed floor, and it is hinged for ac­cess to the rearend and air-sus­pen­sion com­po­nents.

Lo­cat­ing the grille at a swap meet was the ul­ti­mate find, es­pe­cially since the patina was a close match to the cab. José po­si­tioned it so that it is on the ground when the bags are de­flated.

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