Quincy News

Rat rods find their place at Quincy car show

Shawn Ackerman, from left, Brad Schutz, Jason Smith and Adam Kennedy stand alongside Kennedy’s prize-winning rat rod during the 2019 Early Tin Dusters Color Run car show on Saturday in downtown Quincy. The rat rod, which has the body of a 1948 Chevy truck, was recognized for the second consecutive year as being the best rat rod in the car show. Kennedy said he and the men pictured spent 18 months combing through area salvage yards finding the pieces necessary to bring his vision for this truck to life. H-W Photo/Ethan Colbert
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Oct. 20, 2019 1:00 am Updated: Oct. 20, 2019 1:06 am

QUINCY -- As one passersby put it, Adam Kennedy's entry in the 2019 Early Tin Dusters Fall Color Run car show was a "Frankenstein."

While that statement may have been an insult for some vintage car owners, it was taken as a compliment by Kennedy, who was recognized as having the best rat rod entry in the car show for the second consecutive year.

A rat rod car refers to a custom-built car that has been made using cheap or cast-off parts that have been deliberately worn down and left in an unfinished appearance. This style of vehicle gained popularity in the days after World War II, when American GIs returned and began building cars out of scrap metal and discarded car parts found in junkyards or metal salvage yards.

The Early Tin Dusters Fall Color Run is now in its 44th year and will continue Sunday in Upper Moorman Park. More than 650 vehicles, including many rat rods, will be displayed. The car show, which is free for spectators, will also include food, craft and car part vendors from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Rick Chapman, Early Tin Dusters immediate past president, said the rat rods are judged on a variety of criteria, but the biggest factor is "the personality that the owner gives to the car."

Chapman said Kennedy's 1948 Chevy truck body was "full of personality" with lots of unique features that include custom tail fins, a rear axle from a motor home and a pair of drive shafts that have been turned into side pipes, which also act as a muffler.

Another unique feature in Kennedy's vehicle is that the stick shift is made from a pair of Vice Grips. The side mirrors are from a 1984 Chevy truck. The rear springs are from a mobile home. The steering wheel is mounted on a timing gear.

"I'd say that 95% of this vehicle was built using parts from other vehicles rather than bought," said Kennedy, of Franklin, Ill, who works as a delivery truck driver for a grocer. "In a lot of ways it is a Frankenstein, so I just embrace it when people call it that. I mean it's got a lot of different parts from a lot of different vehicles in it."

He said when he purchased the truck it was in pieces after being left in a field.

"I know a lot of people think that we just go into a junkyard and find parts, but that's now how we operate," Kennedy said. "We actually planned out what we wanted this to look like."

Kennedy said he and his fellow rat rod enthusiasts, which include a tattoo artist, spent about 18 months searching for parts.

"It was a never ending process," Kennedy said.

Kennedy said he appreciated how officials with the Early Tin Duster Color Run embrace rat rods because some car show organizers in other cities have not been as welcoming.

"I have not been here all day because I was walking around a bit, but I've probably talked to at least 150 people, and everybody has loved it," Kennedy said. He is building four more rat rods at his home, a 1929 Ford sedan, a 1957 Morris Minor car, a 1954 Fairlane gasser sedan and a 1934 International truck.

Chapman said he and other officials with the car show welcome the rat rods, which lined portions of Hampshire Street on Saturday, for many reasons.

"The really nice thing is that rat rods guys tend to be a younger group who are getting into street rods, but also because older guys get a kick out of looking at them because many of them probably remember when their dads or somebody else was building their first rat rod," Chapman said. "I just think the people really like to see the cars, the creativity and the uniqueness of the vehicles."

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