5 Reasons You Need a Rat Rod Truck

Sep 03, 2023


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Cars aren’t supposed to look worn and rugged. Your whip should look shiny and new, as if it just came off the lot. What if we told you there’s a genre of vehicles that prides itself on looking like jalopies? Step into a rat rod truck, and you’ll see what we mean.

Some rat rod trucks look like someone drove them out of a junkyard, but that’s why they’re so special. Would you ever consider getting one of these vehicles for yourself? Here’s all you need to know about rat rod trucks. 

What Is a Rat Rod Truck?

A rust-covered rat rod sitting in a parking space.

First, let’s define what a rat rod truck is. Rat rods are vehicles with worn parts, imperfect or unfinished paint jobs, rust and cheap parts around the machine. Some gearheads repurpose metal and materials from other vehicles for their custom cars. The term rat rod parodies the phrase hot rod because it looks like something rats would crawl into. However, rat rods have a special place in automotive history and have been around for a long time. 

Rat rods broke through nearly a century ago during the 1920s and 1930s but didn’t earn their name until the 1970s. During the Great Depression, many people couldn’t afford cars. In the 1930s, used cars could cost up to $500, which was a lot of money for the time. 

Many who scrounged enough coins for a car bought the most inexpensive vehicle they could and heavily modified them to increase performance. Later, these cars became known as rat rods because of their cheap looks and modifications.

Some examples of rat rods include the 1929 Ford Model A, the 1934 Chevrolet Coupe and the 1937 Plymouth Coupe. If you saw a rat rod truck on the highway, you may look away in disgust — but one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. 

What Makes a Rat Rod Truck Special?

So, why should you get a rat rod? It’s not like you can use the jalopy for road trips to national parks or the West Coast. Here are five reasons you should consider getting a rat rod truck. 


Your rat rod truck won’t be the best-looking vehicle in town, but that’s part of the charm. Guys who own rat rods take pride in their car’s aesthetics. Imagine driving down Main Street with your 1932 Ford Roadster. If you like turning heads, rat rods are for you. 

You never know when you’ll run into a fellow gearhead who appreciates vintage vehicles as much as you. Driving a rat rod to car shows, bars and county fairs is terrific for conversing with strangers.

Part Selection

When customizing cars, you typically need standard parts from your automaker. If your manufacturer has component protection, you must get replacement parts from the company. For example, Toyota and Honda use component protection, making replacing parts more expensive for the average gearhead. 

Why do rat rod trucks make part selection easier? You don’t have to stick with your manufacturer. In fact, you can use any non-standard part you wish. Components of old cars, farm equipment or discarded industrial machinery work just fine if you can fit them on your vehicle.

Challenging Builds

Modding a car isn’t necessarily easy — it’s much easier in games like Grand Theft Auto and Forza. However, the challenge is a feature for gearheads. You need to find something or anything that fits onto your rat rod truck and make it go fast. Modifying a rat rod car takes special skills like welding and engine tuning, so this hobby could be an excellent educational opportunity if you want to learn more about cars. 


A custom rat rod from Kansas resting in the grass.

Ultimately, your car is like your child. You can treat it with as much wisdom and charm as you like to mold the vehicle into your own. Putting personal touches is encouraged and even recommended for a rat rod truck. The car is your canvas, letting you paint the machine with any brush you’d like. 

The easiest modification to start with is a paint job. Go crazy with orange, green and purple colors! Add a custom seat or steering wheel cover to modify the interior. Chrome bumpers, high-performance engines and chopped tops are only some changes you can make. 

Connecting to the Past

A rat rod with an exposed engine lies still as onlookers admire the car.

Rat rods are symbols of history. The 1934 Chevrolet Coupe symbolizes the 1930s — a critical decade in world history because of the Great Depression and the beginning of World War II. Your father, grandfather or great-grandfather may have owned one of these vehicles back in the day! Ask them or find pictures of their old machines and find one for yourself. Turn it into a rat rod and connect it to the past.   

What Makes a Rat Rod Truck Too Much to Handle?

Modifying rat rods is a fun endeavor for beginner and advanced gearheads. However, these three reasons show why you may think twice before taking on this hobby. 

Emission Tests

Gas-powered cars and the environment have become a significant concern for policymakers. The average passenger vehicle emits 4.6 metric tons of CO2 annually. That number is high for one car, so imagine how much pollution comes from the millions of vehicles worldwide.

Rat rods don’t do the environment any favors. Your typical rat rod truck comes from a vintage vehicle that is much less efficient than modern machines. Their emissions will be even higher, leading to emission test failure in some states.  

Dubious Legality

Failing emissions tests leads to your rat rod sitting in the garage with nowhere to go. Another factor making your rat rod truck stand still is safety tests. Many states have laws about vehicle safety, setting standards for a car’s safety before it can hit the road. Your rat rod might not be street legal, forcing you to keep it on your property or haul it with a trailer to car shows.

Expensive Builds

Modifying rat rods is a fun hobby but can quickly get expensive. Some vehicles may require tens of thousands of dollars in part investment to get your rat rod running. Are you mechanically inclined? If not, you’ll need to hire a mechanic to do the work for you. The parts and labor costs add more expenses to your rat rod budget.

The Charm of a Rat Rod Truck

When you think of famous classic cars, you probably imagine an old Corvette or Mustang. However, you might not have heard of an entire genre of modded machines. Would you ever consider driving a rat rod? They’re fun, creative and a badge of honor for gearheads everywhere.

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Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.