Edmonton Journal

Raucous, rusty, rumbly ‘rat rods’

Ragtag rides emerge from scrapped parts

- The Associated Press

SAUGERTIES, N.Y. — Peter Duvaloois’s rat rods are way cooler than your car. The fast machines, pieced together from vintage parts and scrapyard finds, are also are rumblier, rustier and turn more heads on the highway.

That’s pretty much the point of rat rods, which look like post-apocalypti­c hotrods — except rat rods wear their rust proudly and never touch a buff cloth. Duvaloois is among a horde of creative gearheads who take vintage vehicles and rearrange them into something both new and old-looking.

“I’m not particular­ly interested in how fast the truck will go,” Duvaloois said. “I’m interested in how cool it looks getting there.”

Duvaloois is building a rat rod based on an orange 1935 Ford public works truck at his garage — called the Rat’s Nest — about 90 miles north of New York City. The 63-year-old retiree has raced stock cars and built hotrods, but he likes the more easygoing, don’t-worry-about-fingerprin­ts-on-the-paintjob vibe of the rat-rod crowd.

“I’ll go to a show, and a lot of times you’ll have the shiny cars there and the signs all over them: ‘Don’t Touch! Don’t Touch!’” he said. “I’ve had a whole Boy Scout troop go through my truck.”

Rat rods have been around for decades; some say the name stems from hot-rodders dismissing the “ratty” looks of other cars. While there is no formal definition, many have low clearances, open wheels and round headlights flanking old-school grilles. Volume counts, too.

A rat rod is simply a bluecollar hotrod, argues Rat Rod Magazine editor Steve Thaemert.

“We’re returning to the roots of hot-rodding, basically, where you’re trying to build something cool with what you had,” Thaemert said. “You wanted it to be fast and you wanted it to be loud and aggressive, and it didn’t have to be perfect. It was a poor man’s entry into hot-rodding.”

Thaemert believes rat rodding is more popular now. His magazine’s Facebook page has more than 1.5 million likes, and the Web is full of pictures of enthusiast­s’ creations. Hundreds of rat rodders rumble in from around the Eastern Seaboard every summer for Duvaloois’ Hudson Valley gatherings.

Duvaloois’ current rat rod project should be ready to roll by the August gathering. The public works truck from the nearby City of Kingston is chopped down, shortened and has a 1950 Olds Rocket engine under the hood.

Duvaloois doesn’t use blueprints; he says he can’t draw. He uses paper cutouts and temporaril­y tacks the vehicle together to make sure it all fits.

This is the fourth rat rod Duvaloois has created in the past seven years. His first was built from a 1946 Chevy pickup a friend was going to scrap. The friend said there wasn’t much left, and Duvaloois replied that it was just what he wanted. He combined the Chevy’s hood, cab and grille with a 1952 Dodge HEMI engine, a Camaro five-speed transmissi­on and other pieces.

The old pseudo-Chevy gets 23 miles to the gallon on the highway, though mileage seems to be less important than the reactions he gets from passing cars.

“They’re always smiling at you and pointing, especially little old ladies and kids,” he said.

“Rat rods have a cartoonish aspect to them, and little kids really pick up on that.”

 ?? photos: Mike Groll/ The Associated Press ?? Peter Duvaloois drives his rat rod near his shop in Saugerties, New York. He says kids love rat rods because of their ‘cartoonish aspect.’
photos: Mike Groll/ The Associated Press Peter Duvaloois drives his rat rod near his shop in Saugerties, New York. He says kids love rat rods because of their ‘cartoonish aspect.’
 ??  ?? Peter Duvaloois welds a battery box onto a rat rod at his shop.
Peter Duvaloois welds a battery box onto a rat rod at his shop.
 ??  ?? Old vehicle parts that will become part of future rat rod projects are stored outside Peter Duvaloois’ shop.
Old vehicle parts that will become part of future rat rod projects are stored outside Peter Duvaloois’ shop.

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