Rat rods rock as rusty rides Peter Duvaloois poses with his Rat Rod in Saugerties, N.Y. The fast machines are pieced together from vintage parts and scrapyard finds. At left, he welds a battery box in his shop (  AP photos)
Rat rods rock as rusty rides
Lexile

Peter Duvaloois' rat rods are way cooler than your car.

The fast machines, pieced together from vintage parts and scrapyard finds, 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 hot rods. While both are generally low-slung and loud, rat rods wear their rust proudly and never touch a buff cloth. Duvaloois is among a horde of creative gear heads expressing their affection for vintage vehicles by rearranging them into something both new and old-looking.

"I'm not particularly interested in how fast the truck will go," Duvaloois said with a laugh, "I'm interested in how cool it looks getting there."

Duvaloois is building a rat rod based on an orange '35 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 hot rods, 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 and 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 blue-collar hot rod, 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's magazine 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 '50 Olds Rocket engine under the hood. Duvaloois doesn't use blueprints but instead uses paper cutouts and temporarily tacks the vehicle together to make sure it all fits.

This is the fourth rat rod Duvaloois created in seven years, and his first was built from a '46 Chevy pickup a friend was going to scrap. The friend said there wasn't much left, and Duvaloois replied that's just what he wanted. He combined the hood, cab and grille from the old Chevy with a '52 Dodge hemi engine, a Camaro 5-speed transmission and other pieces.

"I get such a kick out of driving this thing," he said during a quick jaunt.

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."

Critical thinking challenge: What makes rat rods seem cartoonish?

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COMMENTS (7)
  • MGregory-Sti
    12/22/2014 - 09:32 a.m.

    i think its cool that he has those cool old cars because you dont see those cars in these day somtimes we do. but you dont see cars like that in that shape of form cuz now we got the new stuff .

  • MGregory-Sti
    12/22/2014 - 09:33 a.m.

    i think its cool that he has those cool old cars because you dont see those cars in these day somtimes we do. but you dont see cars like that in that shape of form cuz now we got the new stuff .

  • SDakota-Sti
    12/22/2014 - 09:34 a.m.

    I like how Peter Duvaloois can take an old car that doesn't have much parts for it and turn it into something that you can't take your eyes off. I also like how he built a 1946 chevy pickup and combined it with hood, cab, and grill from an old chevy and also put a 1952 Dodge hemi engine with a camaro 5-speed transmission

  • KMartin-Sti
    12/22/2014 - 09:48 a.m.

    Old laddies and young kids like rat rods... That is not so true most people like them but there so loud that most people do not like them. My personal opinion is that there cool how people build these mean machines out of there garage. I like them but it would be hard to build one because in the summer its racing season and the winter im working on my race car for racing season. If i could I would build one I would. I would love to own a rat rod they are a one of a kind car and no one else has one like it. The car shows your personality.

  • ratiaira
    12/23/2014 - 02:15 p.m.

    i never ever heard of something like this until now so it is kind of cool and better than cats i guess rat rods is a weird name for it

  • AlexisKrise
    12/31/2014 - 05:40 p.m.

    I get that some people would really like the 'Rat-Rod' but it's not exactly classy or decent looking. I've never liked the 'no touching' rule that some people have at car shows, but rebeling against it in this way is a little extreme. It's cartoonish because a beat up, rusty old truck or car isn't something that many people often want. It'd be different if they were out in the country, but not in the city. It just doesn't fit. It doesn't have to be perfect, but a little bit of class would be nice.

  • JG2000soccer
    1/05/2015 - 01:07 p.m.

    The reason rat rods look cartoonish because they have big future wheels at the front that were all nice and clean while the car itself was all old and crusty.

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