What is a Rat Rod?
Rat rod is a newly developed name for the original hot rod style of the early 1950s. Rat rods are usually vehicles that have had many of their non-critical parts removed, are usually finished in primer-like paints and are often period correct. They are very often conglomerations of parts and pieces from several different cars of varying makes and models. Many rat rodders do not consider their cars rat rods. The term 'rat rod' is considered derogatory to many traditional hot rod builders, but new fans of hot rods who notice the difference from yesterday's shiny hot rods to today's primered, lower and more radically designed hot rods call these cars 'rat rods'.
A typical rat rod is an early 1930s through 1950s coupe or roadster with the body set low on the frame, fenders removed, whitewall tires, big-little tire combos, exposed engine bay, home-made upholstery, and lots of power. A rat rod is considered to differ from a hot rod in a number of key aspects. A rat rod is a home-built, low-budget, one-off custom vehicle that is frequently driven and has many flaws and imperfections. In popular usage a hot rod is now defined as a high-end, high-budget show car that emulates the early hot rods in style but sports flashy paint, high-quality upholstery and generally sees little in the way of road time. (See Boyd Coddington as an example of a new-age hot rod builder.) In many ways 'hot rod' is now synonymous with 'trailer queen' (a car that is never actually driven but exists purely for display and is trailered from show to show). Trailer queens are also sometimes called 'custom cars', 'kustoms', 'leadsleds' or simply 'sleds'. This however is one viewpoint among many, if one were to go to a car show, though, the prevailing connotations of the names are: HOT ROD - nasty loud and obnoxious STREET ROD - trailer queen RAT ROD - unfinished or in-progress hot rod or beater LEADSLED - kruiser with loads of greezy character, low and slow is the name of the game here. The shoestring budget most operate on is what leads to the public appearances of many rat rods in coats of primer rather than paint, as in the creative process one sometimes can not afford to build, paint and trim the rod in one hit.
Most rat rods were usually not originally high performance vehicles, but instead large 2-door sedans with chopped-down rooflines, lowered suspensions, and most trimwork removed. They often sport a mixture of parts from other cars, e.g. a Mercury running a Chevy motor with a Dodge rear end. However, it is uncommon for many of today's street rods not to run a small block chevy, more commonly early models, but also, some of the street rods will run LS1's or late model crates. Information found from wikipedia.