Word of warning.

Ok, so this isn't really set in the 1970s like most of the stuff I talk about. Rat Rod culture became known to me around 2014 or so with the Discovery Channel's Vegas Rat Rod reality show, set in Las Vegas of course. It profiled a custom-machine fabricator Steve Darnel as he welded up and ground out visions that combined rust, junk, stripped-down speed and lots of cut out holes!

What is a Rat Rod?

"A rat rod, as usually known today, is a custom car with a deliberately worn-down, unfinished appearance, typically lacking paint, showing rust, and made from cheap or cast-off parts."

-from Wikipedia.

As typical to this kind of show (Monster Garage, American Chopper) there's a customer, a set plan, a deadline and a pile of parts and a crude framework to put it all together with. What I liked immediately about this aesthetic is how it's intentionally left harsh and loud, refinement or smoothness is passed over in preference to patina or authenticity. A Rat Rod is pure machine; mechanically sound yet offering little in visual smoothness or creature comforts for the owner/occupant.


As I watched a few episodes of Vegas Rat Rods I realized Mr. Darnell is a very talented man. His creations do work, and they come in a lot cheaper than a more refined polished 'custom' look you'd get from 'Counting Cars.' The problems he faces are unique, more in line with antique hunting than car customizing. Finding that 'just right' railroad lantern to hang in place of headlights (but now you got to find two that match!).

His show is still on the air, streaming on Hulu.

Tim's Notebook

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Felton CA 95018