THERE aren’t many terms that fire up the car-crazy section of the internet like ‘rat rod’ – particularly when a well-meaning commentator praises a traditional-style hot rod as being a rat! Aussie road rules have meant that the craze has never quite taken off here the way it has in the US, though the current trend for Mud Run-type events has seen an uptick in rotting garden ornaments being transformed into sideways-sliding fun machines. But in the States the rat rod scene continues to burble on at pace, with more than a few events dedicated to the craft of building an eye-popping ride out of the rude and the rusty.
A prominent US proponent of the rat is Chris Walker from In The Weeds (ITW) Hot Rods. Based in Minnesota, ITW has some wild creations in its resume, starting with a Hot Wheels-esque ’57 Chev wagon. The car was built for the 2013 Rat Rod Magazine Build-Off competition, which demands that entrants build their car within 30 days and stick to a strict $3000 budget. Entrants also have to complete a 300-mile cruise that would no doubt give any Australian OH&S officer a heart attack. Chris won top spot that year, which included nabbing the cover of Rat Rod mag.
Chris’s 2014 assault on the Build-Off was with Bugly – a ’64 Volksrod with a Cessna airplane donk mounted up front! Like the original VW donk, the Continental motor is air-cooled and horizontally opposed, but with six cylinders and 470 cubic inches! Rather than the factory fuel injection, the motor breathes through a pair of Edelbrock four-barrels, drives through a 700R4 auto and gets a reported 11mpg at highway speeds. The rear of the car is made from a ’37 Chev humpback and the whole deal is mounted on a tube frame. And to really confuse people, Chris built the car in right-hand drive. On that occasion, Chris went home with second place in the Build-Off.
ITW’s latest creation is the Hulk Camino, which started life as a sad ’59 Chevy El Camino. Horrifying restorers everywhere, the whole car was dramatically cut and shut every which way into a two-door, wedge-shaped hellion. The whole thing sits on a full chassis and boasts a neat fabricated firewall.
Up front, the Hulk Camino is packing a 6/71-blown 400ci small-block Chev with water/methanol injection that makes a reputed 800hp. Entry into the car is assisted by gullwing-style roof flaps and the shifter for the auto ’box is mounted in the middle of the roof.
The car debuted at the Rat City Rukkus in Las Vegas in March last year, where it came away with two trophies. Since then Chris has been driving the wheels off the thing. Being in America, the bonnetless Hulk Camino can be legally driven on public roads, and Chris has even taken it down the quarter-mile, clocking a best of 12.49@125mph. Staunch!