Mafia Secrets
It’s a rat race out there

By Bryan 'Boss Man' Martin, contributing writer

When I take a look at this loveable old ’86 Peterbilt 359, I am reminded of the fun Johnny Cash song "One Piece at a Time."

Let it be known that the "rat rod" vision is alive and well with the Boyz in the Chrome Shop Mafia. In an era of $150,000 glider kits and $60,000 upgrades, the "rat" makeovers not only are financially appealing, but also offer a wide open canvas for ideas and originality – and they are a ton of fun too.

For instance, this ’86 Pete 359 extended hood was dragged into the shop from literally years of sitting on the back lot. The entire shop staff took part in the planning, design and gathering of many of the cool artifacts that would become part of the project.

The truck is no clunker, although lacking on chrome, shine and bling. It sports a 425-horsepower Caterpillar 3406 that purrs like a new one, a 15-speed overdrive transmission, and 300 inches of wheelbase sitting on low leaf suspension with an air-bagged steer axle.

Like every Pete should be, it was quickly equipped with a bow-tie stainless sun visor, a Unibilt large sleeper opening, and the crown jewel: a genuinely fantastic Mercury sleeper from the 1960s.

Shortly after a powwow with the team, items were being brought in for consideration and review. Rusted-out 6-inch exhaust pipes were wrapped in heat tape and installed. A discolored pair of Vortox filters that had been through a raging fire got hung on the cab with band saw blades for straps. There was absolutely no sandblasting or improvements made to the rusty rear chassis. The guys used pallet wood, barn tin and expanded metal for the frame covers, and the airline box even resembles a backyard barbecue grill.

Our fabrication team created a one-off rear T-bar, an aluminum front bumper and a set of totally wicked mirror brackets made from 1-inch square aluminum, twisted of course. The decent set of original fuel tanks was swapped out with two different colored tanks from the salvage yard. We painted the wide cowl panels a pretty shade of Army green, and the grille bars were painted in a patina style.

Right now we’re calling it "Rat Rod 2" until we come up with something a little more unique. Because many of the parts came from the scrapyard; swap meets; obscure piles of miscellaneous clutter throughout the shop; and, in several instances, donations to the project by various customers you will see on the battery box, it hails as operated by "Left Overs Transportation."

Every time you walk around it, you will notice three or four more subtle and fun characteristics or modifications. No photos for you today, but I assure you the interior may actually be even cooler than the outside. And, we still have additional plans for the "Rat Rod 2" between now and the Mid-America Trucking Show.

So I reckon you need to be at Louisville in March to check it out for yourself.

Hope to see you then.