Rat Rod Rendezvous livens up downtown MahtowaWhat makes a Rat Rod a Rat Rod is really a matter of creativity combined with mechanical know-how, resulting in a sort of mobile collage that comes together to make one vehicle.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Finlayson’s Edward Barnick was hoping to drive his ’53 Ford pickup truck to Mahtowa Sunday, but it died a mile from home.
Still, he wasn’t about to miss the fifth annual Rat Rod Rendezvous, so he rode his motorcycle to the show. At noon that day, he could be found peering at a dented, rust-colored Studebaker that may have had a clearance of one-inch between the frame and the ground. Definitely a rat rod.
So what makes a rat rod?
Unlike their more polished cousins in the antique and/or street rod family of older automobiles, shine is not necessary for a Rat Rod to stand out. Neither is a particular production year.
What makes a Rat Rod a Rat Rod is really a matter of creativity combined with mechanical know-how, resulting in a sort of mobile collage that comes together to make one vehicle.
“Something like this, the sky’s the limit,” Barnick said, pointing at the roadster. “You can add, take away, just about anything. Like where did he get those headlights? Doesn’t matter, just bolt them on. And I’m guessing he just airs up the suspension when it’s time to drive.”
Rat Rods do have to be street legal (which means in addition to running they need turn signals, brake lights, head lights and windshield wipers) and owners should plan to drive their own creations to Rat Rod gatherings, rather than hauling them on a trailer as some street rod enthusiasts do.
On Sunday, the area surrounding TJ’s Country Corner was filled with a mixture of shiny street rods and rusty rat rods and a number of vehicles that likely fell somewhere in between. Entry was $1 and one canned food item for the local food shelf, plus entry owners got a free brat for their trouble.
“Street rod, rat rod, custom, whatever you want to call it,” said Walt LeRoche, who drove his ’53 Ford wagon to Mahtowa from the Twin Cities suburbs for the second year in a row.
LeRoche said he enjoys looking at all the different rat rods as well as the street rods that come in increasing numbers to the annual event at TJ’s.
“You name it, it’s out there,” he said. “They use anything. The only limit is your imagination.”
What about Barnick’s ’53 Ford pickup?
“I don’t know where I fit in,” he said, remarking that he was reluctant to start chopping up his dad’s old truck. “I think I’m somewhere between a rat rod and a street rod at the moment. We’ll try to come again next year.”