4000 Miles of Rust

It's a different kind of documentary. Part documentary, part reality show. Starring a bunch of rusty old "Rat Rods" creatively pieced together by their equally unique owners, the new film "4000 Miles of Rust" will premiere at 1 p.m. Saturday at t...

Rat Rods in the Rockies
Photo courtesy of Rat Rod Magazine

It's a different kind of documentary. Part documentary, part reality show. Starring a bunch of rusty old "Rat Rods" creatively pieced together by their equally unique owners, the new film "4000 Miles of Rust" will premiere at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Lake Theater in Moose Lake. Cost of admission is $5.

Less than an hour long, the movie tells the story of the 2012 "Rat Rod Tour" from Mahtowa to Las Vegas and back, a trip that covered 4,000 miles and lots of fun stops.

"In a word, it was 'epic,'" said Steve Thaemert, publisher of Rat Rod Magazine. "I don't know how else to describe that long of a trip through that many historic places."

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.

"It's hard to define a Rat Rod, because every builder has a different idea of what they want," said Bryan Dagel, a member of the Peckerhead Rat Rod Club based out of Mahtowa. "I see it as more of an expression of art, what you can come up with. Plus you don't have to polish and clean during a show, just BS with everyone and enjoy. There's not so much ego or keeping up with the Joneses."


Mahtowa's Roger Rentol a, for example, constructed his Rat Rod truck out of several different trucks, vans, automobiles and a school bus, along with a beer keg, a cow horn, a couple street signs and an antique Boy Scout canteen, which serves as an overflow container for the radiator.

Rentola left his truck at home for the trip, however, to drive the chase car for the first annual tour, which departed from downtown Mahtowa with a total of 10 Rat Rods on Labor Day.

"I was kind of like the guide," said Rentola, who was joined in the chase car by the Rat Rod Magazine publisher and his camera. "Plus, we would drive ahead and find good spots to film."

The original tour group included three Rat Rods from Canada, one from Nebraska, two from Wisconsin, several from the Mahtowa area and "two deaf guys" from southern Minnesota, Rentola said.

Everywhere they stopped, he noted, they caused a stir.

The Rat Rods traveled through Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado and Utah on their way to Las Vegas. They even crossed into California, just to say they'd done it, Rentola said. After a car show at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev., they made their way back along a different route, traveling through New Mexico to start.

"We picked up people along the way," Rentola said, noting that the group went from 10 to 14 Rat Rods by the end. "Every gasoline stop was a good hour. You don't see a that every day.

"In Winter, S.D., people left their jobs and came flying in [to the gas station] with their cameras."


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.

Rentola said -- despite traveling through desert terrain and over mountain ranges -- the group of cars had almost no mechanical issues, aside from one alternator that had to be replaced.

In addition to its publisher, Rat Rod Magazine brought a photographer who rode in different cars during the journey. They also mounted cameras on a Rat Rod grill, a tail end and on top.

The magazine devoted an entire issue to the trip.

"Issue 16 ½," Rentola said. "It was a special issue that came out the month between issues 16 and 17."

A DVD of the "4,000 Miles of Rust" should be available to purchase within a couple months, Thaemert said. The Rat Rod Tour to New Orleans down old the old Highway 61 route is set for September 2013.

The annual Rat Rod Rendezvous is set for Labor Day weekend at T.J.s in Mahtowa. The Rendezvous -- which registered more than 200 Rat Rods last year -- is part of the reason Rat Rod Magazine has formed such a strong bond with the Peckerhead Rat Rod Club.

"The magazine has small town roots to begin with," Thaemert said, noting that the magazine operates out of Shakopee now. "And there's a great group of Rat Rodders up there. It's kind of like family now."


Rat Rod special issue
Cover image courtesy of Rat Rod Magazine

Related Topics: CARLTON COUNTY
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