Raising a “Rat Rod”

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In automotive circles, the term “rat rod” refers to a style of custom car that imitates or exaggerates the “hot rod” designs of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s while also appearing “unfinished” – that is, a vehicle that contains only the “bare essentials” to allow it to be driven.

In the world of trucking, however, a “rat rod” is a commercial vehicle that starts out literally as nothing more than a hunk of junk before ultimately getting turned into a customized piece of rolling glory – all while doing so on the cheap.

And it’s that particular philosophical thread within the “chrome truck” community that Cory Bowen out of Seneca, MO, picked up to help weave together a rig he affectionately calls the “Junk Yard Dog” from a 1994 Peterbilt 379 flat top he found headed for a scrap heap in Amarillo TX. [To see more photos of Bowen’s creation, click here.]

“It was a completely trashed truck headed for the salvage yard,” Bowen told me back in May at the 2012 Shell SuperRigs show in Joplin, MO. “But I saw it and decided to prove a point: that you could build a good looking, show-worthy custom truck on a budget, just with odds, ends, and salvaged parts.”

The only “original” things on Bowen’s “Dog” are the cab and the frame, with the B-Series 3406 Caterpillar engine, Eaton 18-speed manual transmission, axles, wheels, sleeper berth, exhaust stacks, etc., all coming from scrapped trucks with different vehicle identification numbers (VINs) and various salvage yards – all pieced expertly together with the help of the Chrome Shop Mafia(CSM) in Joplin, MO.

[Bryan Martin, the famous “boss” of the CSM crew – which is part of Martin’s larger truck parts and service company, 4 States Trucks – provided me an overview back in May this year of just some of the kinds of work his custom truck experts can perform.]

Bowen is also particularly proud that truly “new” items are a rarity on the “Dog.”

“The only things ‘new’ on my truck are the seats and the deck plate. Everything else is scrap and salvage.” he pointed out. “For example, the entire cab interior came out of a wrecked truck. I got the fuel tanks for an old show truck, found some old wheels and polished them out, and got the exhaust stacks right out of a salvage yard.”

The engine hood emblazoned with the legend “Blessed 94” also comes with a singular “back story” as well.

“It originally said ‘Blessed be Satan’ and I figured, ‘Well, that’s why it ended up in the scrap heap.’ So I took it and re-christened it to show that no truck – in the right hands, of course – could truly be cursed,” he told me.

Altogether, Bowen spent just a small five figure sum getting his “Dog” customized and road-worthy, ready to haul freight under his operating authority, “3B Farms Trucking.”

“I’m from a family of farmers – my father, me and my brother,” he explained. “But all three of us have also been truck drivers, so that’s how the name ‘3B’ came about.”

It just goes to show you don’t need deep pockets to craft a one-of-a-kind piece of rolling art. Indeed, one hopes what Bowen’s been able to do with his “Dog” will inspire others to create their own unique yet affordable custom trucks. 

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