Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

October 30, 2018
Rat Rod

Lake Point couple restores 1946 classic truck with a creative twist 

At first glance, you might think this truck is just another classic car. But give it a second look, and you’ll see there’s more to this 1946 Dodge WC Pickup than initially meets the eye.

With metal spiders clinging to the headlights, skeleton hands clutching the stacks, plastic crystal doorknobs installed in the suicide doors, red wine bottles acting as taillights and license plates making up the truck’s floor, this “rat rod” is as unique as it is creative.

Dodge and Chris Thompson, of Lake Point, originally found the truck three years ago in a wrecking yard owned by Dennis McBride in Grantsville.

“It had been sitting out there for about 50 years,” Dodge said. “We bought it from him (McBride) and drug it up here about three years ago. I didn’t start working on it until this year or last year. It’s taken about a year to get it to where it’s at.”

Dodge has worked as a mechanic for most of his life. He and Chris moved to Lake Point seven years ago to be closer to her family. They were drawn to the area for its small-town country feel. Plus, the county allowed them to keep their horses and run Chris’ Australian Shepherd breeding business.

After they moved in, Dodge and Chris started attending car shows regularly. Now, their hobbies have shifted away from keeping horses and raising dogs toward restoring classic vehicles.

“Her (Chris’) family is into it (car shows) a lot, too. They’re here in Utah,” Dodge said. “I’ve always been into cars, so when we got here, we started going to car shows with them.”

In the past seven years, Dodge has rebuilt several different cars. However, restoring the 1946 pickup was special, not only because of the technical challenges it presented, but because of the creativity that went into it.

The first problem was getting the truck to run.

“It was kind of a total rebuild underneath,” Dodge said. “We took all the original running gears out of it. … It’s been a pretty big turnaround; there weren’t too many people who thought it would ever run again.”

In addition to getting it to run, Chris had a lot of ideas for how they could make it unique. The couple did not set out specifically to create a Halloween-themed truck; instead, the project took on a life of its own.

“It’s really not Halloween, it’s more just eclectic,” Chris said. “It was not ever really planned. We just liked this, and we said ‘Let’s put it on it,’ and we liked that, and said ‘Let’s put it on it.’ … It has whatever we like — whatever we think looks cool.”

For instance, Chris has always liked license plates. When she and Dodge decided to use license plates in the floor and on the inside of the doors, Chris had an idea to post online and ask people to send their old license plates.

“I posted on a Camaro forum asking for license plates and people sent me plates from all over the country, so I have like 20 different plates from all over the country,” she said. “I have plates from Wisconsin, Georgia, Oklahoma, California, Nevada, Maine, Texas, Ohio, Nebraska, Michigan, Utah — they all have a place in my truck.”

Dodge and Chris chose to put skeleton hands around each stack on the truck because they liked how the hands looked when they were made out of nuts and bolts. A pair of empty wine bottles became the taillights, the doors were put on backward in suicide style, and doorknobs from an old house were attached to each door.

“The spiders were totally just off the wall,” Chris said.

While Chris tends to think of ideas, Dodge tends to put them into action.

“She (Chris) came up with a lot of the ideas,” Dodge said. “She comes up with ideas and I figure out how to make it. I made the spiders out of what they call concrete pencil rod; the headlights … were made out of parts I had laying around.”

Many of the ideas were things he’d never done on a car before.

“I’ve done a lot of things on this truck I’ve never done before,” Dodge said. “Like suicide doors — they open backwards now. And I’d never made a spider before.”

As the truck’s transformation progressed, Chris posted on Facebook, inviting people to send things they could put on it. Dodge and Chris also started a Facebook page for it called “Life and Times of Rattilda.” 

“That’s what she (Chris) named it (the truck) — Rattilda,” Dodge said.

In addition to the license plates, the couple received numerous donations from people, including the bullet armrests inside the truck, the saws Dodge made into a windshield visor, the wood in the floors, and all the material for the headlights, spiders, and skeleton hands.

So far, Rattilda has only been to two car shows, but Dodge and Chris plan on taking it to many more.

“I was actually pretty shocked about the response we get (at shows),” Dodge said. “Everybody loves it.”

He added, “It’s amazing how many people go crazy over it. Even (at my house) if I’m outside, people will stop and talk to me about it. I didn’t expect it but it does feel good.”

Although the truck has come a long way since the Thompsons found it in the wrecking yard, Dodge said there are still a lot of features he and Chris would like to add, such as shotgun bumpers and a new-and-improved truck bed.

The bumpers won’t be made from real shotguns, but Dodge has plans to make props that look like the real thing. He’s also installing mechanics that will enable the truck bed to tilt, similar to a dump truck.

“It will probably be a never-ending project,” he said.

Dodge isn’t only working on Rattilda. One of his other current projects is restoring a 1931 Chevy Coupe. He works on his cars in whatever spare time he has — often working in the evening and on weekends to get the vehicles to come out right.

With Rattilda’s unexpected popularity, he and Chris are also discussing the possibility of creating other rat rods to sell to other car enthusiasts.

Dodge encouraged anyone who is considering taking up classic car restoration to just do it.

“I wish more people would do it,” he said. “It’s not as expensive as they think if you make everything yourself.”

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