Saturday, November 15, 2014

Rat Muscle

Unless you have been living under a rock for about the last five years you have no doubt heard about Rat Rods. This trend has taken foothold big time and currently shows no signs of waning in popularity. There is even a magazine dedicated to it called, you guessed it, Rat Rod Magazine.

Admittedly, Rat Rods are cool to look at and each one has it's own level of uniqueness and creativity. They are sort of like rolling art exhibits and the devil is in the details. An off-shoot of the Rat Rod trend is Rat Muscle Cars, or "Rat Muscle". Rat Muscle is a whole different animal, or should I say rodent? Before we get too far into this I should probably clarify the term "Muscle Car". When I was a lot younger, muscle car meant 2 door coupe, big block V-8, preferably a 4-speed transmission, and a aggressive stance to go with it. The current definition, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, defines muscle cars as "any of a group of American-made 2-door sports coupes with powerful engines designed for high-performance driving. "A large V8 engine is fitted in a 2-door, rear wheel drive, family-style mid-size or full-size car designed for four or more passengers." The phrase "A large V8" is where it starts to get ambiguous. Now-a-days, 5.7 litres is considered a large V-8! For the non-metric type, that's 350 cubic inches. Given these parameters, there are a lot more "muscle cars" out there then first thought.  

Before the whole Rat Muscle concept was even thought of, muscle cars basically came in two flavors, restored and unrestored. The latter version usually languished in the garage or restoration shop until it was done. The restored cars were kept in a garage where they were regularly wiped clean with a cotton diaper and only driven to car shows on clear, sunny days. There was also a very small contingency that actually used their muscle car as a daily driver, yours truly included. In my opinion these were the original rat muscle. Cars driven as-is, repaired as required, and maintained meticulously with little or no thought given to exterior appearance. My original '72 Olds Cutlass had patina before patina was cool. The sweet sound of the original, pre-production style Flow Master mufflers would reverberate off of the buildings as I drove through the local University to work. Car alarms would go off in unison whenever I idled through a parking garage. In a sea of Toyota Corollas and Honda Civics, my Olds stood out like a sore thumb. I could have made a small book out of all the notes and cards left on my windshield asking if I wanted to sell my car. All in all, I must say there is almost something therapeutic about driving an old muscle car, especially if you drive it daily.

Rat Muscle is basically a blend of muscle cars, daily drivers, patina'd paint, V-8 powered, 2-door vehicles that are driven on a regular basis. Like their Rat Rod counterpart, each one is unique and showcase the owners creativity. This trend is right up a blue collar workers alley. No more spending mega bucks on a concours restoration or dropping 5 large on a paint job. I can put my hard earned money where it counts - in the drivetrain. As luck would have it I am actually able to take advantage of this hot trend with my current project Yellowjacket.

  Yellowjacket will soon receive a big block (Oldsmobile of course) and a 4-speed. The interior will also be rehabbed to meet the minimal standards for human inhabitants. While I am at it the suspension and brakes will be upgraded as well. As far as the exterior goes, the Corvette yellow paint will be left in all of it's chipped and faded glory, much to the dismay of "purists". I will give the car back it's dignity and reinstall all the missing 442 emblems, after uncovering the bondo'd up holes! Like most folks, my paycheck is already stretched to the limit, so I think "Ratty" Muscle cars are here to stay for awhile.

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