The story goes like this, Mr Funk called my sidekick Dr Marvelus on a late Friday night just after picking his “Rat Rod Hudson” from another shop here in town. Mr Funk was pleased as punch to get it on the road after his two year build process and many foldable greenbacks, but was absolutely terrified by what he now owned. The good Dr told him to bring it in Saturday morning.
What showed up on my doorstep may just be……. I digress. On with the story.
Lets back up a few hours, yes hours.
Upon picking up his car, the owner at Puerile Customs told Mr Funk to take it easy, don’t go out on the highway and learn the car because its a bit of a handful. Mr Puerile assured Mr Funk that the car was sound and he “stood by” his work. By Mr Funk’s account this car needed your undivided attention 100%, no taking your eyes off the road even for a second to look at the oil pressure or temp gauges. He was uneasy but had no major complaints as he drove his car home. Enjoying his conveyance it was time to hit the local, ahem, pub. Mr Funk recounted a tale of showing off his new joy to some colleagues and after some good natured ribbing and displays of encouragement, Mr Funk stepped on the gas and the trouble began.
The car careened in an uncontrollable manner and started the dreaded “death wobble” with the brakes applied at maximum sphincter gripping pressures, nothing happened. No control, four lanes of traffic were crossed before the car came to rest. Now terrified, Mr Funk made the call to Dr Marvelus.
And so, this is what landed at my doorstep.
Initial inspection, the drastic negative Ackerman, Model A wheels and steering location warranted a closer inspection. There was quite a lot to take in. Someone had obviously spent some time trying to produce something that would stagger its onlookers.
This car is definitely not HAMB material. Certainly not worthy of our notice. A breed that deserves our disdain and upturned noses. However there is a lesson to be learned here, an example needs to be made of those who have wronged Mr Funk and an opportunity for myself and Dr Marvelus to showcase our finely tuned skills and abilities.
Let me bore you with the intricate details of this so called “rat rod” shall we?
This first set of pictures is from my initial inspection, all I was truly concerned with was the condition of the front suspension and why it had the guidance system similar to that of a Scud Missile.
The first thing to draw my eye was the steering linkage, made up from pipe wrenches and connecting rods with a few machined bits thrown in for good measure. The steering box is a Saginaw 525 possibly from a Jeep because it takes 6.5 turns from lock to lock. The box mounted on studs just aft of the radiator were not sleeved. The holes were near edges and the plates were not fully welded. The steering shaft back to the steering wheel consisted of welded couplers, universal joints and a stub shaft from a VW bug mounted in a single bushing hanging from the dash. No substantial support left the steering wheel a bit flaccid. I apologize for letting that tidbit escape my camera’s eye.
If you would take notice, the welds holding the pipe wrench to the steering system in the above pictures. Notice how over temp and undercut the welds are.
I broke that bit off with a two foot prybar and about 30 pounds of force.
The next bit of bother was the tie rod. Most of you fine chaps know that mounting the tie rod out ahead of the axle is not always the best solution to your problems. However when building a “rat rod” getting the car as low as possible is your only concern. This means placing the front beam axle ahead of the radiator. This not only allows the lower tank of the radiator to be as low as possible, but also nudges the front axle out for at least another foot of wheelbase. This leaves the problem of what to do with the tie rod. Behind the axle is an issue as it interferes with the radiator and it’s rakish angle so your best bet is to flip the steering arms around front. If Mr Puerile had known about the work done by Mr Rudolph Akerman he could have avoided this folly into a steering system that caused the vehicle to push so severely that turning the wheel to full lock had a turning radius somewhat inside that of the Queen Mary.
The steering arms you see are most likely from a 1953-1956 Ford F100. Wait for the more creative uses of more of this donor vehicle.
Not truly concerned with the air spring mountings or any of the other gear, Mr Funk and I agreed to a figure and the vehicle was left to me. I pulled the vehicle inside my shop. It took me 20 minutes to achieve this due to the small 8′ door and 90º turn to enter the shop.
I shut the doors late Saturday night and left the little Hudson to think about where it had been. On the following Monday when I opened the doors and flicked on the lights the little Hudson greeted me by pops and creaks. It was resting firmly on the ground and the air pressure in its scuba tanks was at naught, but still, the suspension was so bound up that it continued to settle over 24 hours later.
The entire air system would not hold pressure for more than 20 minutes. In fact, it leaked so badly that it needed adjustment every 5 minutes or so just to maintain altitude.
And on to that. In adjusting the suspension from drivable to flat on the floor was not even remotely smooth. It did take a considerable amount of time to build up enough pressure to overcome the sticktion of the suspension mountings. And it was not easy to replicate the driving position. Dr Marvelus and I donned our handschuhes and went to work.
We found many things awry, the connecting rod bell crank system was merely hand tight, without any manner to keep the Grade 5 bolt in place that acted as the pivot. No inner sleeves, no bearings or bushes. We now know just some of what caused all the creaks and moans.
During dissasembly we notices several of the “welds” were poorly executed and were already showing cracks. The problems were mounting up and the agreement I made with Mr Funk were starting to fall out of favor with me. But a deal was struck and I needed to stick to it.
As the dismemberment went on and I was cooking up a plan on how to save this car for Mr Funk more exciting fabrication work was found. The good Dr and I assume that this car was concepted and built by stacking items against each, on the floor, other until pleasing to the eye then scraps of metal and what ever was lying about were used to make connections between the aforementioned items.
I reviewed what lay before me with the intent on just trying to fix what was here to make the Scud-Hud safe and reliable but was stymied at every turn. I could not find a frame or fitment satisfactory. My options were dwindling and knew I was just wasting time and energy. I decided that everything forward of the cowl was a lost cause. Nothing save for the brakes, spindles, HEIM joints and air springs themselves were about the only items worth salvation.
I went through quite a process to create a whole new front section of frame. I was unsastisfied with the look and condition of the 1941 Ford front I-beam axle and decided to trade Mr Funk one of my standard Model A axles. I also wanted to improve the pedigree of the old rat to a more upright citizen of the motoring kind. This meant standing the radiator and shell proper upright and rearranging a few items bringing the car into fine shape rather than the slough it was mimicking.
Firing up my digital computing machine and manipulating my figments the new front end started to grow on my screen. New formed frame rails with giant speed holes to help shrink the overall visual size of this car, it is rather large. I also placed a facsimile of the Model A axle and placed new connecting links and “batwings” to hold all the various bits in place as “traditionally” as possible given the circumstances.
Rumaging through my pile of cast offs I found a set of Delco Lovejoy shocks from the rear of a 1938 Cadillac that were in fine sporting condition and though they would be a very nice addition to the front of the Scud-Hud. As the car had no shocks front or back and the nature of the “suicide” mounted front mounted axle tends to not be friendly to airplane shocks. The long lever shocks could be mounted on the flanks of the frame rails with their spindly arms reaching forward to the axle.
My intent was to clean the lines of the new front frame section and draw your eyes away from the tidbits that were visually unappealing. The placement of the Cadillac engine afforded me just a bit of space behind the engine mounts to create a location for mounting the somewhat repulsive air springs. To connect the axle to the air springs I created a shaft and lever system mounted on bearings. This gave the appearance of torsion bars, a much more accepted look to the discerning Trad-Rodder.
Just installing simple levers did not satisfy my visual intent and did not articulate the air spring properly. I tipped the air springs outboard by 30º and created an unequal length and nonparallel linkage system that pushes the top of the air spring reasonably close to the the 30º line the air springs are mounted on and this also gave me the opportunity to use longer bellcranks for the leverage ratio I wanted. As an added bonus, I could install a polyurethane bumpstop under the upper control link and make it adjustable if needed to prevent the newly built vehicle from actually touching the pavement.
The clevises used in the four link bars are common rod ends available from my favorite hardware dispensary, McMaster-Carr. The ends are attached to the fabricated “batwings” using large shoulder bolts and PEEK plastic bushings That allow rotation in one plane. Using a HEIM on this end would not work properly as the weight of the car is going to be hanging from the batwing and a few inches aft of the axle. There will be forces to pull the batwings inboard, this arrangement of connection will hamper this action.
While I was designing the save for the front half of Mr Funk’s Scud-Hud, he had a conversation with Dr Marvelus about repairing the less than satisfactory body panels and possibly taking care of a few more items on the car. I was waiting for materials and supplies to show up so in order to keep things moving along, the good Dr Marvelus sheared up some sheet steel and went banging away.
As the materials showed up, I processed the solid model drawings I had made into a language understood by my plasma machine. Cut the parts and started to assemble the individual components to make up the front clip.
I spend some time machining tubes to accept the bearings of the lift shafts and securely welding them into my motor mount/air spring structure and radiator core support.
And Dr Marvelus attacked the rear with a new apron to cover the Scud-Hud’s neither regions.
More parts added into the mix and the front half of the frame is taking shape. The four bars are fabricated using 1.25″ X .125 DOM steel tube for the uppers. The 1″ clevis at the front and the salvaged 3/4″ HEIM at the rear. The lowers are 1″ X .125 DOM steel tube with a 3/4″ clevis at the front and a 5/8″ HEIM at the rear. The linkages connecting links from the shaft bellcrank and guide link have bronze bushings and sleeves to allow free but controlled movement. The front of the lift shafts are connected to the batwings using standard 1.75″ spring shackles.
The day came and the Scud-Hud was to become a bit more Sir and a bit less Rat. Dr Marvelus and I scuttled the Hud from the two post lift to the fabrication table and continued to centerline and level the Hud out. Clamping it to the table we realized how out of square the frame was, twisted and deformed. The engine and trans were pulled from the solid mounts and the cutting began. The weld slime was removed and the remaining frame chunks were trimmed to a reasonable size and condition for me to attach my new front frame section to.
Mr Funk asked me to inspect every element of the car to ascertain the proper function and serviceability. While assembling the front suspension to set up the new steering arms, I needed to remove the brake rotors from the spindles. Upon pulling the dust caps I found blacked grease. I am familiar with the type of grease, it was Lucas Red Tacky and was gritty and burned. Not only that I noticed there was not a tang-washer in sight! This was a disc brake kit ordered directly from Speedway Motors and I would be a bit dismayed that the kit did not come with one. Regardless of whether it was supplied or not, there was a machined and zinc plated spacer between the outer bearing and the spindle nut.
I inspected the bearings, there was a liberal amount of grease applied to the spindle stud but superficial amounts were packed into the big end of the rollers. It also appeared as if the protective coatings the bearings were shipped with was not removed and this contaminated the bearing grease. Moving on from that, I fitted the king pins to the new Model A axle and modified the Speedway caliper brackets to work with the CE bolt on steering arms and cut and threaded a proper tie rod.
It was about this time when I realized what type of vehicle these RadRodsters are trying to emulate, I think they are enamored with the Fuel Coupe but just miss the mark by a bit.
It was about this point where Mr Funk reached his ultimate frustration with the Scud-Hud. He wanted Dr Marvelus and I to remove the silly ammo box wiring control system, seats and expanded metal drive shaft tunnel to get the floor out. At the same time to investigate why the rear axle was offset to right by over an inch.
What we found made us quicken our pace at deconstruction. There was literally everything from a dollars worth of Nickles to exhaust U-bends, Rebar, All Thread and multiple layers of scrap metal that made up the floor. All manner of square tubing and plate was used to weld the rotten body to the frame. Two flex plates copped it for the seat mounts and they were cut in half so haphazardly that who I assume was Mr Puerile that had done this work, filled over a 1/2″ gap with MIG weld to attache the half flex plated to the 16 gauge sheet metal floor.
Now we were getting down to the meat of the matter. Just how so much of this car got off track and why so much was out of square. The frame rails were tapered, narrower at the front than the back under the body. However, the builder squared the crossmember tubes to the right side frame rail making the cross beams not square to the centerline of the car. This mistake was further compounded in the rear kick up that supported the entire triangulated four link system. While the brackets were close to correct on the axle, the frame they were attached to were not.
My judgement was to cut the rear kick up off and the last rear cross beam and try to rebuild the frame from there back. After deconstruction it was clear that there was no saving what was left without many hours of laborious work and for little gain. It all had to go. Out came the Air-Arc to remove my clip from what was left of the sorry frame.
Back to the computer for me. I had to construct a simple and cost effective frame that would actually work well with what I had already created but didn’t rupture Mr Funk’s wallet. I also needed to reuse as much of what already existed and keep it all under the envelope of the body. I regret my decision (you will see later) but the end result works quite well and Dr Marvelus and I can finally cut this project short and get back to repairing.
I chose a triangulated rear four link system with a air spring mount that keeps the end caps of the bellows parallel to each other.
While doing my set up for the upper bars of the four link system I found the last bit of rubbish I had to deal with. While the lower fourbar/coilover brackets were at least centered on the housing, they were not clocked properly. The right side bracket was at least 15º forward of the left side. This pushed the rear axle back over 1/2″ on the right. They had to come off.
The lower bars of the rear four link are a bit complex, but considering what I am going to ask of them they will need to be heavy duty. The sides consist of 10 gauge Cold Rolled steel plate, machined bushings and a length of 1.25″ CR Bar threaded with 3/4″ 16 on the end to accept the Heavy duty HEIM end. Then the rest of the assembly came together rather quickly. Upper bar and bellows mounts, and damper strut mountings.
I reversed a Corvette steering gear I had lying about and attached it to a mount sprouting out the back of the left front frame horn and then fabricated a new steering arm to finish up the front. A set of engine mounts and transmission pad to tie up all the loose ends before disassemblely and final weld out of the frame.
Off the table and onto the floor for another mock up. This time with the new wheels and tires, no adapters and a whole new attitude. These last few shots are without the bumpstops in place, so yes, the frame can touch the ground. With the stops in place it cannot.
There is still quite a bit for us to do yet, but for now it’s off the table and is ready for true progress for a total redemption. While it may not be your style of car, it will be a sound and safe driving car with a flair.
Dr Marvelus and I will be repairing more of the bodywork, installing a true floor that seals out nature. As well as adding a few styling cues that will help prevent the Scud-Hud from being terribly dated and keeping Mr Funk happy for miles to come.
The project took a turn, Mr Funk didn’t want to spend the greenbacks to properly repair the Hudson body. It was discussed that if he could find a better body with a bit more value it would be in his best interest to do so. He found a very rough 1931 Model A coupe body with a horribly botched chop and quarter repair. This is the body that the car left with. I will do updates in a while.
I am just bringing this up because someone brought it up on the HAMB today.
1 thought on “Rat-rod Reconing: Epic post from the HAMB”
Wow what a job you all did here……whoever put thier name on the original work needs to find another profession and quality control aint it. I am amazed at both ends of this from the worse of the worst to the best of the best, Been in a bodyshop since I was 14 years old and never seen shoddy work like that in my whole career, at 14 I was doin better work then that abomination started with WOW is all I can say…..You guys Rock though, keep it up…..