Saturday, September 15, 2012

Popular VW Beetle customizations/styles II- Rat Rods

Ratters belong to a counterculture of people who owns, tunes up, modifies and drives a "RATcar"- a car that has a "rat look". They are individualists who disown the flash and adopt the trash. RAT stands for Recycled AutomobileTransport. The RAT trend itself is having a beat up, ugly car that had a powerful motor. The Volkswagen (VW) scene is a big part of the promotion of this style as the VW enthusiasts themselves made this trend very popular especially in its early years in the UK which extends to this day globally. 

When we talk in general of the “rat look”, several different concepts may be described by the customizers with a seeming “to each his own” idea on what a rat is. The versatility on the type and degree of “RAT” customization gives the builder a wide leeway to personalize his work to his own liking. On the “cosmetic” style aspect, it can be a simple as attacking the paintwork with a sander, letting the panels gather rust, throwing stickers all over the hood and windows, chopping springs, slamming the car on Euro wheels, spraying the car in a matt or satin colour, etc. It can also be a “natural” experience we are too familiar with  of a car that has evolved throughout the years into a true old school style rat, kept on the road ‘no matter what it takes’ for as little cost as possible.

“Cosmetic” styling of course is just one aspect of the ratted look. There should be that “unique and surprising twist” of a rat.  A fully ratted car can be in A1 class condition in terms of mechanical efficiency and outright power. The “rusty” looking VW Beetle may actually be in better mechanical condition, have a better power to weight ratio and a much more powerful engine under its hood than its modern counterpart with a GTi badge and sporty  paint work…


The original rat trend started in the USA primarily after World War II . Soldiers coming home from the war seeking cheap thrills purchased at dirt cheap prices scrap yard cars and turned them into race cars. While some bought cars for full “hot rod” restoration (tuned up to look and run fast), there were a number who spent most of their cash mainly on engine parts alone purposely neglecting nice paint and wheels mainly to save up on resources.
An example of a Rat Rod

They were named "rat rodders" with cars tuned up to run but NOT to look fast- run on souped  up juiced motors from junkyard parts BUT lacking in cosmetic appearance. The trend became popular next in the UK led by the VW enthusiasts using old Buses, Combis, and Beetles and styling them  like the Americana rat rod.
VW Combi Rat Rod
This was eventually adapted by other VW types- Squareback, Notchback and Karmann Ghia even applying the rusty and worn look to the Vento (Jetta), Polo (Golf) and other modern Volkswagens.

The purpose of the rat look trend was to gain the rat rod/rusty/worn/vintage look without having to spend a lot- to get an old car with less worries on finding parts or having any concerns if your ride is going to fall apart in your garage. The rat look trend further diversified in the coming years and decades- any car was made into a rat by any willing and able customizer. Below are some examples:

  1. Hood Ride ("ghetto spec" cars, hoopties, hood whips)-an old vintage car that’s been lowered and has original faded or worn paint. Driving a hoodride is about making use of a car everyone else would avoid because it’s “ugly” or “beyond repair” and being able to love it for what it is. 
VW Hoodrider
A hoodride is most often an older model air-cooled Volkswagen (VW) , but it doesn't really have to be a VW to qualify for hoodride status--It can be any rusty old car. In the best case, the car will also have rust and patina. Mismatched panels, dents and missing parts enhance the look because they add more character and originality.

  1. Nu-Rat (a clean-yet-ratty version of the rat car) - is a term used for reasonably modern cars that are ratted to a mediocre degree (rusted hoods on near immaculate paintwork elsewhere on the car, retro graphics and vinyl, easily removable items,etc).   
VW NU-Rat from
          They tend to also share a lot of styling hints from the Euro/Dubbin’ scene like deep dish wheels,    
          coilovers and so on. Comic stripping of interior parts is also something often seen.

  1. Tramp / drift tramps (abused drift cars) – generally these consist of RWD drifting machines like the Nissan Silvia/200SX, 180SX,Mazda RX-7, BMW 3-Series’ , etc. that are used for their main purpose on a track or airstrip which in turn can lead to a very abused example on the outside. To understand the look you can refer to any Anime/Manga post-nuclear film whereby the characters drive their Asian styled machines.
Tramp Drift
  1. Rice rods (Japanese or Korean cars built to resemble American hot rods and rat rods) - 80′s and 90′s Japanese cars (Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Suzuki) modified and ratted in several ways. The popular comical original term “rice/ricer” was aimed towards Western people with a Japanese car (import) modified in a purely cosmetic way that makes the car seem like something it actually isn’t. 
Honda Civic RRR (rice rat rods)
One example is a 1.6 Honda Integra DC2 with Type R stickers and badges with Spoon/Mugen stickers for added effect. The ratters picked up the term which took on the eneral concept of a ratted      care. A perfect example of a riced rat is  a Nissan Bluebird with extensive suspension and braking modifications, a high end engine (CA18DET, B18 or K20) with a ratted body kit and badges from another Japanese Model sports car (‘Vtec’, ‘Type R’ stickers, etc.).

  1. OAP+ (Old Age Pensioner style) - designed to look like an old person's car is not the most common. Take an old-fashioned or eccentric man’s car (Rover Metro or Renault 5 Campus, etc.) in pristine original condition with a huge slam and a better engine under the hood. It is usually filled up with typical OAP accessories like picnic rug, walking stick, national trust stickers, etc.… In effect, it has a stealth effect giving other cars and passers by a complete shock when you apply the gas!

  1. Track Rat styling is quite simple. The aim is to have a mechanically sound vehicle for track usage, with no real care on the looks side of things. Typically seen are over spray, dents and prangs, race slips dotted around, numbered vinyl designs on steelies or performance based alloys with both front and rear lights taped up, a stripped interior, old paintwork, rusty bodywork, etc.

  1. Military Rat (made to look like an army car)- typically gray or matt green-Nato Green being the most popular colour. Camo netting, world war paraphernalia, empty tank shells or blank shotgun shells, bullet holes, Nazi emblems, flags, gas masks and much more uasually complement this style. Attention to details is a fond favourite to this style. More and more of the ‘Desert theme’ is also being implemented into this rat style. Any car suits the military styling methods.
  1. Jap rats (old cars from Japan built in the 80's and 90's).

  1. Retro rides (old British/European cars, sometimes imported vintage American cars).



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1 comment:

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