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International RATical Rod Build-off, Drive-off participants visit Golden Valley

Fredrick “Frikkie” Viljoen, also known as the owner of Freaky Freddy, shipped his safari wagon to America from South Africa several weeks ago. The one-of-a-kind details like hand-beaded door panels, crafted by Zulu tribeswomen, really set his build apart. (Photo by Butch Meriwether/For the Daily Miner)

Fredrick “Frikkie” Viljoen, also known as the owner of Freaky Freddy, shipped his safari wagon to America from South Africa several weeks ago. The one-of-a-kind details like hand-beaded door panels, crafted by Zulu tribeswomen, really set his build apart. (Photo by Butch Meriwether/For the Daily Miner)

MOHAVE COUNTY –World-class rat rod teams from around the world made a pitstop at Earls Hot Rod Shop in Golden Valley to show off their rides.

The seven teams that arrived in Golden Valley were participating in the 2018 RATical Rod Build-off/Drive-off competition that culminated with judging of their vehicles at the beginning of the four-day Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show, Oct. 30 through Nov. 2, held in Las Vegas.

While at Earls Hotrod Shop, they visited with local car enthusiasts and were treated to lunch prior to them heading out on the last leg of their 1,400-mile journey to the SEMA show held at the Las Vegas Convention Center from Lincoln, Nebraska.

The teams, some from as far away as Belgium and South Africa, had from Jan. 1 to the end of October to complete their build. The teams included The Big 6, Deuces Garage, Zombie Body Shop, Six Pac Pretty Garage, The Montana Barn Find, Cobblestone Customs and Team Cutters.

The drive-off portion of the competition was a six-day, 1,400-mile journey that began from the cornfields of Nebraska to Las Vegas.

After attending the SEMA show in 2015, Bryan Dagel, the owner of Dagel’s Refinishing & Fabrication in Sturgeon Lake, Minnesota, realized rat rods had gained attention, but for whatever reason, were not really taken seriously.

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Stagecoach, the RATical Rod Build-off/Drive-off entry from Team Zombie Body Shop out of Winnipeg Manitoba, Canada, prepares to park his vehicle at Earls Hot Rod Shop in Golden Valley. The world-class rat rod teams from around the world made a pitstop Golden Valley to show off their “rides” and to have lunch prior to them continuing their trek to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. (Photo by Butch Meriwether/For the Daily Miner)

Fellow builders Jason Groulx, Patrick Wilson, and Sam Hard brainstormed with Dagel to create an event to highlight the business end of building, driving and showing a serious rat rod class. Thus, the RATical Rod Build-off/Drive-off competition rose from the ashes like a mighty phoenix and has rapidly gained notoriety in the automotive industry since 2016.

According to Dagel, who is also the president and owner of Ratical Drive-off LLC, three teams stepped forward during 2016. Team Canada, – Jason Groulx of Gasoline Alley Rat Rods, Team UK/Mexico – Sam Hard and Michael Lightborn, and Team USA – Kyle Lauman. Groulx’s Gasoline Alley, took the first ever title No. 1 world-class RATical Rod.

Rangel emphasizes they are not actually affiliated with the SEMA show, but are able to conduct their judging competition at the beginning of the show in Las Vegas and then their rat rods that made the journey remain on display there until the end of the four-day show.

During 2017, two American teams – Jeramie Kitching Rosencranz of Flaming 8 Speed Shop, and Charlie and Elmo Pacheco of Team Cutters – showed up with entries. Canada was represented by Ken and Dave, Team Nordsmen.  New Mexico Team Cutters took the 2017 title with Endee, a 1941 class 8 International RATical semi.

This was the third year the rat rods converged on Las Vegas. At the end of this year’s build-off competition, Tyler Turton of Team Zombie Body Shop out of Winnipeg Manitoba, Canada, took home the first place “bragging rights” which also qualified him to compete in the 2019 RATical Rod Build-off/Drive-off competition.

Kenny Earl, who operates Earls Hot Rod Shop, helps young people learn about building and repairing vehicles through the program Keeping Hot Rodding Alive, was invited to compete during the 2020 competition.

“I pretty much know what my entry will be, but I’m keeping the plans secret,” Earl said. “That way, the other competitors won’t know what I consider the winning rat rod will look like. All I can say is it will be much different than what they have ever seen in the past.”

For information about Earls Hot Rod Shop and his youth program, stop by his shop located at 3055 E. Highway 68 in Golden Valley, his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/EarlsHotRodShopDotCom/ or call him at 928-530-1251.

For information about the 2019 RATical Rod Build-off/Drive-off competition and entry requirements, contact Bryan Dagel at 218-372-3835, email him at ellybry@mchsi.com or visit his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pg/Dagels-Auto-Fab-Restoration-103560572470/reviews/?ref=page_internal.