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

The fast machines are pieced together from vintage parts and scrapyard finds. They also are rumblier, rustier and turn more heads on the highway.

That's pretty much the point of rat rods. They look like hot rods, from after the world has ended. 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 the vintage vehicles. The builders rearrange 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. The place is called the Rat's Nest, and is 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. Some say the name stems from hot rodders dismissing the "ratty" looks of other cars. 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. The Web is full of pictures of enthusiasts' creations. Hundreds of rat rodders rumble in 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. 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 created in seven years. 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 (33)
  • MaggieM-3
    1/02/2015 - 02:58 p.m.

    A man named Peter Duvaloois' makes rat rods, old and rusted cars that have passed there expiration date that are enhanced with new parts and made to look cartoonish and vintage. Peter Duvaloois' is retired and has been building these cars for seven years. In these seven years he has made four rat rods. Duvaloois' is not concerned about the milage of the car or the speed it will go. He has made a rat rod out of an orange 35' Ford public works truck and an old pseudo-Chevy. The Pseudo-chevy gets 23 miles per gallon on the highway. The cars are built in Duvaloois' garage, also known as the Rats Nest, about ninety miles North of New York City. At age sixty-three Duvaloois' doesn't use blueprints to make the rat roods, he uses paper cut-outs and tacks the car together for a short time to make sure it all fits.
    I think that it is so cool people are reusing old car parts and turning it into art. In my humble opinion that is better than melting old cars down and recycling the metal.

  • AJ_Slater
    1/02/2015 - 06:05 p.m.

    Rat rods are cars that are configured from old and rusted parts. They are very fast and strange to the general public who see them. The creator describes these as the poor man's hot rods.Duvualoois has created 4 rods in seven years. I think it is very cool that he has the ingenuity to use old supplies to create cars that get almost average mileage on them.

  • BeckettN-2
    1/02/2015 - 09:29 p.m.

    This article is about a style of car called a "Rat Rod". What the car basically is, is a car made from spare pieces and without putting in effort to make it look polished." I think its interesting that they don't worry about how fast they go.

  • NickB-2
    1/03/2015 - 12:08 a.m.

    This article is about a type of hot rod called Rat Rods. They are rusty, old-fashioned, loud, trucks that are made to look cool, but not shiny and new. They are not "Don't Touch" cars, like some other, very expensive rides, but instead they are meant for rough handling. I, personally like the style of Rat Rods.

  • Kaylab-5
    1/04/2015 - 02:03 p.m.

    This article is about "Rat Rods". "Rat Rods" are trash turned into a fast loud car. These cars are never repainted and waxed, they are rusty just the way they are supposed to be. The "Rat Rods" are cars that have been transformed from spare pieces into cars that please most everyone. I would love to see a "Rat Rod" in a car show. I think that the rust just adds to the character.

  • JohnL-4
    1/04/2015 - 07:21 p.m.

    Peter Duvaloois creates cars called rat rods, which are fast cars put together by old car scraps. Peter, unlike most car builders, also lets visitors sit in the cars, while most manufacturers don't let people even touch the cars. He doesn't really care too much if the paint job is a little fingerprinted. the Facebook page has about 1.5 millions likes, and this attracts many rat rodders into his shop. Duvaloois is currently working on a project, and like the other cars, he isn't using blueprints. I think the idea of rat rodding is pretty cool because it is a relatively cheap hobby that can make nothing into something.

  • SebastianH-1
    1/05/2015 - 12:06 a.m.

    Some people like their cars to look rusty and old, but in a cool way. That is when rat rods come in. Peter Duvaloois, a rat rod enthusiast, goes to talk with others like him and show off their cars. This article was a good size. It could have used more explaining.

  • CameronS-2
    1/05/2015 - 07:29 p.m.

    This article is about a man who makes hot rods out of old rusty car parts that turn many heads on the road.They look very cartoonish that gives not only interest to adults but two kids.The owner said I don't care how fast the cargoes I just care about the Looks.I think these cars look better than our cars today.

  • Wilfreda-OBr
    1/06/2015 - 01:45 p.m.

    That would be awesome to work with Duvaloois. The reason I say that is because I like to work with cars. When my dad worked as a mechanic, I would help him. I also like how he puts different car parts on or in different cars. I should look for their magazines to see more rat rods. My teacher thinks they might be considered "cartoonish", because the cars are built from many different parts and look rusty, kind of like a cartoon.

  • Itswillinroom123
    1/06/2015 - 05:48 p.m.

    Me personnaly I hate rat rods and i love cars. I have seen countless videos of those thing breaking down in the middle of the highway. They are dangerous they dont have airbags and are not practical. But it's all taste me I like the pagani haurya wich is way safer but also way more expensive.

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