The World of Rat Rods, Jalopies, and Patina Cars

For years now, Rat Rods have become a bigger and bigger part of the collector car hobby. While some people may not like them, I see them as being a great addition to the hobby.

Now let’s talk about Rat Rods. What really is a Rat Rod? Believe it or not, the term Rat Rod keeps expanding every year to the point now that there really isn’t a solid definition for them. It used to be a car that was assembled using scrap parts with very little fit or finish and with modifications that went to the extreme. Slammed roofs, channeled bodies, all rusted parts, and fabrication using anything you could find that would work to fit your needs.

These parts usually look like something that you would find in a metal scrap yard. Over the years, the Rat Rod has seemed to improve in quality. There are really talented metal fabricators constructing some really cool looking Rat Rods. Generally, the Rat Rod is becoming more refined. We are seeing cars that are built that may be a Rat Rod, but have less of an unfinished or aged look.

patina cadillac

Let’s fast forward several years. Now the term Rat Rod seems to be used for any car that is unfinished, but not being actively restored while being driven. I have heard people say that they “Rat Rodded their car out.” In my day, these types of cars were considered a Jalopy. So I still differentiate between the two.

rat rods

We also have the patina cars. These cars are very popular today. The cars basically look like an old car that has been around a long time with faded paint, some surface rust showing, and basically an all over weathered condition. However, the drivetrain, suspension and brakes have been upgraded for performance and drivability. You can even have brand new modern drive trains. It is relatively normal to see an old car like this with an LS, Coyote, or modern day Hemi engine in them.

1964 GTO jalopy

There are two ways to get a patina car:

1) Find an old car in this condition. This is easier said than done. You have to find one that is weathered but not a total rust bucket. If you do find one, you basically modify or replace the drive train and suspension and then drive the car as is after that.

2) Create your own patina. You can paint a car and wet sand it down so the primer is showing through in spots. Expose some bare metal so you get some surface rust. You can even paint signage on the door panels and then wet sand it down so it appears faded or has parts of the signage missing.

patina truck

Either way you do it, all of these are cool cars with some huge benefits. You don’t have to spend hours upon hours cleaning the car. The cost to build one is a lot less than a full blown show car. These cars get just as much attention and respect as does the 6 figure high-end show car. They also give the ability for people to get into the collector car hobby at a reasonable price.

Having fun is what it is all about. Now go out and buy or build an old car!

Influence your kids and the younger generation!

It is ok to share your passion about the cars you love and your personal history with those cars. Those stories will be remembered. Without the stories, it is hard for the kids nowadays to see why we are so passionate about cars.
For example, when I was a kid, my mom drove a 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88. It was a green 2-door, with a white vinyl top. It was a huge car. My mom being 4’11” tall only added to the size of the car.  This car was awesome. It had a Rocket 350 engine with a 4-barrel, quadra-jet carburetor. With a full size bench seat in the front, I use to sit in the middle and shift gears from 1st to 2nd and then into drive whenever we went anywhere. If we were ever next to a car at a light that I thought we should hole shot when the light turned green, I also could talk my mom into flooring it on occasion.
Delta 88 collector car
These memories will be with me forever.
To this day, when I see a ‘73 Oldsmobile Delta 88, I immediately go back to that time in my life and think about my mom, who is no longer with us. I absolutely love those cars. So much so that I will probably own one eventually.
Your kids should know about these memories, and you should be creating new “car” memories for them. Get out and enjoy your old cars, and bring the family into the mix. They don’t know it now, but they will have those memories for the rest of their lives!

Which are your favorite car shows?

I have been going to car shows for as long as I can remember. Not all car shows are created equal.  I like just about all types of shows and car related events, but for different reasons.

Let’s break it down into 5 categories:

  1. Your local community car show. These shows are put on by your local church, school, VFW, small town, etc. There is usually a charity or fundraiser tied to the event. They are smaller and a lot of people know each other. For me, the local show is about community, friends, people you know, and raising money for a charity or organization that is in your own backyard.

American Modern Summer Classic

  1. Local cruise-in. Not a show where you win an award, but an event where anyone and everyone can show up and show off their special car, truck, or motorcycle without worrying about being in a competition or being judged. These can be as small as a few cars and as big as several hundred. The cruise-in is just flat out fun! No stress, no cleaning if you don’t want to, just hanging out with a bunch of car guys talking cars for hours.

Apr 18, 2015: Motoring in Focus Spring Classic Driving Tour.

  1. Major custom/hotrod show. Usually last several days with several thousand cars. These events take place at state fairgrounds and very large venues. Major car shows have a huge amount of cool customs and hot rods to look at. You can have just as much fun as a spectator as you do being a participant. I always walk away with some cool ideas and admiring all levels of custom work.

Ami G Car Show

  1. Concours. These are elite car shows where the best of the best are in attendance. Usually lasts one day, but there are numerous other car related events leading up to the show. Concours events are at the top of the spectrum. You will see cars you have never seen before. You will also see the highest quality restorations you have ever seen.

1949 Mercury

  1. Road Rally. Small or large, these events involve a group of people getting together to drive their cars to specific destinations. It is about the joy of driving your classic car and being with people that like to do the same. How could you not have fun driving your old car with fellow car people that share the same passion for “driving” vintage automobiles?

Apr 18, 2015: Motoring in Focus Spring Classic Driving Tour.

You should be able to find something you like from each type of show. Regardless of which event you participate in or attend, you will have fun, be with good friends both old and new, and be part of a hobby that is one of the greatest in the world!



Share with us your favorite show and why!


Art of the Swap Meet

With car show season ramping up, a lot of us are looking forward to hitting a swap meet. The list of what you can find at a swap meet is endless. To the novice, here are a few tips that will help you at your first swap meet as a buyer:

1. Get there early (while they are setting up). You may not get the best deal but you may get the only grill for a ‘51 Hudson.

swap meet car parts

2. Prepare your wallet. Only take what you want to spend. You are dealing with cash transactions. Have enough to buy the things you’re looking for but don’t take too much. You might just end up with some junk you don’t need, and probably won’t be able to get rid of later.

sawp meet booth

3. Bring a vehicle with proper storing capacity. Don’t drive your Mustang or Firebird to a swap meet if you are looking for hoods, fenders, wheels, engine parts, etc.

swap meet fenders

4. Cart it. One of the best things you can do is pull a cart or wagon. When you end up buying something, it is easier to walk around and you don’t have to take repeated trips to the car.

swap meet classic car cart

5. Don’t be afraid to make an offer on something. It may have a price tag of $50, but you can offer $30. He may have been carrying that part around for years and is finally ready to cut it lose at any price. Or he may come back with a counter offer of $40. Then you can say, how about we split the difference and go $35?

swap meet transaction

6. Save impulse buys for the end of the swap meet. The worst thing you can do is buy something that you don’t really need, come across what you were actually looking for later and not have enough money to buy it!

large Chevy emblem - bow tie

7. Stay to the end! Some of the best deals happen at the end of a swap meet. People don’t want to load up all those parts, so they will cut a deal. Especially heavy parts. Make offers, you never know. Sometimes you can buy a bunch of parts at a bargain price. I don’t know how many times I have seen someone offer to buy everything that someone has left. That seller is usually ecstatic because that means they don’t have to load anything back up!

swap meet

Hopefully you will enjoy swap meets as much as I do. Haggling on price, searching for that long lost part for your classic car or that vintage sign for your garage, all while hanging out with car people. It doesn’t get much better than that!

swap meet engine valve covers

Barrett Jackson Palm Beach

The spring 2015 Barrett Jackson auction in West Palm Beach, Florida was one for the books. With over 500 “no reserve” cars going across the block, it was an exciting weekend. I had the privilege to work with TDC Agency, a Barrett Jackson endorsed insurance provider.


As far as the auction goes, the trends continue. High-quality restorations and high-quality modified cars are bringing good money. Muscle cars make up a pretty good chunk of what went across the block. Because of the multiple generations that adore them, they are always a hot seller.


There were also plenty of deals to be had. Don’t let the auction intimidate you. Lots of cars sold for under $20,000. I met a lot of first time auction buyers. The excitement they had bidding and winning their dream cars is second to none. There is literally something for everybody. High end luxury cars like Bentleys, custom street rods, muscle cars, both stock and modified, and a long list of unique old cars that fit perfectly in the collector car hobby.


If you’re not in the market to buy, just going to an auction as a spectator is worth it. It is as much of a car show as it is an auction. A Barrett Jackson auction should be on everyone’s bucket list.


Which cars are on your bucket list?

Anyone who has been bitten by the car bug has a bucket list of cars they would love to own. That could be one car, or it could be a whole fleet of cars. I, myself, am in the latter group. I am a huge fan of Pontiacs and with Pontiac going away, it just strengthened that desire even more.

Pontiac GTO classic car

I also like certain models of every American and European automaker. And yes, even a handful of Japanese cars. What cars are on your bucket list? Is it “the” car that made you drool when you were in high school? Or maybe it was from your favorite movie? Or the car your dad had when you were growing up?

Tell us! Which cars are on your bucket list?

Will we be passing the torch or will the fire burn?

Will we be passing the torch or will the fire burn out with the next generation? Of course, I am talking about the collector car hobby and the passion for classic cars.

There are a couple schools of thought. One is that the fire will burn out because kids are not into cars, especially old ones. To a lot of younger people, a car is nothing more than something that gets them from place to place. And if that can be done by bike, bus, cab, or a parent, they don’t feel the need to have a car. With this mentality, old cars would seem to be the furthest thing from their minds!

The other thought is that the hobby is going to stay strong for several reasons:

1. Rat rods, low-budget customs and Rockabilly
It is very acceptable to have an old car that is unfinished and still show it off at car shows. In fact, patina is very desirable. The younger generation car owners have embraced the Rockabilly lifestyle. The best part is that it doesn’t take a year’s salary to get started in the hobby and these kids are having fun.

2. New cars are future hot rods.
In ten years, the Mustang GT, Challenger SRT8, and Camaro SS will be very affordable. You will be able to buy a car with more than 400 horsepower that gets more than 20 mpg for under $10,000.

3. Restomods
The popularity of restomods increases every year. Having a cool old car that has new technology built in, so it has the drivability and reliability of a new corvette really appeals to a lot of people, especially the younger generations.

4. Availability of old cars
There are a lot of old cars on the market. This could be a restoration project, restomod, survivor, hot rod, you name it. As new generations come into the hobby, they will have plenty to choose from based on their budget.

If you are in the collector car hobby, share your passion with the younger generations. Your kids, grandkids, and their friends. Take them for rides in the car. Take them to a car show with you. Have them help you work on the car. Let them drive your car (you with them of course). You are not sharing your car, you are sharing the passion!

Which do you prefer, stock or modified classic cars?

There’s an age-old argument about classic cars, keep them stock or modify them. Today, loads of different modified classic cars exist. From stock to modified, here are a number of different roads you can take. You can go with some slight modifications to make a collector car drive efficiently and more reliable, or go fairly extreme like we did with Ami G from The Build.

65 Chevy Malibu SS restomod

My advice is that if you find a “matching numbers” classic car, do what you can to keep it that way, by maintaining it as a survivor, or restoring it back to original specs. As far as long-term investment is concerned, you cannot go wrong with a documented original collector car. In most cases, the value will continue to increase over the years.

stock collector car

On the other hand, if you find a collector vehicle that does not have the original drive train or documentation, all rules are off. I suggest you build it into a custom hot rod:

• there are plenty of these types of cars available,
• it allows a lot of us to have fun in the collector car hobby and
• transform a classic into what we feel is ‘cool’!

modified classic cars

There are pros and cons to either direction you take, stock or modified. Are you someone who wants to own (and show off) a documented piece of history? Or do you want to own (and show off) a hot rod that is an extension of your personality?

Both ways are rewarding and fun. Which road do you take?

What to do with my collector car when a winter storm hits?

There are a handful of things to consider when it comes to a winter storm and/or winter storage of your collector vehicle:

Roof Collapse

roof rake for winter stormsWe get numerous claims from heavy snow collapsing the roof of a garage and damaging a collector car. Know the capabilities of your roof. If at all possible, remove excessive snow off the roof of your garage after a winter storm. You can use an extended broom or shovel.

Here’s some information that explains how much snow is too much for your roof to handle.

Animal Infestation

Winter is the time when small animals are looking for places to hide and nest. Having rat or mouse poison or traps positioned in your garage will help. For larger animals (raccoons, squirrels, etc), make sure you address any areas around the garage that would give access to these animals.

Frozen Antifreeze

antifreeze for your collector carPoor quality antifreeze can freeze and crack engine blocks, cylinder heads, radiators, etc. Check your antifreeze to make sure it is strong enough to withstand temperatures dipping down into the single digits or lower. Replace the antifreeze if needed.

Dampness and Condensation

If your garage is not heated, you can easily have a dampness issue. Anything metal will heat up and cool down. Usually in winter, when a car warms up from being very cold, it will build up condensation which will in return cause corrosion. Having a small fan set on low in the corner of the garage will keep the air from settling and will help mitigate corrosion caused by condensation. An incandescent shop light under the engine of a car can help too.

Whether you are on the east coast for the “Snowmaggedon” winter storm  or somewhere else, here are some great tips to keep you safe while battling  winter driving.

Would you go to Cuba to look for a collector car?

Open trading between Cuba and the United States has never been much of an interest to collector car enthusiasts, until now. The recent possibility of open trade between the two countries has become a treasure hunting opportunity for all classic vehicle fans.

Currently, the majority of the old classics in Cuba have been cheaply pieced together to be used as taxis, and barely kept running with old diesel engines, but there are still a couple diamonds in the rough to be found.

Frankenstein Collector Car

You will find a lot of cars in Cuba that are defined as “Frankenstein Cars.” Because of the very limited resources for parts, Cubans did whatever was necessary to keep the cars running. It is not unusual to find a car like a 1955 Chevy with a diesel engine under the hood because that was the only engine available. You can also find:

interiors may be handmade,
suspension and steering parts are welded together,
paint jobs applied with a paint roller

These “Frankenstein Cars” may be collectible themselves. Some people may find it intriguing to own a car with that type of history. Only time will tell.

Frankenstein Classic Car

Also, there’s the possibility that a vintage car could be tucked away in a shed, covered by a couple tarps or blankets. It’s not just about the car either, it’s also about the treasure hunt. A barn find is defined as a classic car or motorcycle that has been discovered, often in derelict condition.

The term originates from the tendency that the classic has been located in an outbuilding or barn where they have been stowed away for years on end. Discovering a barn find that has a substantial value will always be a crowning achievement for a car guy!

You never know, that one barn find you want could be in Cuba.