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What is the Rat look then? Well, when people describe “rat look” they often have their own concept of what it is to be rat. This isn’t a bad thing by any means; the scene is that versatile. The ways in which you can style and modify a vehicle to personalise it to your own taste are endless. To someone who is “ratting” a car, it could mean simply attacking the paintwork with a sander, letting the panels generate a layer of rust, throwing stickers all over the windows and bonnet, and chopping springs. To another person, it could mean slamming the car properly with some top of the range coilovers on some immaculate Euro wheels with an insane camber, spraying the car in a simple but effective matt or satin colour along with a roof rack and a few thoughtfully customised accessories. Finally it could be a vehicle that has naturally evolved into a true old skool style rat over time, that has been kept on the road ‘no matter what it takes’ for as little cost as possible.

However, styling is not the only side to a ratted vehicle. Unlike the older American way, if you delve deeper into the UK scene, you may notice a surprising twist. A fully ratted car can be in A1 class condition in terms of mechanical efficiency and outright power. So that “rusty” looking VW Beetle you see sitting in your local car park may actually be in better mechanical condition, have a better power to weight ratio and also a much more lairy engine sitting under its bonnet than its newer looking sporty cousin that wears a GTi badge with its immaculate paint work… Like we said, a unique and surprising twist!

It’s not as easy as just buying an old banger, though. There are a lot of nice cars to rat out there, but you’ll also find a lot of pre-ratted cars that simply have no style or impact, and are just an accident waiting to happen on the roads. Our scene has a lot of artistic input to say the least. Ratting is without a doubt a learning curve for most. And with phrases like “Hood ride”, “Nu Rat”, and “Drift Rat” cropping up all over the place, you may be confused as to what “Rat Look” means. The following sections will introduce you to the origins of rat, where the scene is now, which more commonly known styling methods you can adopt, and where the scene is heading.

Where did rat styling originate from?

Rat look cars may seem like a relatively new concept, but they’re not. Spend a little time researching the scene online and you’ll find out that hot rods from the 1920’s onwards have often been styled as “rat rods”. The survival bike scenes have also played as important a role, if not more so, as hot rodding. RAT stands for Recycled Automotive Transport, and is about keeping your vehicle on the road for as little as possible, often borrowing parts from other cars. If you want to take a look at some movie influences for rat and survival, check out the 1971 American movie “DUEL” with Dennis Weaver, or slightly the slightly newer 1980 film “Mad Max” with Mel Gibson.

From those roots, it was the VW scene which took up the baton, becoming one of the first to really bring the scene alive in the USA with the term “Hood Ride” being pinned, which also had its own American based website and forum at the time (now defunct). In the USA they don’t have MOT’s so driving a car with rotten floor, no sills etc is legal – Easier for some than others hey! And there appeared to be a lot of rat on the air cooled forums also around this time. With the VW Camper Van and Beetle at the forefront, it wasn’t long before anything pre 90’s and Volkswagen started to have a retro following of its own within and around Europe, albeit very niche at the time. Around this time the “rat look” term was pinned as it seemed the most respectful naming convention to the original rod scene that everything had originated from so far.

As time went on it seems that the scene really expanded, especially in the last decade. I’ve created this site to cater for you guys and girls. We’ve all seen that it’s not just the VW guys involved anymore with their euro styling – everyone is getting in on the act. Typically you’ll see German and French machines taking hold of the scene in the UK with their respective 80’s and early 90’s hatchback models, whilst slightly trailing behind is a slightly smaller selection of Jap, American and British machines that have been given a taste of the rat-look. It has to be said that ‘Rat’ isn’t the same as it once was all those years ago, but that isn’t a bad thing, as the scene has progressed so far and now we have various styles all floating around the becoming part of the massive rat look phenomenon.

The styles associated with rat look

So we’ve lightly covered the rat look style and how the Hoodride website & scene has influenced it, but what about these other terms that propagates the forums? “Nu-Rat”, “Drift Rat”, “Rice Rat” etc. What do they mean and how does the styling vary to rat look?

HoodRide

A hoodride is an old vintage car that’s been lowered and has original faded or worn paint. In the best case, the car will also have rust and patina. Mismatched panels, dents and missing parts enhance the look because they add more character and originality. Driving a hoodride is about making use of a car everyone else would avoid because it’s “ugly” or “beyond repair” and being able to love it for what it is. It’s enjoying your car because you built it the way you want, and not how everyone else thinks it should look.

A hoodride is most often an older model air-cooled Volkswagen, but it doesn’t really have to be a VW to qualify for hoodride status. It can be any rusty old car.

Tramp / Drift

machines are often looked at as part of the ‘rat Scene’ – generally these consist of RWD drifting machines like the Nissan Silvia/200SX, 180SX,Mazda RX-7, BMW 3-Series’ and so on that are used for their main purpose on a track or irstrip which in turn can lead to a very abused example on the outside. Typically to understand the look, just refer to any Anime/Manga post-nuclear film whereby the characters drive their Asian styled machines. You get the jist I hope. Just remember, cable ties, tape and wd-40 in the glove box are a recommended necessity!

Nu-Rat

is a term used for reasonably modern cars that are ratted to a mediocre degree (rusted bonnets on near immaculate paintwork elsewhere on the car, retro graphics and vinyl, easily removable items etc). They tend to also share a lot of styling hints from the Euro/Dubbin’ scene like deep dish wheels, coilovers and so on. Comic stripping of interior parts is also something you may often see.

Track Rat

styling is quite simple. Your aim is to have a mechanically sound vehicle for track usage, with no real care on the looks side of things which a lot of track cars already have pinned down perfectly. Typically you may see over spray, dents and prangs, race slips dotted around, numbered vinyl designs on steelies or performance based alloys with both front and rear lights taped up. Multicoloured cable ties work to great effect here. Go for scruffy with a stripped interior that you’re probably half way there already. Finally, A dash of rat (old paintwork? Rusty bodywork that’s been fettled with to accentuate the look? the list goes on…) and you have your own track car with rat influences.

OAP+

is not the most common of styling methods. Take something that would be considered an old codgers car, for example a Rover Metro or Renault 5 Campus in pristine condition, leave it as it is other than a huge slam and ideally a better engine hiding under the bonnet, then fill it with your typical OAP accessories, picnic rug, walking stick, national trust stickers and so on… It’s one of our favourite styles of ‘Rat-Look’ as you cannot get any more of a stealth effect.. until you apply the gas and give other cars and passers by a complete shock!.

Rice Rat’s

are simply 80’s and 90’s Japanese cars (normally Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Suzuki) that have simply been modified and ratted in a multitude of ways. The popular term “rice/ricer” dotted around various forums aims towards Western people who have a Japanese car (import) that they modify in a purely cosmetic way and make the car seem like something it actually isn’t. An Example being a 1.6 Honda Integra DC2 with Type R stickers and badges and go faster Spoon/Mugen stickers for added effect. Purely a comedy term, the ratters have picked it up and use it also now. A perfect example of a riced rat would typically be a standard Japanese derivative car like a Nissan Bluebird, with extensive suspension and braking modifications, a high end engine of some kind (CA18DET, B18 or K20 engine) with a ratted body kit and car badges from another Japanese Model of sports car – for instance a Nissan Bluebird may have ‘Vtec’ and ‘Type R’ stickers adorning it for kicks. Of course, if your bank balance won’t allow for this, the look itself is all you need, just enjoy yourself!

Army / Military Rat

Army rat’s are typically matt green or grey (Nato Green is the most popular colour) that have smashed through an army supplies store and came out the other side looking pretty unique. Camo netting, world war paraphernalia, empty tank shells or blank shotgun shells, bullet holes, Nazi emblems, flags, gas masks and much more besides. Attention to details is a fond favourite to this style. Gradually more and more of the ‘Desert theme’ is also being implemented into the army rat style as well! One of the best bits of this theme is that any car suits the military styling methods.

Where is the rat scene heading?

So now we know a little about where this scene came from, what’s happened along the way, the various terminology that is more commonly used, so now what? Most car scenes evolve over time, just like this one has, but personally we’re not concerned in the slightest about the future of rat and where it may be heading, and neither should you. We have a great scene in the UK at the moment that’s getting bigger and bigger, and our European and International Cousin’s are gathering together and expanding the scene more than ever.

This write up is to be taken broadly, as nobody can pin point what rat ‘is’ or ‘is not’, as it comes down to personal opinion. However if your car provokes a reaction of any kind, be it positive or negative, you know you are on the right track, and should be proud to be ‘Rat-Look’. So in the meantime, just enjoy yourselves on the forums and make sure that you have fun with your ratting project. After all – that’s why we are all here!