Built, Not Bought.

Taking a look at the current automotive scene, one might discover that the car scene is presently infested with vehicles that are left near stock other than a lowering kit and wheels. Young people of my generation are obsessed with this fad of lowering a car on flashy and trendy wheels yet doing nearly nothing else to it then passing if off as a “show” car. Stance, which is what that fad is called, was pretty cool when it first got popular in the USA about 4 or 5 year ago. It was new, it was done moderately and I didn’t mind it. But now, literally almost everybody in my generation has done it to their cars. Its been watered down, done over and over and over again and it’s seen everywhere. There isn’t much creativity to be seen at local car events now because the majority has done the same thing to their cars.  The concept of “creativity” and “personality” being expressed into someone’s car recently became distant, it feels as if stance had pushed that away. But recently I experienced a breath of fresh air; as I was casually scrolling along facebook, I saw a vehicle that was so creative it not only caught, but commanded my attention. It got my attention so well that I knew I had to take pictures of it. A few text messages, emails, and days later. I found myself at Extreme Custom Collision in Northern Virginia. An Employee named Joel has built a beautiful piece of artwork that I’m thrilled to share with my readers today. IMG_0223

This ladies and gentlemen, is a Rat Rod. Unfortunately a “rat rod” doesn’t exactly have a specific definition. If you were ask 5 different car enthusiasts what a Rat Rod is, you’d get 5 different answers. One of them might even be “I don’t know” because this part of the car culture is honestly pretty deeply hidden within the car scene. In my own personal definition though, a rat rod is a zombified hot rod. A vehicle that was once a classic hot rod, died at some point. But has since then been restored, but only to restored to the bare essentials. In contrast to its former glory, rat rods have no comfortable interior, expensive paint job, or shiny chrome engine. Just a brain and body; created to be utterly badass and doesn’t give a regard to how pretty anything else around it may be: much like a zombie would.  A vehicle so devilish that if you saw its mean muggin’ front end in your rear view mirror, you would pull over in fear and let is pass as you try to figure out what in the world it is. That’s my definition a Rat Rod, but what exactly makes them so creative?


Well, when I arrived to ECC, the first thing I noticed was that this vehicle consists of many different parts: a Chevy Cabin, a Ford diesel engine and a Mac truck front end.



Rat rods are completely custom. You will never find any two that look the same. There will be a lot of experimenting including measuring, cutting, welding; or all around fabricating everything custom from the ground up. You probably won’t be able to find many google results on “fitting a Mac truck front end to a Ford F150 diesel with 1952 Chevy pickup frame” or anything like that. Everything has to be done custom, and while the artist is custom building a rat rod, they literally fill the car with their own creativity.


When I first saw this vehicle in person, I was almost overwhelmed. That’s how many stunning details and creative features this vehicle has to offer. I was prancing around the car for minutes with my camera trying to figure out the best way to photograph it because I wanted to capture literally every feature and hint of customization that this car radiates onto anyone that looks at it.


Every time I looked at this car though, I saw something in it that I had not noticed before. It kind of lowered my confidence in my photography a bit because I was afraid I would go home to edit these pictures only to realize that there were a ton of details implemented into this vehicle that I didn’t notice before and failed to take a picture of.IMG_0212

This is easily the most interesting vehicle that my camera has had the pleasure of focusing on. It is also the hardest vehicle I’ve had to capture though, because its true essence as a badass vehicle was hard to capture through a camera lens.


The custom airbag suspension setup lays the body of this car on the ground. Literally, you cannot open the door without it scraping against the pavement.


Which makes it convenient that Joel implemented a custom opening roof hatch. Because the vehicle sits so low when air’d down, you can easily open the roof and plop down into the cabin. Opening normal car doors are too mainstream, right?


First thing I noticed when I sat in the interior was the steering wheel. I’m not even sure if steering “wheel” accurately describes this piece of art though


Glance over to your left, and you’ll find yourself looking at the shifter. Which is a bayonet knife from the Civil war.



The transmission gear indicators are conveniently on the transmission tunnel right next to the sword.


A hula girl also blesses the interior by dancing around in motion during driving!


Just like the rest of the vehicle, the interior is full of creative features that you wont find on any other vehicle


Even the hatch on the roof has four different details welded into it, a different one for each corner.


Brake rotors used to reel the chain that is used on the tow hitch. I probably would’ve never thought of such a creative way to recycle used brake parts. This entire build is truly an artist at work.



Creativity can be seen everywhere on this car. A concept that for a second I had thought was temporarily lost due to the current car trends.


Even the exhaust on this car. how awesome would it be to see it shooting flames from above at nighttime?



I mean sure, you can find used brakes, a faux grenade, and mini brass knuckles anywhere. But its takes a daring individual to creatively use them in places they don’t belong, but that’s exactly what Rat rodding is about. Its not about who can afford the most expensive wheels, import the best looking lip kit or getting the fastest 1/4 mile time. Its literally finding anything and everything you have convenient access to, to build a car. If there was a junkyard full of tractors next door, chances are this rat rod would have tractor bits all over it. They’re made as cheaply and conveniently as possible yet they still look cool. They are indeed works of art.


And as with any piece of art, there will always be an emotional relevance that sets this car apart from everything else on the road. The feeling that comes with observing this loud hunk of metal roaring and scraping down the road, as it sends shivers down your spine with every spark and scrape from the chassis on the pavement. This isn’t a car feature, this is an artwork showcase. This car has been built, not bought from the dealer and bolted on wheels and a lowering kit.


Whether you love it or hate it, I am certain seeing this car will make you feel something. It definitely evokes emotion and a reaction.


Its that kind of emotion that I’m sure the artist is more than glad to see that their work is causing.


It’s creations like this that remind me how awesome it is to be a car enthusiast.



One thought on “Built, Not Bought.”

  1. Great article. We are so proud of our son’s shop and all the custom work he does and all his employees hard work and dedication. Great job Joel! Can’t wait to see next project!

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