Mini rat rod plans

Mini rat rod plans DEFAULT

25 Rat Rods That Make No Sense

The term rat rod is often associated with a style or design style that exaggerates hot rods of the ‘40s, ‘50s and early ‘60s; they are synonymous with a rugged looking construction of rusty or poorly primed parts hanging off of lowered frames with parts missing or exposed to the elements for visual effect. They usually have extreme features such as excessively large tires, extended frames, small windows with super chopped tops and huge accentuations of engine components, sun visors, and bumpers.

The trend is not limited to any one type of vehicle; rather, it has proliferated into a wide-spread movement that has seen builders modify anything from Volkswagen buses and beetles to semi tractors and military equipment. The overall theme is low, mean, loud, rough and rugged but there are no real rules. The evolution of this concept has come a long way since its beginnings, and new boundaries are being pushed every single day. There are rat rods in every configuration from super slammed coupes that sit less than three feet from the ground to 40’, 3, horsepower big rigs with crew cabs. Truly, the rat rod movement is a unique one that is creating new pieces of art every day.

Rat rodding started out as a very specific type of build on a specific type of car, and since it’s humble, bare bones beginnings has transformed into a worldwide culture of enthusiasts with a love of grunge, industrial styling and conventional wisdom defying builds.

25 '42 Rat Trap International

Truly having no boundaries, rat rodding is evolving into a phenomenon that has inspired heavy truck builds that are look like something out of a scary movie. With an array of different colored panels in all stages of decay, this New Mexico based rig is anything but a jalopy, despite its outward appearance. This rig was an attendee at the first ever official SEMA RATical Rod International Build & Drive Off. Previously, the show had only always been open to vendors as a trade show, but with the addition of the Rat Rod designation, SEMA got a little diversity in its paint finishes that year.

This ’42 International took the trophy, which was comprised of a rusty flexplate for a base, with a sun gear welded to it and a bunch of wrenches, pliers, and screwdrivers crowing the prize. Team Cutters, the owners, and builders of the rig, had to ensure the rig was road worthy to qualify for competition. “Endee,” the International cab featured a custom 36”x78” sleeper and a 6BTA Cummins engine. The inline six-cylinder, four-stroke diesel has a displacement of L and is turbocharged/aftercooler equipped. It is one of the most proven mid-range diesel platforms being used across multiple markets and the simple 12 valve mechanical design means affordable parts and extremely reliable operation.

24 Wrecked Wrecker

A ’65 Chevy cab is about all that’s identifiable amongst the mosaic of parts and pieces. The only thing for sure is that this rig is made up of many rigs, cars, trucks; and probably a few boats and planes as well. The suspension sits on bags to tuck the frame down to the floor. It’s so low that when you sit inside of it, the transmission tunnel is almost up to your chin, leaving big basins for driver and passenger to tuck down into. The seats are basically mounted on the floor pan because the roof line is so low. A mesh grille is installed over the narrow opening that used to be a windshield.

Visibility is already a challenge when you’re sitting on the floor pan of a ’65 Chevy cab; add to that an engine that is required to sit over 12” taller than the hood line due to the position of the frame mounts, and you have a big challenge in store for you during right-hand turns.

The rugged engine features brass carburetor feed lines in a decorative loop from the fuel pump to the carb inlet, and exhaust pipes run straight from the exhaust outlets in the heads up and out of the hood. As long as you don’t mind a little hydrocarbon wafting in the chicken wire windshield, driving this thing looks like a blast!

23 The Undertaker

If there is a reoccurring theme here, it’s not tow trucks, although they are some of the coolest rat rods you will find; it’s functionality. As dumped as this Diamond T tow truck sits, it’s actually a perfectly functional tow rig. Powered by a cubic inch Wedge commandeered from an old Dodge motorhome, a reliable TorqueFlight transmission provides the transfer of ponies to the massive rear wheels via a custom driveshaft to a Dana 60 rear with gears. This low gearing plus the torquey motorhome power plant gives the Undertaker more than enough cajones to handle just about any job you can throw at it, provided you’re brave enough to throw anything at it in the first place.

As rough as it looks, the Diamond T Rolls on air ride suspension for adjustable ride height and exemplary comfort during long hauls. The rig is set up with a plethora of nostalgic items such as a Sireno siren, vintage fire extinguisher from , a Sinclair five-gallon oil canister and even a railroad jack from the s. No A/C, but that won’t stop the breeze from moving with a retro, vacuum-operated Trico fan on the column. This is an award-winning rat rod and definite head-turner when attending shows.

22 Six-Pack Rat

The Six Pack Rat is unlike most rat rods you’ve ever seen. We’ve all seen slammed; we’ve all seen primer olive drab greens and tans; and we’ve all seen hood-less engines sparkling in the sun. What we don’t see every day is all of that loaded onto a three axle chassis. And while we’ve seen three axle chassis in our time, it’s a bit of a sight to see the frame rails resting on the pavement. Add up all of those things and you get Six Pack Rat; a ’35 Dodge pickup cab and bed mounted to the running gear of a WWII 1 ½ ton troop carrier. The ’44 Dodge WC 62 troop carriers saw WWII service form and on, although what probably was able to save this example was the extreme interchangeability between these Willys, Ford and Dodge trucks, although they were purpose built machines. Interestingly, after the war, Dodge developed the Power Wagon from the ¾ ton WC trucks.

Not only are the chassis and cab/bed transplants from completely different family trees, the chosen engine for this machine is the cubic inch inline six from a ’66 Chevelle. This rat generates so much attention at shows that you can’t take pictures of it until the end of the day after everybody is done gawking at it.

21 Hulk Camino

What does horsepower look like? You’re probably picturing drag cars with sleek, fiberglass bodies and sponsor stickers. Well, what does horsepower look like if it were in Mad Max? A good guess would be this monstrosity of a machine. Some rods have scoops sticking up out of the hood to add aesthetic value while producing next to no gain performance wise. It becomes crystal clear when gazing down the throat of this scoop that this engine is not just for show; it’s packed with go!

The super wide drive belt engages the drive pulley teeth and grasps it for dear life while the crankshaft sends the pulsing power from the performance rods through to the racing transmission and out to the tires for instant smoke on command. This thing just lights ‘em up!

The gigantic BDS supercharger rests snugly atop the small block, while a unique, one-of-a-kind roof access latch allows the roof on the driver side to flip open for easy entry to and from the pilot’s seat. Good feature, since the seat is blocked somewhat by the roll cage. The interior is just like the exterior; hints of El Camino amidst a desert raging, water foraging Mad Max theme. Whether you love it or hate it, just be sure to stay out of its way for fear of being sucked into the supercharger; it’s that fast.

20 Big Mike

“Preserving the past, ensuring the future” is Mike Harrah’s motto. He’s a philanthropist, developer, and visionary. For the last 30 years, he’s spent his career developing world-class properties bringing run-down ones back to life with as many environmental amenities as he possibly can. He’s an accomplished man; stunt pilot, restaurateur and preservationist who prides himself on giving back to the community in which he lives. The Orange County based developer is a visionary of another sort as well….a rat rod visionary!

For no other reason than because he can, big man Mike Harrah took a custom stretched Peterbuilt cab and sat it at the tail end of a 40’ custom chassis. If that isn’t visionary enough, he then proceeded to install a Detriot 71 Series, 24 cylinder 1, cubic inch ship motor in front of it. If that wasn’t already enough, he had to outdo himself and custom fabricate an aluminum plate intake manifold that weighs over 1,lbs. Most people’s imagination will run out about that point. Not Mike’s; instead he then continued to install 8 additional superchargers in addition to an existing four to for a grand total of 12 superchargers with 36 butterflies. Eight times more powerful than your standard semi-truck, this engine hit the dyno at 3,hp and is estimated to have over 5,ft/lb of torque. Let’s hope that little Allison transmission is up to the task of delivering all that power. I don’t think it’ll last long if it isn’t.

19 V-8 V-Dub

Volkswagens are cool. The thing about bugs however, is that they have a relatively small, low horsepower engine installed. That was the intent of the design, and served the little car well throughout history. However, I’ve always found myself driving at one of two throttle settings; wide open, or coasting in gear to use the engine as a brake. There was no happy in-between. For all of you bug lovers whom hath been tortured by the same agony, feast your eyes on one rat rod’s solution; it’s called more cylinders.

We’ve seen bug conversions that have put V-8s inside of the cabin, seen ‘em slap it off the back of the transaxle, and even seen them tucked inside the hoods up front. What you don’t normally see is the hood chopped, and a V-8 placed where it rightfully belongs in the front of a car.

More custom fabrication than an actual Volkswagen, the ’68 shell is bolted down to a custom chassis that builder/owner Matt and his buddies built in their private shop. Air bags to dump it to the ground; a glance inside reveals a transmission hump that’s as tall as the dashboard and riveted together gives a military feel to the interior. Matt says he also has a set of paddles that kick up the biggest rooster tails you’ve ever seen from a bug! (Maybe that’s because it’s not a bug Matt).

18 '32 Prison Bus

When people break the law there is a price to be paid. Break enough of them in the ‘30s and you could have found yourself riding to the state pen on one of these bad boys except, it wasn’t always so trendy to be seen in. This prison bus may likely have seen a lot of service in its day; a statistic published in a biennial report of the state prison system indicates from the decade between and , the prison population nearly tripled; increasing steadily as each year passed. This inevitably meant that not only housing provisions, but transportation provisions had to be bolstered up to accommodate such an increase.

Information on this monster is scarce indeed, but with a big block powered, dual-carbureted supercharger and high performance peripheral equipment hanging off of it, I’d say she’s not the cow she looks like. Similar powered busses like this have been seen at the drag strip taking down brand new Tundras like they were sitting still; for an all steel body of this sheer size, that’s impressive even with the big block power. This rat rod is a head turner wherever it goes not only because it sounds like a warbird taxiing down the flight line; they are so rare that nice restorations are going to start bidding at $, Haggle that down all you want, you still better have some stellar credit!

17 Diamond-T Hauler

What could possibly be more stylish than driving your rod around? How about driving your rod around…on a rod? When you have something as classy as a Model A, you want it to be protected as you pull it around. However, when that Model A has a plus horsepower, cubic inch small block Windsor and a Ford 9-inch rear behind a C-6, you want something equally as rad! Weaver Customs found a ’38 Diamond-T truck that had potential to fit the bill, and created something that would send Jeepers Creepers scurrying back down into the dank hole he crawled out of.

The Diamond-T was used as a tank transporter by the British Military in North Africa and quickly gained a reputation for their ability to rescue broken tanks from the most remote locations. The trucks were a powerhouse of a workhorse.

Weaver Customs modified the frame tremendously; the chassis was stretched 16’ and a custom fabricated aluminum deck was fitted to it designed especially for the Model A. Up front a 24 valve Cummins inline six was bolted to a 47RE 4-speed automatic. The horsepower Cummins can develop a ridiculous 1,ft/lb of torque. To bolster reliability, billet input and output shafts were installed with a billet torque converter and full-manual valve body kit. You couldn’t tell from the outside, but it was built with precision and diligent planning. This truck is possibly a bigger spotlight stealer than the Model A it ferries around.

16 Train Car Dually

When you’re the owner of a custom rod shop called WelderUp, your grandfather was a WWII gunner on a destroyer and you want to build a Navy themed tribute rod, “Train Car” is what you get when left to your own devices. Train Car is a big middle finger to everything that the Toyota Prius represents. It looks as if it could tear right through the plastic-composite construction, ingest most of the pieces through the intake and blow ‘em through the cylinders without a single misfire. The 1, horsepower custom Cummins twin turbo can be bumped up to 1, horsepower with onboard nitrous; because you know, sometimes 1, horsepower isn’t enough??? (To give you an idea of how much power this is; when I was a flatbedder, the Freightliner I drove was equipped with a Caterpillar that produced horsepower. That truck handled 80,lbs like a champ.)

Obviously there is no need for this until the zombie apocalypse comes, but it’s nice to know we’re preparing well. This Prius piledriver comes battle ready with the bulletproof Dana 70 rear to steer the torque to four massive dual tires. Other cool features of this rod include a windshield styling that looks like it was inspired by the twin-engine DC-3 used in WWII. The only things it doesn’t have (besides an eco-mode button on the dash) are doors. Nope. You actually have to crawl in from the top. Why? Well to keep the zombies out of course.

15 '45 Willys Rat Rod

When you think of a Jeep, you think of four-wheeling, blazing trails, ground clearance, etc. Maybe a history buff would think general purpose, light reconnaissance vehicle, the beginning of a legend. Well, some of that is true; this old Willys is a legend in its own right. Randy Ellis Designs are to thank for bringing this old piece of army heritage closer to hot rod heaven and a little closer to our hearts. I would say that the Randy Ellis team gave this old jeep a new life; however that would not be correct. Despite its genuine looks, it’s actually a fiberglass replica; although it does have a few authentic Willys parts here and there. Unless you’re a Jeep buff, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell, especially not from pictures alone.

Equipped with a sound system, complete custom dash setup and environmentally friendly A/C system requiring no freon; just push the front windshield forward, put your goggles on and keep your mouth shut!

Other cool features of this bad boy include a steering linkage setup that, due to the low ground clearance, has to be mounted to the driver side of the body, with the steering gear apparently under the dash and the pitman arm hanging just outside. You can see the steering arm actuating right in front of you. For you Jeep guys who slander this machine because it has no ground clearance, that’s just not true. Pump the air bags up to get a whole 7 inches!

14 Caterpillar Half Track

The continuous track propulsion system can be traced back as far as the late s as a crude idea and prototypes were being experimented with as early as the s. By the 20th century, the tracked vehicle design was seeing successful commercial applications in the logging industry. The first completed example of a tracked military vehicle was a prototype nicknamed “Little Willie.” Although not a very flattering name for something as masculine as a tank, it was the humble beginnings here that led to over a century of military heavy vehicle propulsion technology that has yet to be superseded.

Tracked vehicles give the impression of a go anywhere and over anything type of utility, and until recently, were reserved for vehicles in need of said utility. Now you can get a retrofit kit for your Ford F and destroy the trucks intrinsic utility to project a false sense of increased capability, but you’re not fooling anybody. You can’t pull something like that off unless you’re Steve Darnell, the mastermind behind WelderUp and creator of some of the most rad rods you’ve ever seen. When he decided to put tracks on something, you know it’s going to be good. Although the rod may not experience increased performance with the upgraded rear running gear, sometimes the point of hot rodding is to make a statement; which this Caterpillar powered half-track definitely does.

13 Big Block Peterbuilt

Big rigs are hot rods too. Often not thought of as such, most trucks live a strictly service based life, never seeing any appreciation. Rightfully so, many of the aerodynamic fiberglass designs are ugly and unflattering; but back before the Environmental Protection Agency had completely tightened its grasp of red tape on the testicles of raw, unrestricted power, trucks were built with style and design in mind; they were something to be proud of. Although those tough looking square-styled designs are being phased out by the year, you can still see trucks like the Perterbuilt and Kenworth W highly customized in show quality condition that would belong in any SEMA show. Many owner/operators are hot rodders too; just a different kind of hot rod.

But what happens to trucks when they get tired? Turning a million miles is not uncommon in the heavy truck industry, but that still is a boatload of miles. So, when your rig does wear out, you can either scrap it – or, if you’re jonesing for a new project, why not chop the top just big enough to hang your elbow out, slam it down to the ride height of a Cadillac, throw a Chrysler big block in under the long nose and punctuate the driveline with a Dana. Probably the coolest feature is the big block noise coming out of what you’d expect to hear a turbo spooling up in.

12 Dumped Deuce And A Half

When you have surplus military equipment with no better thing to do to it, the military has been known to tragically dump excess inventory into the ocean, truck after truck (plane after plane), as if they were garbage. To this day, heaping piles of historic equipment lay all over the bottom of the ocean; left to waste away for all eternity. We may not practice this disposal procedure today, as that would invoke a cry of blasphemy from environmentalists worldwide (and rightfully so), but when battle zones cool down and conflicts subside, there usually exists an excess of inventory that needs to be dealt with.

You can drive around rural Canada and find carcasses of Lancaster bombers that were sold for as little as $ to farmers whom now use them as chicken coops. Whatever the case, when wartime fades, be on the lookout for deals!

That’s probably what the creator of this beast did when he took a decommissioned M deuce and a half and fully customized the entire rig just about. All that’s recognizable at this point is the cab by the distinctive door handles and squared window design. This east coast rig is seen here basking in the sun enjoying its retirement on the correct side of the surface of the ocean.

11 Bimmer Bomber

The “Bimmer Bomber” isn’t just a catchy name with a loose reference to German WWII heritage. Being an aviation fan, Mike Burroughs wanted to theme his ‘80s era 5-series BMW after a legendary plane. If you take a quick glance at the Messerschmitt ME, one of the greatest German fighters of WWII, you’ll easily note that the canopy design highly resembles the 5-series’ 5” chop to the roof with its symmetrical design and squared lines. The gentle slope of the hood also vaguely resembles the downward angle of the ’s engine compartment onward to the propeller.

A recent 4” lift to the top shock mount location now allows the car to get even lower, and he can now slide the roof of the Bimmer Bomber underneath a semi-trailer. Perfectly flared fenders accept the profile of the tire as the wheels tuck into the wheel wells and degrees of camber drop off like kids on a school bus (don’t get me started on that!) All in all, it’s a dope ride and tastefully done for an unconventional rat rod. And yes, for those of you whom will disagree with me on the inclusion of this car into the list, the definition of rat rod is grungy, rugged, and conventionally unacceptable; a definition of which this car fits nicely. It’s complete with surface rust on an untreated metal dashboard and the welds from the chop top were never even cleaned up. If that’s not grungy, what is?

10 Angry Tanker

In Arthur Gilmore purchased a large plot of land after moving from Illinois to Los Angeles, California seeking a better life for himself. He settled in and founded a dairy farm from which to make a living off of. One day, while this Beverly hillbilly was drilling for water for his herd of cows, he struck oil instead. Five years later the cows had been traded in for oil derricks and the Gilmore Oil Company had been founded. Feeling juiced up on his recent stroke of luck, he made the statement “Someday you will own a horseless carriage. Our gasoline will run it” By , that was exactly the case. After assuming control of the company, his son Earl proceeded to create a vast oil distribution network. More than four million cars were being produced each year, and many of those headed for Los Angeles. His oil company became the largest on the west coast. (These old, turn of the century success stories make it all sound so easy to amass a fortune by a simple stroke of luck, don’t they?)

Whether or not this ’37 Dodge pickup is an authentic Gilmore service vehicle or just a cool rod that happened to be branded with the Gilmore Gasoline brand, the timeline does match up to when Gilmore could have theoretically purchased new pickup trucks for their fleet. Dart SHP block, Dart Pro One heads, and a BDS blower put down horsepower and ft/lb of torque to the wheels.

9 Major Payne

Some builds are meticulously thought out on the drawing board, tirelessly labored over in the mind and diligently planned out before ever a wrench begins to turn on the build. Those usually make for some of the best, show-quality builds. And on the other hand, sometimes you have a backwoods country boy and his friends sitting around the garage hammering away at a 36 pack of Pabts Blue Ribbon when one of them turns to another and says, “hey let’s put that roaster kit body on your tank.” (Yes, there just so happened to be a tank lying around the garage.) You see, what had happened was, the tank originally had an S10 body on it, and it originally was a rear engine tank. The S10 body had sustained damage after having been run through “one of the trailers.” (Apparently, there also just so happened to be trailers lying around his property with no better purpose to serve than as an obstacle for a tank.) So what started out as a simple engine swap from the original big block ended up turning into a roaster tank conversion.

Much fabrication and custom work had to be done to make the build work as the owner wanted, as the tank was originally a rear engine design, the tank would either have to be driven in reverse all the time or a torque reverser would have to be employed. A custom fabricated reverser was constructed and thus, a Major Payne was born.

8 Superficial

They teach you in grade school that it’s not about what’s on the outside that’s important but rather, what’s on the inside. That’s all well and good, but when you have a Chevy cab and no chassis to put it on, maybe the inverse becomes true. Rarely do larger 1 ½ ton trucks get the opportunity to be reborn as hot rods, so when one does it’s somewhat of a unique thing to behold.

The 1 ½ ton cab was slapped onto the chassis and running gear of a ‘70s era dually. It was outfitted with a small block , Turbo transmission, power steering and brakes.

There are key features indicative of the newer guts underneath the classic exterior; the ‘90s era steering wheel and shift lever, indicating a newer column; the gas and brake pedals are definitely not ‘50s period correct, and the Shell oil barrel is definitely not the factory transmission hump. Nonetheless, this rig has about the perfect amount of patina on the paint and bumper while other chrome features are shiny and clean. Somehow, it all seems to strike a fine balance. The cleanly painted cream heavy duty rims are offset with black hubs and whitewall tires that subtly indicates this truck isn’t just an old beater; although, sitting on a chassis from the ‘70s would almost beg to differ.

7 Home Wrecker

When is it ok to be a home wrecker? It all depends on who you ask. If your home wrecker is a post war-styled late ‘40s – early ‘50s Chevrolet cab slammed to the ground with a boom on the back, the answer is most definitely almost always. Directly following the post-depression & World War II era design came from what’s known as the post war or ‘advance design’ trucks from A totally fresh looking truck featuring a wide body design, tougher yet smoother features; the iconic five-bar grille is one of the most distinguishing features of this legendary line of Chevrolet pickups.

The wider cab meant that a third person could ride comfortably in the center and the inclusion of small items like radios, fresh-air heater/defroster system and wing windows subtly signified that we were now in the post-war era.

The post war era Chevy trucks were produced in enough numbers that they are not extremely rare, although they are tough to find. This is one of the most popular truck designs with hot rodders, and the industrialized rugged appeal of the rusty body lines allow for the addition of crazy things like booms, custom beds and dually conversions that look somehow fitting. This split window even rocks the wood-plank bumper with confidence that would likely look ridiculous on almost any other hot rod.

6 Air Raid Radial Plymouth

Gary Corns’ sons were born into an auto dismantler’s business. A highly un-glorified a career in many respects, it does come with its advantages; access to more parts that you could need, and raw materials like metal. Being handy with a welder and torch mean that there’s not going to be a lot you cannot accomplish. When Gary showed up one day with a salvaged ‘50s era Cessna seaplane on a flatbed, the boys knew something big was about to happen.

They commandeered the lb, seven cylinder radial and found a way to stuff it inside the engine compartment of a Plymouth truck that had nothing better going for it. Its custom belt drive system transfers power from the output shaft of the monster L ( cubic inch) Jacobs R radial to a boat V-drive and through a custom driveshaft to a Turbo transmission. Interior styling is one of the best WWII tributes you’ll find, laden with pop rivets and brushed metal, a string of gauges that traverse the dashboard, rudder pedals, and even yoke inspired steering wheels that are actually chain-linked together so you can steer from both the pilot’s or co-pilot’s seats. The air cooled radial can’t be run long before it overheats, but the only thing cooler than watching the puff of white smoke blow out from the pipes on start-up is hearing it run.


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About The Author
Nate Piscopo ( Articles Published)More From Nate Piscopo

Introduction: Rat Rod Mower Kart

This is all about my process of building a rat rod go kart from an old lawn mower. As with any good rat rod build, it is mostly assembled from salvaged parts. The end-goal for this project is to give it to my wife for her birthday Memorial day weekend so she can drive it in the Tractor Days Parade on the island she delivers mail for.

Donor mower details are:

Cub Cadet LTX

19 HP single-cylinder Kohler Courage Engine

Belt-driven CVT transmission

The cutting deck was toast, and it hadn't been run in several years.

The engine didn't run when I got it, but it was in "ran when it was parked" condition. After a few simple tests and checks, I determined it was probably just a stuck carburetor. I ordered the part off Amazon and got started while I waited for it to arrive.

Step 1: Tear Down

Tear down usually goes pretty quick on a project like this and helps motivation, because it looks like you got so much done.

It was really only an hour or two of taking of parts and sorting them into two piles: metal-recycle and maybe-useful.

I want this thing low and rodded out. The original plan was to cut it in half, flip the rear axle, and stretch it in the middle of the frame. After looking for replacement drive belts, I found I would have to install a jackshaft or idler pulley set because they just don't make belts long enough for what I wanted to do. Lowering it too much also would hinder my wife's ability to drive it around the farm and actually use the thing. As cool as slammed to the ground would be, it just wasn't practical.

Plan B

I cut down the sheet metal deck that used to support the seat and battery. I could at least lower the seat as far as possible and lengthen and drop it in front of the motor. "Raked" is a close second to "slammed".

Step 2: Wheel Barrow Seat and Cutting the Frame

One main goal of this project was to use an old wheel barrow as the seat/body of the kart. To do it, I knew I wanted to cut the wheel barrow in such a way that I can use the deep end of it as a seat with a high back, and the shallow end as the dashboard. When done right, I think it really looks like an old T-Bucket hot rod.

The seat was mounted using the old seat hinge with new holes drilled in it. I grabbed some scrap 1/8" sheet metal to bend up little spring pads. I welded them directly to the frame and bolted the springs under the seat for a little cushion while driving.

At this point, I "knew" that I wanted to build a little truck bed behind the barrow to make it look like a T-bucket pickup. But, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Because of the hinged barrow seat and the way the bed would cover the tow hitch, I had to make some new plans. So I picked up an old mailbox from my parents, who had recently replaced theirs. My wife is a rural mail carrier, so the mail box certainly fits an emerging theme for the build. More on that later

Using a Dewalt Reciprocating saw, I cut the frame just in front of the motor mounts. The steering would have to be lengthened or changed, but lengthening the frame here would have almost no other effects on major components of the kart. I also cut off the frame pieces that stuck out past the front axle; they were just there to hold the cowling and exhaust, and we don't need those where we're going. Plus, rat rod axles are supposed to be in the very front.

After cutting the frame apart, I had to mock it up with a couple tire sizes and frame lengths to see how it looked best.

I really wanted to use the smaller tires, but, again, not very practical. Bigger tires roll over objects better and can eat up any imperfections in the steering setup.

It also just so happened that a friend of mine had a large quantity of old mower parts laying around from his time racing lawnmowers. (I swear its a real thing. ) He supplied me with some scrap parts: new front tires and tie rods for the new steering to be designed later.

Step 3: Welding It Back Together

Originally I thought I would bend some pipe that we had leftover from a project at work to get the perfect angle for the front axle. However, with the carburetor and big air filter on the engine, there just wasn't room for a bent pipe on that side. Instead, I had to compromise again and flip the frame section that houses the axle and install it upside down with a straight pipe. It actually worked out much simpler.

I extended the frame 12". This was the minimum I needed to lengthen it for the tire to clear the air filter at full turn.

I cut my pipe (1" sch40) frame extensions at 20". I'd have " of weld area on the front section with the axle (as much as my design would allow), and " on the engine-side. I bent the frame around the pipe as much as possible and welded in as many spots as I could get the stinger into.

The tire at full turn would just clear the air filter. The filter isn't in the best spot for keeping clean, but sometimes fashion trumps function.

To make the steering fit, I had to lower the front end another inch and flip the steering arm to bias towards the rear of the mower.

Step 4: "Body" Panels

The dashboard is made from the cut off section of the barrow. The supports for it are made from some 1/4" stainless round bar we had a lot of scraps of at work. It sits higher than the original plan, because it allows access to the engine and flywheel. The supports are welded directly to the frame of the mower. It's not ideal if I need to pull the engine for a rebuild or replacement in the future, but they're surprisingly flexible in case they need to be bent out of the way.

The grill is made from an old pitchfork. I marked and notched where the tines touched the front steering support and welded each tine in place. I originally planned to cut the pitchfork down, but, frankly, I think it looks pretty cool long, so I left it. You can't go back if it doesn't look good cut down, after all.

Step 5: Fuel Tank

One of the staples of a rat rod is the fuel tank. I knew I wanted to do something unique. A mini keg? Stainless beer growler? Hide it in a mailbox? I really wanted an old square one gallon gas or oil can. Turns out one of those was surprisingly hard to find. I compromised with a dented and rusty paint thinner can I had. It had a great patina, and I think it matched the rust and chipped paint of the barrow really well.

So I picked up a shutoff valve complete with gasket on Amazon:

Installing the valve is as simple as drilling the right sized hole in the bottom of the can and bolting the valve into place. There are two VERY important parts of properly executing this task: 1) using a Nylock nut because you do not want that nut backing itself off and spilling gas everywhere; 2) place the hole in a location you can access with a deep socket and long extension through the filler hole. And in my case, there's actually a third lesson learned: don't use a can with a hole in it.

As it turns out, the rusted gallon jug with a dent in it also had a leak right in the middle of the dent. Can't win em all

So I had to use a rather new-looking paint thinner can. Hopefully it'll pick up some rust soon enough

Step 6: Steering

I had to redesign my steering a bit, because the oversized air filter I installed interfered with the original steering linkage on one side.

I used a track rod to tie the steering arms together behind the front axle. I really wanted to install a steering box and drag link, but it's just not very cost-efficient. Instead, I used the original geared steering hub. In this design, the steering wheel turns a geared shaft, which turns a hub with two tie rod ends on it. It had independent drag links for each side, and they were really loose so the wheels didn't track together very well. Independent drag links can also cause unintended steering problems if the front axle articulates. Installing a quality track rod definitely helped to keep the tires parallel and more easily adjustable for toe in/out.

The downside of using the old steering arms for the track rod is that it left me no place to attach the new drag link. I pulled off the spindle and welded on a new steering arm made from some scrap 3/16" stainless that was laying around the shop. It took a bit of trial and error and grinding to find a shape that wouldn't interfere with the axle or tire at full turn / full articulation.

The new drag link was going to be made from some square stainless tubing I had, but I noticed the old drag link threads looked really similar to the threads on one of the tie rod arms I had gotten from my mower-racing friend. Sure enough, it was a perfect fit, so my new drag link was as simple as threading an old drag link onto an old tie rod!

You may notice in the photos that all the bolts/nuts on the steering look upside down. One of the tricks of industry is to install important bolts upside down so you can more easily monitor them - If a nut loosens or falls off completely, you won't notice it if the bolt is still in place; but if the bolt loosens, you will notice the exposed nut threads immediately.

I didn't like the near-vertical steering shaft. So I welded in some bracing (leftover from the old gas tank mount), and cut up a C-clamp to make an adjustable angled steering shaft. The articulating joint is a 3/8" universal socket joint that I welded into the steering shaft. There's a little bit of slop from the C-clamp's pad, but it's not noticeable when you're driving it.

Step 7: Seat Cushion

My mom made a padded seat for the rat mower from some new fabric and old pillows and sleeping pad foam.

I made a template for her with heavy paper, and we discussed material/print options. She chose some outdoor upholstery material. She sewed it in a couple stages so I could test fit the seat without bringing the mower to her. There are some Neodymium magnets from Amazon taped to the inside of the cushion. They work surprisingly well to keep the seat in place.

Step 8: Custom Touches

The factory air filter doesn't look cool. So I 3d-printed an adapter for the carburetor so I could put a "massive" 3" cone filter on it.

Link to the STL file on Thingiverse:

Any good rat rod has a comically tall shifter. So, I've extended the shift arm by 24 inches with 3/8" rod and added a custom 3D printed mailbox shift knob. It features a paperclip hinge and fully functional door.

I also 3d-printed a switch box to mount on the dash in lieu of using the keyed switch. There wasn't anything wrong with the switch, but it had too many mower safeties that didn't apply to a go kart, and it really didn't match the feng shui of the build.

Step 9: Battery Box and Trunk

In lieu of a truck bed, I decided to go with an old mailbox for a trunk.

I reused the old battery box and mounted it behind the barrow body. There wasn't much room for it between the kart frame and where I wanted to put the mailbox. I also wanted to keep it up high enough that I could use the original tow hitch for a future matching trailer project.

I welded the old battery box directly to the frame of the mower. It wasn't designed to support the weight of the battery the way that I mounted it, but I braced it with the mail box mount supports, so it shouldn't be a problem.

I used more of the leftover 1" sch40 pipe to create bracing for the battery box and the main support for the mailbox mount. I had to cut a relatively complicated double-miter on the round pipe, which can be a real pain. I used an Evolution miter saw. This saw can cut most materials, and the miter function made it really easy to make a cut that would otherwise be a nightmare.

I left the pipe sections long so I could cut them to fit the mailbox mount once they were in place. Sometimes it's just so hard to visualize how long a piece needs to be to get the perfect "look."

The mailbox mount is made from 1/8" steel plate, and bent on the brake press with a 60 degree die.

I braced the cut up sheet metal that used to be the frame of the mower with some 3/16" stainless. It's overkill, but I work at a stainless shop, so it's the most plentiful scrap I've got access to.

Step Test Running

After weeks and weeks of working on this thing after work and on the weekends, it was finally time to test it out in the parking lot. I hadn't completed the steering, shifter, and a couple little things when it came time for a test run. This was actually the first time I'd get to see if the motor runs! I had replaced the carburetor, but I didn't have a battery or electrical hooked up, so I hadn't been able to test it yet. Luckily, everything worked exactly it should. It fired right up! Top speed was a little slow, so I'll have to replace a pulley or two with a different size to gain some mechanical advantage.

It definitely drew the attention of the other businesses in our industrial park! There will be some improvements in the future, but for now, it's pretty hard to believe it used to be a lawnmower destined for the scrap yard!

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Why buy something new and boring when you can build something awesome and unique? Michael Rebolo didn’t have to ask himself the question twice.

As a long-time fan of American car-building television shows like Fast N’ Loud and Overhaulin’, it was only ever going to be a matter of time before Mike embarked on a build of his own. Although his rat rod Mini might look quite simple on the surface, in reality it’s an intricate build that took three years to get to the stage it’s in now.

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It all started with an old Mini body, which in a previous life was raced here in South Africa. It came with a fiberglass front end in poor condition, but that didn’t matter as Mike didn’t need a front end anyway. Otherwise, it was full stripped and missing its original engine.

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Buying what was essentially a scrap shell, the seller was curious as to what Mike planned to do with it. Mike simply told him, “I’m repurposing it.”

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Body acquired, next on the list was a suitable powertrain. Mike met Fernando from Turf Club Auto Spares in Johannesburg, who sorted him out with a ci Chevy V8 motor paired with a Turbo transmission. This combination was completely rebuilt and fitted with a Holley carb and new chrome valve covers.

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Before it could light up some tyres, there was the not-so-small task of building a new chassis for the Mini body to sit on, and the engine to sit in. For this aspect of the project, Fernando put Mike in touch with Ettiene at Street Rod Factory in Pretoria – a hot rod builder of over 30 years.

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Ettiene was game and started by measuring up everything before diving straight into the chassis build.

Given the full custom nature of the creation, tweaks were made along the way. The first one came when the Mini body was positioned on the new frame for the first time; Mike immediately felt it just wasn’t low enough. To get the car lower, Ettiene went back to the drawing board and returned with a solution – sectioning the frame and cutting out the Mini’s floor.

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You might have noticed that the Mini’s roof is both lower and longer too, and this came about while replacing the original roof – which had a sunroof fitted – with a full metal one. During that process, the roof was extended for a hang-over visor look in the front.

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The body finish was achieved through a multi-step process, but it’s not finished yet. The bare metal was first sprayed with primer, then black, then brown, and finally silver for the topcoat. This was followed up with a lot of sanding to get the colour and finish where Mike wanted it, and since then the car has been left out in the elements to naturally weather. Pretty soon it’ll be clear-coated to preserve the unique look.

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On the flip-side, all of the chrome trim, glass and rubbers were completely refreshed.

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For Mike, steel wheels and truck tyres were non-negotiable for this build, and the black wheel centers and white-walls look right at home. The spike wheel nuts were built by Mike’s father, who also had some input into other areas of the car.

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The Mini rides on full Jaguar suspension architecture, but once the wheels and tyres were fitted Mike still wasn’t happy with the ride height. The answer? A custom, manually-controlled air ride system with the air tank mounted on the front end of the car – drag hot rod fuel tank style – and the compressor in the boot.

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Once the Mini had been returned to Fernando for the engine and driveline to be fitted, all that was left to sort out was an exhaust. Of course, it had to be side-piped.

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The Mini’s interior is just as cool as its exterior. There are a number of highlights in here, from the custom laser-etched wooden dash, to the chain steering wheel made by Ettiene, and the knuckleduster shift lever again made by Mike’s dad.

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You could say it’s still a work in progress too, as Mike loves finding and adding odd items from classic car swap meets, like this hood ornament.

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Have you ever seen anything cooler in motion? Mike didn’t build this as a showpiece – he drives it at every opportunity, with his kids tagging along for a ride most of the time. When it’s parked up at home, they play inside it.

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For Mike, the Mini rat rod is a dream come true. It wasn’t a quick build, but Mike says the looks and comments he gets from people every time he takes it out makes the time and financial investment worthwhile. The clip above perhaps best sums up what he loves most about it though.

Stefan Kotzé
[email protected]

More stories from South Africa on Speedhunters

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