Gearheads are cut from the same cloth. Whether their medium is vintage motorcycles in their original, unrestored state or those who love to wrench on old rat rods, they share a common bond. Repurposing old parts for new uses takes talent. It takes a special skill set to understand the relationship between air/fuel ratios, an art to finely tuning a carburetor, a science to squeezing every ounce of horsepower out of an engine. Ed “Big Daddy” Roth was a big proponent of this cultural crossover that still shines brightly today like Mooneyes chrome.
This commensurate spirit was evident at the 8th Annual Ratrod-O-Rama in my neck-of-the-woods of Oregon. The event rightfully takes place at the Pottsville Oregon Historical Museum, home to a splendid collection of old gas engines, tractors, and historic buildings in rustic shape. What better place for classic coupes, roadsters and gassers to gather than a venue filled with history itself? Hundreds of chopped and slammed rat rods rode in for this year’s fundraising event that garnered $5317 for the Rogue Valley Humane Society.
The festivities were fueled by a pin-up contest, dolls decked out in attire between the Roaring Twenties to Mid-‘50s, and foot-tappin’ music provided by The John Dough Boys and The Sleazetones. Local fabricator Mason Lehmberg and other craftsman welded together crazy-cool one-off trophies from old gears, pistons, and assorted parts laying around the garage for categories like the Gearhead Award, Most Radical Ratrod, and Monster Mash Award. Later trophy winners would parade around the grounds in the “Drive By Parade.”
Ratrod-O-Rama included a curious collection of two- and three-wheeled vehicles too, from a chopped-out bicycle with a frame made of horseshoes to a V8-powered homemade trike. There was a treasured 1947 Knucklehead in immaculate condition on one end and a rusted-out ‘60s Triumph chopper nearby, that despite its rough current state had a ton of potential. There was the quintessential rat bike in the form of a 1976 Honda CB750, its four-cylinder engine spooned into a chopped frame, a coffin tank resting on its backbone. Old car license plates served as a front fender on the Honda chopper, its high handlebars were from an old bicycle, its headlight from a 1930’s Ford. It had a poncho for a seat, a mount for a skate deck on the right side, and a beaver skull hanging between its bars.
On the opposite end of the scale was a jet-powered motorcycle by local mad genius Robert Maddox. The jet-bike is powered by an Argus pulsejet engine from a German V-1 cruise missile (aka the “buzz bomb). The bike is covered in immaculate sheet metal, including a P-38 Lightning drop tank, fashioned by another eccentric but talented local artisan, Randy Grubb. It’s a work in progress, but they’re projecting it to reach a top speed near 300 mph. Not sure how true that rings but it sure looks the part of a land rocket.
Ratrods, be they two- or four-wheeled, are an indelible part of American culture. Thanks to grass-roots events like Ratrod-O-Rama, the culture continues to carry on through generations.
- The Dead End Mortuary slammed Chevy step-side has a great patina.
- The John Dough Boys belted out everything from Bluegrass to punk at the 2015 Ratrod-O-Rama.
- The spirit of the Rat Fink lives at Ratrod-O-Rama 2015.
- The crazy-cool trophies at Ratrod-O-Rama 2015 were as creative as the cars and bikes in the show.