Rat rodding is a hard term to pin down. For some it means a car that is held together by rust with no creature comforts. For others, it is more refined, with comfortable seats and a nicely detailed engine.
But there does seem to be an agreement on what a rat rod is not: a high-dollar street rod with custom paint and a Billet aluminum-accessorized engine. The concept is to have a car reminiscent of home-built hot rods of the ‘50s. Beyond that, there are no real rules. Often, the more outrageous and wilder is better.
Although he’d been into cars for all his life, Marty Souter was not a rat rodder. He’d worked at a VW dealership for years before becoming the parts manager for a Mazda dealership. He’d been into hot VWs, and a member of the Der Kleiner Panzers (DKP) car club in SoCal that claims to have defined the “Cal Look” VW. Often that meant being lower, replacing stock bumpers with T-bar style, giving the car a cleaner look and, of course, souping up the engine. Marty’s Cal Look VW had an engine bored out to 1700 cc’s with dual Webber carbs that ran the quarter mile in the 14-second range. From there he moved to Mazda, getting a ‘97 Miata and pumping up its performance so impressively that it was featured in car magazines as far away as Japan. He was happy with foreign cars. Then he moved to Grass Valley where brother Craig had formed a club named The Roadents, very appropriate for rat rods on the highway.
Although he was not shunned by The Roadents, he just didn’t feel a part with his shiny Miata. So he started looking for a rat rod. He found a ‘40 Ford pickup that appealed to him. It was chopped and channeled with a V’d windshield. It had a ‘68 Dodge front end with a late-model Chevy 350 CID mated to a Powerglide auto trans. The chrome and door handles were removed, but since there are no side windows, you just reach inside to open the door. Don’t bother to ask about power steering and brakes or air conditioning. It was a car he could hop in and drive, and that fit Marty’s bill. Of course, few car guys can just let things be.
Once Marty bought the Ford, he started changing things. His other passion is collecting Coca-Cola memorabilia. “My whole house is like a ‘50s diner,” he said. “I even have a Bob’s Big Boy (four-foot statue) in my front room.”
So he decided to combine his hobbies. He changed the wide wheels for narrow ones painted Coke red and went with carpet of the same color. He painted the Ford what he terms “candy apple primer” and put “Coca-Cola” on the doors. Even the valve covers (red, of course) have “Coca-Cola” on them as well as the aluminum gas tank in the bed. A large, glass Coke bottle serves as the radiator overflow tank. Inside, the Coke logo is on the dash and gear shifter. NonCoke changes were new headers, air shocks, pinstriping and backup lights that could light the highway.
Lately, Marty and fellow Roadents have started an informal gathering at 8 a.m. every Saturday at the K-Mart parking lot for “Cars and Coffee.” Like the club, there is no organization or rules. Car lovers of all ilk just show up, park for a couple of hours and drink coffee while they talk cars. Another thing happening for The Roadents is a car show at Union Hill School on Colfax Highway. It will be from 10 a.m. ‘til 3 p.m. May 17. It’s free to the public and all money raised from entrants will go to the school. For more info, call Craig Soulter 362-0124.
Ron Cherry and other local writers will be hosting a book signing at the Nevada City Winery May 10. For more about his writing, go to www.rlcherry.com.