Yes, the road.

Yes, the road.
Eagle Nest, New Mexico. “People like to drive because driving is actually and symbolically an almost perfect mechanism for escape…there is probably no human being who does not have troubles, real or imagined, from which he at times feels the need to flee.” George R. Stewart.


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Brooklin, Maine, United States
We own a 1975 GMC Sierra Grande 15 in Maine and a 1986 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe 10 in West Texas. Also a pair of 1997 Volvo 850 wagons. Average age in the fleet is 28 years--we're recycling. I've published 3 novels: THE LAW OF DREAMS (2006), THE O'BRIENS (2012), and CARRY ME (2016). Also 2 short story collections: NIGHT DRIVING(1987) and TRAVELLING LIGHT (2013). More of my literary life is at I was a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study for 2012-13. I'm an adjunct professor at Colorado College and in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. In 2015-16 I was a Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The Autoliterate office is in Car Talk Plaza in Harvard Square, 2 floors above Dewey Cheatem & Howe. SUBSCRIBE TO THE AUTOLITERATE DAILY EMAIL by hitting the button to the right.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

rat rod: the 1945 Chevrolet pickup

I love this 1945 Chevrolet pickup, which belongs to Michael S. Moore. Rebuilt with a rat-rod aesthetic: unfinished look; bare essentials. Meant to be driven, not merely shown. And Moore proved that by driving the machine from Colorado to Califoria in the winter.

"Built by James Gardiner of Brokenlight Customs in Berthoud, Colorado, over the winter of 2010 - 2011.  

" it was sufficiently together to drive from Berthoud to California in February of last year...I flew to Denver, picked up the truck the same afternoon, and left the next day after James made some adjustments to the linkage.  First night, over the Rockies, was spent in Fruita, CO; I then crossed Utah and stopped in Ely, Nevada.
"Third day crossed Nevada, stayed in Reno, visited friends and set out for California only to have 80 shut down by a blizzard...

"...while I was breakfasting in Truckee...the truck's too low to for chains so I snuck into California over Yuba Pass...below 5500' it rained, all the way to the Bay Area." --M.S.M

A note on rat rods from Dan Picasso:

"For many years I was affiliated with fellows building this very type of Hot Rod- a great deal of importance was placed upon using period-correct and arcane speed parts, wheels, tires, instruments, engines such as Oldsmobile, Cadillac, Pontiac, Buick and so forth [avoiding the ubiquitous Chevy smallblock] and embracing the inevitable [rust] as opposed to spending thousands for perfect paint-  as a reaction to the creeping decimalism of modern hotrodding which was becoming a rich man's game.

Naturally this aesthetic became popular among the gold-chainers, and consequently the prices on our parts and cars rose to the extent even the crusty stuff became expensive.  Kind of like how funky neighborhoods populated by artists, writers and musicians without a pot to piss in were gentrified and taken over by the moneyed set, and the vanguard types had to leave.  Sic semper argentum.

Feh."  -D.P.


  1. Mr. Picasso; So I'm not sure whether this low key rant is supposed to be directed at me specifically or just some general malaise with the Situation, but whichever it is I'd submit that your rat definition is rather narrow regardless; seems to me what you're talking about, though it might fall under the "rat" umbrella [much as the guys I know who are involved at that level of detail and dedication would take issue] is the period-correct re-creation aspect of the "old car hobby". A little rust and character certainly doesn't detract from the great and interesting cars coming out of that corner but, given ever-diminishing reserves of the real stuff it's bound to get spendy.
    My understanding of the "rat rod revival" is that it's the rebranding of what we always knew as "beaters"; daily driven cheaply thrown together serviceable cars that were, above all, fun. Twenty years after the rebranding [it's obscure when the term came into use or from where, but the general consensus is that the conspicuousness and ubiquity of Robert Williams "Eights and Aces" deuce roadster and/or Jake Jacobs' '28 A phaeton in early eighties L.A. put the notion in the faces of a younger generation generally bored with [not to mention priced out of] the blindingly shiny, overly refined and astoundingly expensive street rods they'd grown up with]. Twenty years on it appears we've entered a mannerist phase for even that initially loose umbrella term where certain rules MUST apply. FEH, indeed. Also, I beg to differ, irrelevantly enough.

    But, whatever; I consider my truck a recreational vehicle first and foremost, put together in the beater tradition and yes it does run one of those annoyingly ubiquitous small block chevys...not because a lot of the cars around when I was growing up did [it was Southern California and, once that motor was available, they did] but for the same reason; I'm into recreation, not re-creation, and it's a good way to keep a beater on the road. Simple. Also, if you're still practicing what you preach, you can thank me for not driving up the cost of your vintage intake manifolds and suchlike any further.

    Goldchainers? Who dat? We have some heavy dudes over in V-town that sport that kind of accessory, but they seem more into Donks and I wouldn't mess with them...the "lifesyle" rat guys pretend to be fifties rockabillys with lotsa tattoos 'n' such; they seem to have a lot of fun, with all kinds of cars, often exactly what you have in mind.

    Your real estate thing? Get over it; it's just late stage's a given that gentrification follows the artists even more reliably than rain follows the plow that's just how the late twentieth century unfolded. Anyway I wouldn't move back to those neighborhoods even if I could afford it; there's STILL no place to park! I speak from decades of experience on that one, believe me...



  2. Mike,

    Thanks to some kind of malfunction the lengthy response I wrote to your response went poof into the ether, but please understand I wasn't crumbing on you or your vehicle. The note I sent Peter, which I did not assume would appear on his blog, began with this word: "Cool!".
    I like your truck, it sits just right.

    I stand behind what I wrote. Dough changes everything. What was once fun has become too expensive to carry on for many, at least for me. Though I agree with much of what you wrote, I take issue with those parts that seem to respond to something I didn't sling your way.

    I'm well familiar with the Jacobs and Williams cars and that what folks call 'rat rods'- a phrase I can do without; it connotes lousy workmanship- are the beaters we know and love. I'm guessing you'll agree that the components of these cars you offer as examples were, when they were built, were far more common and affordable then- the early to mid 70s- than now.

    I'm a great admirer of much pro-built stuff and have done design work for builders and magazines and count pro builders among my friends.

    Me, I have to assemble everything I drive, and parts, even the weird-o esoteric non-Ford/Chevy bits that once seemed to fall from trees have become far more costly than they once were. I still have my cars and parts but for now all will sit idle in the shed or scattered around town until economic conditions change. I truly miss working on them.

    We're not all so lucky. Some of us have been pretty soundly whooped by 'late-stage capitalism'.

    Yours is a nice truck, but less admirable is the appearance of a chip on your shoulder, which I assume you'll ascribe to me also. I know you as little as you know me. But what the hell, we're car guys, we won't agree on everything.

    In any case, you're welcome in my garage anytime.


    Dan P.

  3. Oh man, Dan...years ago; we both know more about each other now, and great respects.
    I'm still hoping to make it down to that garage of yours one of these days, hey.
    And, if you're ever in Gerlach we're a mere eighteen miles out of town...