For most people, a spot of rust on their vehicle is considered a blight and a sign of worse to come.
Not so for Brent and Riley Works of Belmont. In fact, when the father and son duo are in the process of fixing up an old vehicle, there may not be enough rust, or patina – as it is known in the rat-rod culture – to keep them content.
“That’s what we like,” said Brent. “A lot of people paint them up and do them up to get rid of rust. We make rust.”
Brent drives a 1947 Ford pick-up that can often be seen rolling along the area’s streets and roads, powered by an old Cummings diesel engine.
“That drives,” Brent says. “We surprise a lot of people out on the highway with that. They just don’t expect it. She’s got the torque.”
The truck’s appearance also turns a lot of heads. Not because it has been restored to original glory. Far from it, in fact.
The paint is multi-coloured with lots of patina, helped along perhaps with a dose or two of muriatic acid to create an aged appearance surface rust in various spots.
Such projects are generally then shot with coat of clear paint to protect and maintain the look.
Although the cab is solid overall, a portion of the right front fender’s outside edge is rusty and jagged, offering precisely the effect that rat rodders shoot for.
The gear-shift knob is a glass door knob that came from inside Brent’s house, the panel that surrounds his dashboard gauges is cut from an old license plate. Likewise, for his sun visors, which are also fashioned from old license plates. The fuel tank – or cell as it is called – is hidden from sight inside an antique luggage trunk situated in the bed of the truck.
But don’t let the rust and faded paint fool you. As with most rat rods, the running gear under Brent’s rig is top notch.
“There’s $2,000 worth of tires and wheels on it,” he says, from inside their garage.
“They’re probably the most expensive things on it,” Riley adds.
So, just what is a rat rod anyway?
“It’s a low-dollar, low-buck hot rod,” Brent says.
Technically speaking, rat rods are old vehicles that have been fixed up to resemble the hot rods of the 1940s, ’50s and early ’60s. But instead of being period correct and coated in shiny paint, they are built from essentially, “anything that you can get to work,” Brent says. “If there was a light out of a motorcycle that would work, it would be alright.”
Brent has had the ’47 Ford for about six years after he and Riley spend months making it what it is. It’s one of several they have built together, including a 1948 Thames (Ford) truck (originally built in the U.K.).
Riley also has a 1969 Chevrolet C/10, short-wheel base, six-cylinder four-speed, which he uses as his daily driver “(except in winter).”
That truck is pretty much in original condition, with the exception of a few bangs and bumps from its days as a field truck used by the New Brunswick Department of Agriculture. And, while it may not fit the mold of a traditional rat rod, the Chevy does have the prerequisite patina that sets it apart from the shine and glow class.
“It’s a neat little truck,” Riley says. “I rent this truck out quite a bit to photographers.”
Their current project is a 1972 Winnebago that Riley picked up in Annapolis Royal for $800, plus another $600 to have it shipped home. At 18-ft long, it is shorter than most RVs, a factor that only added to its appeal.
“Found it on Kijiji and had to have it,” Riley says. “We like to be different. We like to think outside the box, I guess.”
As with the ’47 Ford, the most expensive components on the Winnebago are its new chrome wheels and tires. The exterior paint on the RV itself is faded and aged. And that is how it will remain.
The interior, however, has been completely gutted, reframed and sided with stained, pine clapboards. The ceiling, in pure rat rod style, has been redone with old barn roof steel.
A rocking chair sits in one corner beside a homemade couch with a magazine rack built into one end. An old deer skull, moose antlers and other “knicky knacks we just gathered, stuff that makes it look like a little cabin in here …” adorn the rest of the interior.
And this summer you can expect to see “Riley’s House,” as the Winnebago has been coined, out and about at area auto shows.
Brent and Riley attend several auto shows a year and are founders of the Mercury Club auto group, which they host out of their garage.
And while restoring old vehicles, even in rat rod fashion, can be a “money-pit” endeavour at times, they say it can also be good hobby that provides friendship, camaraderie and quality time spent in a common pursuit.
“They’re expensive but they’re fun. Anybody with an old car will tell you that,” Riley says. “I would encourage more fathers and sons to get out and get into hobbies like this.”