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Home Built Blast

Written By: Bob Schmeichel

There is a new car trend in America right now that adds an improved twist to enjoying an old vehicle in its original found form, allowing anyone to have fun with it no matter what it is. I am pretty sure this new direction came out of the rat rod trend about four years ago. Rat rods initially came about because of the ever-increasing cost of restoring old cars to better-than-new original condition. Quite often a restored car is really no better than when they were new but at about 10 or 12 times their original cost to get them there. The street rodding hobby is about making improvements with these old vehicles while making them safer and better. Because not everyone can afford or justify the spend to be in this hobby sport, nor do they like to polish paint, rat rods came about, allowing those who wanted to have fun cruising while being able to afford it. These vehicles usually have weathered and rusted bodies that have sat for decades that the owners got running again, or were thrown together with other old parts laying around for years that might have usually been discarded by others. If you have attended car shows around the area for the last 10 years, I am sure you have seen rat rods with all kinds of pieces of iron and steel put together to create an interesting, sometimes shock value, with its image. I have seen a few myself that look downright scary for the driver and/or passenger in regard to safety with its carelessly crude construction, and then knowing I don’t want to be on the same street when they are being driven. They are not all like this. Common sense safety in all areas of a created vehicle should never be ignored or sometimes has to be learned (hopefully without anyone getting hurt). I think we are so lucky in America to be able to build a vehicle to our taste that can reflect our personality if you want to project it that way. Hence this new trend has evolved outwardly looking like a weathered rat rod but with a new updated frame, suspension, with newer drive train modifications.

In the summer of 2014, Dale Brown got a call from a friend of his who was retiring off a farm in Revillo, South Dakota. Dale knew his buddy had collected a bunch of old vehicles over the years and was now looking to sell everything. Dale didn’t get there until the following weekend and much of what he might have had interest in, regretfully was already sold. As he walked through the farm to see if something else grabbed his interest, he noticed this big old 1952 Ford 4-ton grain truck complete with an old wooden stock box still in place. Dale got way more enthused as he got closer when he noticed the cab of the truck was rust free and pristine, even with its weathered look still showing “Michigan Lumber Company” with address and phone number that had been painted on the doors so long ago. Dale told his buddy he wanted it but questioned how he was going to get it on his trailer since it had sat for 30 years. He got a response back from his buddy saying, “Oh it’ll start.” So they hooked a battery up to it, filed the distributor points a bit, and it came to life, enabling it to be driven onto the trailer. Dale also bought an old gravity feed trailer that had a Model A frame under it to aid with an idea he had in his head for his build. Dale hauled the truck and trailer to another friend in Garrettson, where Dale disassembled everything. When Dale was done with taking everything apart, the only things he wanted were the truck cab and the front half of the Model A frame. He sold the engine and trans out of the old truck along with other sellable parts and wound up with $100 more than he paid for everything to begin with.

After that, the truck cab and part of the Model A frame were brought home to begin the planning process of building his new ride. Dale drew everything out on paper, so he knew exactly the direction he was heading when it came to building the entire frame and how everything was going to be attached or mounted. With the cab mounting points established, Dale decided to use the Model A frame from the firewall forward for appearance and create the rest of the frame out of 1/4” wall rectangular tubing and stepping it up behind the cab to get a level stance when finished. Because Dale was an old sprint car builder, safe fabrication was no problem for him. He used an I beam front axle out of a ‘63 Ford pick in front while creating mounts and bat wings for a Model A front spring and fabricating a 4-bar set-up to hold everything in place. In the rear he mounted a complete drop out rear independent suspension out of a 92 “T” Bird. These are pretty slick, containing everything needed to handle good horsepower if applied. Dale then installed a 5.3 Chevy engine and AOD out of a 2004 Yukon that still has plenty of life left yet. On the front of the truck he installed a ‘35 Chevy car grill shell to give it an aggressive look around the aluminum radiator. Dale then created his own design of a truck flat bed with finished white pine that uniquely raises the bed above the frame using air shocks, allowing him access to fill the gas tank he created using two military gas cans that fit neatly between the rear frame rails. That is a mouthful to say but I can’t emphasis enough the amount of thought that was put into this entire build to keep it totally safe with its hot rod rat rod look. Dale said the disc brake combination he put together on this vehicle can put you through the windshield if you aren’t ready. Achieving looks is important, yet function is everything when it comes to road worthiness. This fun truck lacks none of it and is still used to haul at a new fun level.


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