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Rat Rod cul­ture is no­to­ri­ous for scav­eng­ing and cob­bling to­gether a mix of parts from var­i­ous ve­hi­cles as well as many cus­tom fab­ri­cated pieces to craft a unique, one-off ma­chine. So when dairy farmer Tyler Spark­man out of Sparta, Ten­nessee traded for a 1931 Ford Model-a, he set out for his first cus­tom build to be a leg­endary Rat Rod. But when he dug in and re­al­ized the 350 gasser was in dire straits, Spark­man con­sid­ered sell­ing the project. That’s when Nick, Spark­man’s brother, stepped in with a par­a­digm shift­ing idea and con­vinced Spark­man to keep the dream alive with a Cum­mins diesel swap. With the new goal in mind, the broth­ers set out to trans­form the quote “un­safe” rust-bucket into a diesel show car in their shop on Spark­man Farm.

Be­fore Spark­man could be­gin swap­ping in the new pow­er­plant, he had to ad­dress the crum­bling frame. He turned to Duck Mcdon­ald for the fab­ri­ca­tion of a cus­tom Z-frame to sup­port the heav­ier engine as well as strengthen the en­tire struc­ture. Then he swapped in a 10-bolt axle from a 1978 Ca­maro and fab­ri­cated cus­tom trail­ing arms and sus­pended it with Napa shocks and Air­ride springs for an ad­justable ride height and smooth ride when cruis­ing. Up front he kept the ’31 straight axle and trans­verse leaf spring sus­pen­sion. To get his low­ered ma­chine stop­ping on a dime, Speed­way Mo­tor­sports cus­tom ro­tor and caliper kits were in­stalled all the way around. Di­al­ing in that clas­sic look are 20-inch steel rear wheels with an an­tiqued green fin­ish wrapped in 255/45R20 At­turo tires paired with 16-inch an­tiqued green steel wheels up front with white­wall Coker Clas­sic 29x6.00x16 tires.

With the chas­sis di­aled in, it was time for Spark­man to ad­dress the body. It takes a lot more work than you might think to craft that Mad Max patina. The Spark­man broth­ers tack­led this job them­selves, chop­ping the top of the cab 4-inches, re­plac­ing the floor with cus­tom made pieces, and fab­ri­cat­ing a roll cage to be painted the elec­tri­fy­ing green ac­cent color. Care­ful sand­ing, grind­ing, clear coat and strip­ing brought out the stun­ning char­ac­ter the Model-a had earned it­self over the years, as well as hit­ting the mark for the Rat Rod styling Spark­man was af­ter. Just like any true Rat Rod, cus­tom touches like the green sil­hou­et­ted Cum­mins logo on the grille, a cus­tom warped wrench hood or­na­ment, a roll away leather top and clev­erly re­lo­cated tail­lights are crafted into ev­ery nook and cranny of the build. Even the head­light mounts are fab­ri­cated from rusty old wrenches that were cut and welded into po­si­tion to hold the bul­let-style head­light hous­ings.

Now Spark­man was ready to give at­ten­tion to the trans­plant. A 1997 Cum­mins 12-valve 5.9L engine was cho­sen for the swap. The mo­tor was built with ARP head studs, while the in­jec­tion pump was mod­i­fied with 191 de­liv­ery valves, 4k gov. springs, AFC ad­justed for max flow and cus­tom

tim­ing. It was then out­fit­ted with a cus­tom in­take horn that is fed the in­take charge from the air-toair in­ter­cooler in­stalled in the grille shell. Fur­ther en­hance­ments to the fuel sys­tem in­clude 7x12 DAP in­jec­tors and an Air­dog II 165 fuel sys­tem to de­liver fuel up to the mod­i­fied in­jec­tion pump. Spark­man also in­stalled a 15 gal­lon fuel cell in the back of his Rat Rod. To get the power spool­ing, a BD Diesel com­pound turbo kit was in­stalled. The ’97 47RH trans­mis­sion was up­graded with a B&M shifter and a cus­tom Dodge drive­shaft was retro­fit­ted. A Derale elec­tric fan trans cooler was also in­stalled in the driver side rear win­dow open­ing for plenty of air­flow. Breath­ing life into the for­mer rust bucket, this Cum­mins trans­plant gives plenty enough power to roast the tires at will.

His dream of a stout Rat Rod was start­ing to come true, but Spark­man still had to ad­dress the in­te­rior. K&D Up­hol­stery also in Sparta, TN made some black leather with green stitched seats that well com­pli­ment the old school vibe of the sim­plis­tic cock­pit. Spark­man put to­gether a cen­ter con-

sole gauge clus­ter full of Au­tome­ter gauges in the blacked out in­te­rior. A quick-dis­con­nect Speed­way steer­ing wheel was in­stalled for the clas­sic racer look as well as con­ve­nience to slide into the low­ered ma­chine. An­other of the many sub­tle cus­tom touches is the cus­tom bent ped­als made from old wrenches.

With sup­port from Air­dog, DAP (Diesel Auto Power), K&D up­hol­stery and, Spark­man and his brother were able to craft a head turn­ing Rat Rod in their year-in-a-half build. Think­ing out­side the box is a sta­ple of the Rat Rod com­mu­nity, and this diesel con­ver­sion is no ex­cep­tion. From the thought of a Cum­mins to bend­ing up some box wrenches for re­oc­cur­ring ac­cents, this Model-a shows the cus­tomizer’s cre­ativ­ity and in­ge­nu­ity from start to fin­ish. Earn­ing many first place Best In Show awards, this ’31 is an ab­so­lute show stop­per. UDBG

Tyler Spark­man’s jaw-drop­ping diesel pow­ered 1931 Ford Rat Rod is full of char­ac­ter that keeps heads turn­ing.

Text by Kyle Tobin Pho­tos by Chris Tobin and Eryka Ran­dolph

With a four-inch chop, clear coated patina and bright green ac­cents through­out, this low rid­ing road war­rior doesn’t stop beg­ging for at­ten­tion. Of course hav­ing a mon­ster sized Cum­mins up front and a com­pound turbo setup that al­most reaches over the roof doesn’t hurt ei­ther.

Disc brakes from Speed­way Mo­tor­sports’ cus­tom ro­tor and caliper kits all the way around bring the Model-a into the 21st Cen­tury and greatly im­prove driv­abil­ity and per­for­mance. Also no­tice the cool wrench head­light mount.

The clas­sic ’31 straight axle and trans­verse leaf spring sus­pen­sion up front main­tain the old school look of the Rat Rod.

Napa shocks and Air­ride sus­pen­sion are paired with this ’78 Ca­maro rear axle to put the Cum­mins power to the ground and give a good ride; and of course there’s room for some air horns.

The cus­tom green patina paint on the sim­ple steel wheels (20’s in back and 16’s up front) pairs well with the low pro­files in the rear and white walls up front.

A Cum­mins C and bent wrench hood or­na­ment make sure you know this is a cus­tom build with flares of cus­tom fab­ri­ca­tion.

This cus­tom fea­ture of a leather roll back roof ex­pos­ing charred wood sup­ports gives a clever nod to old school styling while adding an­other unique layer to the build.

Stream­lin­ing the tail­lights up into the body next to the tight­ened up ex­panded me­tal rear win­dow changes the dy­namic in the rear to com­pli­ment the per­for­mance minded Rat Rod’s new style.

All an­gles are cov­ered as you walk around this unique Model-a. Ev­ery time you cir­cle, you’ll find a new de­tail.

The BD com­pound turbo kit builds plenty of boost for the light­weight Ford and its ex­posed plumb­ing adds to the in­dus­trial Rat Rod look.

An­other unique touch is this mount­ing po­si­tion for the trans­mis­sion cooler with welded chains as the brack­ets; it is sure to get plenty of cool­ing air­flow through the win­dow­less open­ing.

This Cum­mins swap looks at home with its green ac­cented rocker cov­ers on the 12-valve head and cus­tom plumb­ing.

Spark­man opted for a 15 gal­lon fuel cell in the back of his Model-a be­hind the air tank and along­side the com­pres­sor.

With black smoke bil­low­ing and white smoke rolling, this Cum­mins pow­ered Rat Rod proves it met­tle.

With a year-in-a-half of work, Spark­man crafted his dream of an all-out Rat Rod with plenty of power and day to day re­li­a­bil­ity.

Spark­man worked his cus­tom magic again with bent wrenches work­ing as the ped­als for his ma­chine.

A quick-dis­con­nect race wheel from Speed­way Mo­tor­sports and cus­tom gauge clus­ter full of Au­tome­ter Gauges show this Rat Rod is ready for more than look­ing pretty. No­tice the wrench used to loosen the col­umn mount to swing away the shaft to make it eas­ier to get in and out of the low-slung ride.

K&D Up­hol­stery came through with th­ese clas­sic look­ing black leather seats with green ac­cent stitch­ing.

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