Most folks have become very comfortable with the Rat Rod phenomenon. But for those new to the idea, a Rat Rod is a style of custom car or truck, that in most cases, imitates (or perhaps exaggerates) the early hot rods of the mid 20th century. While there are many re-creations and period correct restorations of the traditional hot rod from that era, the Rat Rods are the rough edged, scrappy country cousins. Fans argue the Rat Rod is made for driving and hanging out with friends and are on purpose not fancy and highly finished. Instead a Rat Rod is an "unfinished" street rod that is intentionally left a bit “ratty” around the edges. Many are left with rust, flat black or gray paint but today's rat rods come in all shapes, sizes and colors.
While Rat Rods are a tribute to the early hot rods that we all love, the “originals” have often become ultra-expensive, untouchable, and used largely for show pieces. Rat Rods are meant to be driven and are just cool, rough and tumble, partially finished rides that catch people off guard. Some say that Rats are not for wimps. Many are down right hard to drive with no power steering, doors that do not open, brakes that just barely function (you get the picture). Most Rat Rods appear “unfinished” (whether they actually are or not), with just the bare essentials to be driven. Sometimes the customization will include using spare parts, or parts from another cars altogether. Yet most will have very finished even pristine engines and drive trains.
Rat Rods come in all flavors and recipes: roadsters, t-buckets, coupes, sedans, pickups, buses, VWs, and even newer cars are converted into very cool Rats. And even while this is a truly American trend, many European and Asian makes have become unique and unusual examples. It is wonderful how the Rat is so hard to define, difficult to categorize, and yet it is something that you always can identify when you see one.
Rat Rod fans are often concerned that their rides will not be accepted in car shows but actually they are much more often welcomed with special classes and trophies being set up for them. They are welcome at the car shows as much as they are welcome on the American street as performance art, and examples of creativity and personal engineering. They are the new “hard rock” music on the scene. Clearly the Rat Rod is made to be driven hard, yet there is something else going on here. They are the visualization of the idea of function over form. The Rat Rod is truly a new modern art.