"We don't take ourselves too seriously," Bill Stout said of the so-called rat rod world.
Except "rat rod" is not quite the right nomenclature. Street rod enthusiasts in the know realize there are rat rods, and then there are well thought out and well built rat-style rods. With the latter, the lack of paint and "shininess" is part of a creative plan and attention to detail, requiring as much or more work than any other hot rod.
That's why Bill Stout isn't too serious about the term rat rod. He prefers "hot rod," in the classic definition, for his latest two builds.
We ran across his 1930 Model A coupe at the Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky this past August. The more we looked, the more we liked this coupe. The inside door handles are little pipe wrenches. The seats are genuine cowhide, purposely dyed a different color from bucket seat to bucket seat. Even the hood ornament is unique – an open-end wrench impaled on five tines of a fork appearing to explode through a radiator cap.
We also noticed a truck parked a few feet away wearing the same baby moon hubcaps and realized there had to be a connection. Bill built the coupe first and this pickup second. His intent was to give his son, coming up on 17 and his senior year in high school, a fun rod to drive. A second functional use was for rounding up parts.
Bill said, "I buy a lot of stuff at swap meets, and, that way, you can throw it on the back and haul it out."
This sentiment explains the flatbed. The pickup has as much intention to detail, but quite a bit more functionality in the hauling sense. The coupe is quite a bit hotter, weighing a trim 2200 pounds and able to burn rubber courtesy of the vintage Chevy 327 V-8, fed by a trio of Stromberg 97 two-barrel carburetors.
"Have you won any awards with these cars?" we wanted to know.
"Don't enter them. I just show them and drive them around."
Bill has a "shiny" hot rod for trophy-winning outings to car shows. He has "a lot" of these awards on his mantle at home. The shiny rod won a Mopar award a couple years ago at the Street Rod Nationals.
Refraining from entering the coupe and truck in competition doesn't translate to less recognition at car shows or less work on the build. Bill spent two years working on the coupe and the pickup. The attention to detail is amazing.
Bill said, "You can put them next to a high dollar, shiny car and really make that fellow mad, cause they'll pay more attention to these old cars than his."
Stout began with the purchase of a Model A coupe body in five pieces. He said, "Nobody else wanted it."
This is where expertise really makes a difference. Bill literally pieced the coupe together from five not so easy to find pieces – the two sides of the car, the rear window, the cowl and the trunk lid.
When assembled, the body was a patchwork of surface rust and rust-free panels. Bill actually treated the shiny, un-rusted panels with salt water so they would oxidize and match the rest of the car body.
One of the most interesting aspects of this build is the rustic body. That's rustic as in real rust. The rust color is actually the surface rust on the body. Bill chose not to paint the body because he liked the rust look so much. He refers to this texture as "Mother Nature."
We were curious how long the body could last without being destroyed by the rust. Stout explained "it takes forever" for surface rust to "rust through."
Forever is a long time. Bill believes the big rust problems take place on the backside of panels, where trapped water and dirt feed the oxidation process. Apparently, this surface-rusted body, kept dry and not fed by a pool of water, is in a state of near chemical equilibrium. Or, like Bill says, "When I got the body, it was rusted. It's been rusted for 50 years. Why stop [the rust] now?"
Bill bought the 1930 Model A frame separately. It's been lengthened four inches. He bought a late 1940s Ford front end with a dropped axle. The back of the frame has been kicked up about eleven inches and incorporates a 1960s Chevy rear end.
Bill selected a classic Chevy 327 small block for power. A friend had the bored out 327, already rebuilt, in his garage. It was a good buy.
Bill is a plumber by trade and is very familiar with copper. "I just kind of like copper. It's kind of a unique metal and has a patina all its own."
That patina is very much a color-coordinated match to what Mother Nature has done to the Model A body. As we photographed the rear of the vehicle in the shimmering glow of a Kentucky sunset, copper sparkled from the back glass.
Bill explained, "I stripped the insulation off copper wire and wove it."
The effect is the same as netting over the side glass of an old racecar. The sparkle gives the rod a patina of faded glory and a much different look from chrome.
Bill also custom-built copper stacks over the intake of each Stromberg two barrel. The stacks are shorter at the front of the car and longer at the cowl, with the tops cut at an angle. The copper accents the surface rust and reveals a rhyme and reason to the build. Some hot rods are rats because they are truly in poor condition. Bill's 1930 coupe is more like a gem.
Chopped and channeled, the Rustic Coupe hugs the ground and is "a blast to drive." Burning rubber is as easy as nailing the throttle with the GM THM 350 in first gear.
Bill describes the interior as "sparse." This look is a feat accomplished, rather than lacking substance. The first thing we noticed was that the two buckets don't match.
Bill said, "That's cowhide leather. I've tanned the seats in a way to make the upholstery look old and different. Of course, I've got a couple of brands on it."
Ranchers brand cattle. Bill Stout brands his hot rods. It makes sense. Even the leather top on the Model A bears the brand.
Bill built the pickup second, with less time and effort. It was built more for function and less for speed and sporty looks. The cab is a 1936 Dodge. As with the Model A, nobody wanted the body of this ancient American ironclad.
"It was rusted so bad, I cut about two inches off the bottom all the way around."
Bill lacked fenders for his build. Although he started with a 1992 Chevy S10 pickup, he wanted none of the body parts of the late model to show. His swap meet meanderings turned up a set of front fenders off an old GMC one-ton. The exact model year was open to question. Bill assumes a 1930 vintage.
The grille shell is from a Ford. Again, Bill doesn't know the model year of origin. He just knows the mid-1930s classic shape fit the build. His S10 was showing great promise. But what about a front bumper? The 1971 Camaro, of all models, supplied a working prototype.
"No big deal if I messed it up. I just paid ten dollars for it at a swap meet."
Bill cut off the 90 degree bends at the ends and made them straight. He re-shaped the rest of the bumper "a lot" to match the lines of the truck's front end. Finally, he painted the bumper a "silver hammered paint" that is textured and very popular today on outdoor furniture.
He custom-built the flatbed out of steel rails and added a wood floor. The gas tank on the bed is another swap meet find of unknown origin. For the third brake light, Bill plasma-cut the skull out of steel stock so the eyes glow.
Under the hood, he kept the V-6, but for ease of wiring replaced the computer with old school electronics and the fuel injection with an intake and a GM Quadrajet four barrel. The automatic transmission and rear end are stock.
The pickup follows a slightly different theme – Bill actually painted the body. However, it is a truck and would be used for hauling. It does have a flatbed in place of a box. He applied the flat black with a brush and a roller in "Rustoleum."
Bill describes the truck as "Nothing real fancy."
He said, "It's all about having fun. That's one of the things we focus on."
The result, of course, is a pair of hot rods that other people do focus on.
Hot Rod Coupe (Ford)
Bill Stout's 1930 Model A 5-window Rat Rod is the classic hot rod, factored down to its lowest common denominator.
Bill's mythical speed shop would have these initials.
This luggage rack provides some elegance and style.
Copper stacks form a 45-degree angle at the top, one over each Stromberg 2-barrel carburetor.
Need help opening the door? Simply pull this leather cord.
Chopped and channel five inches, this 1930 Model A coupe hugs the ground.
Barbed wire fits the rustic theme and doubles as grille bars in the Model A's radiator shell.
During our photo shoot, a panhandler wandered by asking for a handout. Before I could pull out a dollar, he walked over to view the 1930 Model A Hot Rod.
There's no bumper, just a "spreader bar" Bill fashioned from a piece of pipe.
The 1930 Model A Coupe has about one horsepower for every 7.3 pounds of weight.
Notice how the copper wires sparkle on the back window.
For no apparent reason, Bill added an Oldsmobile 88 emblem to the rear decklid.
The spinner from a hubcap of unknown origin helps with gas cap removal.
The cowhide top carries the car's brand.
Bill Stout's 1930 Model A is a work of art.
Pin-striping is by Wendell Burnett.
The hood ornament is a tribute to the open-end hand wrench.
Real cowhide awaits the driver and passenger, each with their own custom shade of leather.
Ample doses of copper on steering wheel and instrument panel accent the interior.
A small pipe wrench serves as the door lever inside.
Wires run through copper tubing inside the cab.
The trunk has a small space to carry things, including the gas tank.
Bill's 1930 Model A Street Rod attracts major attention at car shows.
Hot Rod Truck (Dodge)
Bill's truck was built from a unique selection of parts and pieces.
Bill "pinched" (narrowed) the S10 frame in the middle to fit the 1936 Dodge cab. Otherwise, the frame would have been wider than the cab.
Bill can easily toss parts onto the flatbed.
Bill modified the grille (of an unknown origin, but obviously of a 1930s vintage) with "an expanded metal insert."
The fanciest part of the truck is the pin-striping by Wendell Burnett.
Bill custom-made the hood to lift off for engine access.
Bill replaced the fuel injection and computer with a simple carburetor and distributor.
Water from the radiator flows into a Hire's Root Beer soda bottle.
The seat cover is material from an old trampoline – "for now." Bill plans a custom upgrade soon.
Bill mounted the gas tank on the flatbed just behind the cab.
Note the side exiting exhausts and the custom running boards hooked to the front fenders.
Bill hand-made the bed with real wood.
Published Dec 7th, 2015