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Question Of The Day: Ratty Muscle Cars…Where Do You Stand?


Question Of The Day: Ratty Muscle Cars…Where Do You Stand?

(Photo:¬†Nicholas Maggio) Today’s question is simple and straightforward: there is a movement that is pretty close to BangShift Mid-West known as Ratty Muscle Cars. The premise is simple: drive and race the damned things like they were meant to be driven and stop worrying about what magazines have said, what lawn-chair car show types have to say, and what Barrett-Jackson and other auctions have deemed so valuable that surely, it must be kept inside of a shop somewhere, dusted often, and driven rarely. There is no real line in the sand on what falls into the category. It’s just got to be 1999 or older, and it has to be driven as the manufacturers intended.

Now, we can get behind that 100%, especially once you start looking into the cars we wrench on. But there are always the detractors to a movement. Here, it is the people who simply see beat-up, neglected old cars that could be something if someone would just invest some time and money into aesthetics. A little paint and polish do go a long way in helping out the visuals, but that is one of the more expensive things to shell out for on a car. And yes, some of these cars are restoration dream finds…Ratty Muscle Cars founder Austin Griggs drives a 1969 Dodge Superbee pretty much everywhere, and among other cars associated with the movement, a 1968 Camaro that looks straight out of 1988, an AAR ‘Cuda, and anything that looks like a potential Rough Start candidate can be found with old paint, some paint, scars from years of use, and a hint of burnt rubber and raw gasoline about them.

What works about these cars for you, and what doesn’t? Is it seeing a “rare” and “desirable” car hang it out, or is it seeing something older being used like a Toyota Corolla? Or are you not a fan? Let us know below!

ratty muscle cars t-bird


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34 thoughts on “Question Of The Day: Ratty Muscle Cars…Where Do You Stand?

  1. Bob J

    This is an interesting topic to me. I absolutely agree that too many of these cars have become “Hangar Queens” and aren’t being used as intended. I’m certainly not suggesting that people be stupid with these cars and drive them in blizzard conditions or in pouring rain (’cause that guy in the clapped out Honda doesn’t give a rat’s a** if he runs into you). Drive ’em and race ’em for sure. Just use good judgment while doing so and have fun.

    As an example, some years ago a young man, who had been fortunate enough to acquire a 71 Hemi Charger, was at Maple Grove Raceway. The car was not perfect by any stretch, and it ran like crap (15.5 @ 94) poorly tuned and no prep whatsoever). It was decent, but needed work. He was being berated by others attending the race with the critics appalled that he would “abuse” the car by racing it. I relayed to him that: (a) It was HIS car, not theirs, (b) He was still new to the car and learning what was needed to make it run properly, and (c) that’s WHY those cars were built — to race (they certainly weren’t very good daily drivers – fuel economy, maintenance etc). It did my heart good to see the car next year running as it should (13.5 @ 105) and the guy enjoying his car. I have a few authentic Muscle Cars (MoPars), from a 67 RT 4-speed, Duster 340’s (4-speeds) and a 71 GTX (auto), and I’ve consistently pointed out that, Yes, they’re real (not clones), but you can make any of the base models as nice and as quick by just adding the factory parts, ’cause that’s all the factory did anyway. In some ways, it’s better with a non-authentic car, because you can modify it to your hearts content without the guilt of altering the authentic cars. I’m even OK with clones, as long as you don’t try to claim it’s the real thing and sell it as such to an unsuspecting buyer. Take care of them, but DRIVE them.

    Just my .02

    Bob J

  2. Anthony

    I follow those guys on IG. They have fun with their cars. You just can’t drive them everywhere though for fear of being stolen or crashed into. I like stuff a little more polished up and it’s got to run,drive and stop correctly.

  3. Rodney Awesome

    Some guys like well manicured, perfect makeup type women.

    Other guys like “a cocktail waitress in a Dolly Parton wig”.

    Who am I to judge.

    1. David Honea

      I’ll take the Cocktail waitress. She’s real, can hold her own in a conversation, and doesn’t squeal ‘ewwwww’ when it’s gets real Saturday night afetr wrenching.

      Same goes for rides. I want something I can change to how I WANT IT, and if you think I’m going to feel guilty about it, you need to get off the weed son. If ANYONE asks ‘why did he do that….”

      You little weasel, YOU INSTANTLY get the middle finger.

      Welcome to hot rodders.

      Now pony up that waitress, I’m running low a dinosaur spit and got to scoot to the hose.

  4. Clark

    I love it, I think it is great. I am 38, I turned 16 in 1994. Even then it was not uncommon to see cool old stuff driving and cruising, like kids in high school with semi nice 68 Mustangs and Camaros. My first car and my current car is a 68 Barracuda Formula S. It has had some nice paint on it but its never been a show car. I drove in the snow and rain and in the mud if needed in high school. Its a “rare” car that has seen 5 drag weeks and lots and lots more fun than a show car could ever have.

    Today, its rare to see much old muscle around at all, and if you do its usually very nice. I did see a “driver” quality 68 Camaro the other day driven by a guy in his mid 20s, I never thought that would be a big deal to me but it was. It was good to see someone driving something that isn’t perfect. People need to see these old cars, they need to see them if they are nice or not.

    I put over 20 miles on my 10 second street car the other day and it was completely covered in saw dust. They are way more fun to drive than they are to race.

    1. Clark

      EDIT, that last line should be they are way more fun to drive than they are to WASH, but they are really fun to race also haha

  5. Loren

    Everybody just do what they want, all good. Me, I learned to fix cars because I don\’t like to drive sh/t.

  6. 75Duster

    I’m all for it, as I’ve had musclecars as daily drivers during the late ’80’s (1972 340 Dodge Demon), and during the early ’90’s (1969 Plymouth Barracuda 340 4spd). They weren’t ratty, but I enjoyed driving them often.

  7. Ricky Harper

    I love a beautiful car restored to the nines as much as anyone, but I also love what these guys are doing.

    I have always loved Cobras, but could not afford one. So, I built a replica. Been driving it 10 years now. The paint has a few chips, the drivers seat is worn, the knock off wheels no longer shine like new, there dirt on the suspension and typically a sheen of oil on the 427.

    I have never won a trophy at a car show. Why? Because I drive it and enjoy it and the typical car show is all about shiny. Screw shiny; I arrive with the front end covered in bugs. And I let kids with greasy fingers sit in it! Sacrilege!. I built it for the experience, and leaving it in the garage is not much of an experience.

    On a recent cruise to the north Georgia mountains I met up with 15 or so other Cobra guys, drivers all. One of our group was driving an original 289 street Cobra, CSX number and all. Aluminum dented and faded and the clock had rolled over at least once. Awesome car, and I have great admiration for its owner.

  8. Dan

    I’m a part of the movement. Just pulled my 1970 RS Camaro out of a 26 year sleep and got it back to cruising and racing. After freshening up the mechanicals and using three bottles of touch-up paint to cover all the scratches and chips, I hit the street and the strip. Still has the same $200 paint job, vinyl top and drivetrain combo it had in the 1980’s. I could have spent time and money restoring it to perfection, but it never was perfect to begin with. I’d rather take it out and enjoy it. To me it’s a cool old car that is like a time capsule of what hot rodders built and drove a few decades back. All the young guys at the strip ask me what the cool can is for!

  9. Chevy Hatin' Mad Geordie

    Great cars like these are meant to be driven and not worshiped in a climate controlled garage. But as for that vinyl roofed abortion in the photo – have you not heard of mobile car crushers?

    1. Gary Perkinson

      Really? I kind of like those late ’60s T-birds…not as much as I like Squarebirds, but they’ve grown on me…

  10. Weasel1

    If you want to see “perfect” rides go to a museum. I say drive , repair and drive more. Always hated trailer queens. I am 60, a blue oval fan, have owned/driven most of the “classic” muscle cars. Most of them were fun to drive with a few minutes of tinkering. Currently have a 2002 King Ranch because I like the dependability and you never know what might need to be towed home for the next project

  11. Scott Liggett

    As someone who owns three ratty looking muscle cars and trucks, I am all for them. I drive mine year round. You don’t like it? Tough crap and piss off. Unless those whiners are getting out their check book to donate to make these ratty cars look new again, they need to shut the hell up.

    Cars are meant to be driven. Ones that are not, are nothing more than a paperweight. There are enough museum piece, dust collectors. There needs to be more rough and tumble drivers.

  12. Kent Reed

    I have a very strong belief on this issue.I think the “Rat Rods ” brought all this drive’m like they are idea. Now all that crazy and goofy rat Rods seemed to have kinda gone away. Its been a while since I have seen an outhouse driving around at a car show. Anyway my point is . I have a very good friend .He collects Hemi cars . Last year he purchased a 98 point out of 100 possible 68 convert Hemi GTX. Last I spoke with him ,he is going to sell it. He said its just too nice to drive . And he and I agree . These cars were ment to be driven. So you have the people that say it a shame to drive a muscle car with faded paint ,and how dare it have rust. I think most of those detractors are one of 2 groups. First they are someone who just spent $30,000.00 having there car restored.And it just kills them that people walk past their car .To go look at an unrestored muscle car.I have spoke to a few car owners that have not brought their car to a show .Either do to a dusty road coming into the show . or ,yes even “the trees here give off too much sap”. I have had vehicles that I have paid waaaay too much to get looking good. Then I drive them . And in a couple years they get a scratch and its all for not. And the second groupe is a guy that does not have a shinny muscle car . And degrades you for not having yours shinny . To me that’s the same as bitching about politics after you did not vote. You don’t vote ,you don’t bitch. You don’t own a muscle car . Don’t bitch that someone paid 30K to restore his . Or that someone found one in a barn last week .Put good gas in it aired up the tires and here it is. The years have taught me a very important thing about all the cars I have owned . You make it what you want within your means . And all other opinion be damned. Its yours ,do as you want . Don’t give too much to others negative views. Just drive the darn thing . I personally will never pay 8K again for a single color paint job. Buffing is cheaper. Drive on .

  13. ksj2

    You know what I think Bryan as you have seen my ratty old piece.Who else would sell a beautifully restored 68 RoadRunner and buy a 67k mile survivor Dart Swinger 340 car that has dents and scratches all over it.If I go to the store I can park right up front.Whats another door ding.Go to a car show and sit in a lawn chair,not this guy I’ll sit on the trunk or hood.That car is like me,bunch of dents and scratches but you dont see me having plastic surgery.(No need to comment guys)

  14. jerry z

    I’ve owned ratty muscle and restored muscle cars and to tell you the truth, they don’t drive a whole lot different! Old cars are just that, old cars. When I bought a 2004 GTO new, all them old muscle cars were a thing of the past. Granted it’s cool to own one but with the prices today, they aren’t worth it. I will eventually own another old car but will be updated with new technology.

  15. Gump

    Strongly believe that they should be driven as intended, hopefully raced (on a track), and look as good as possible. Not a fan of guys who go out of there way to make a car look like shit just so they can call it a sleeper. Also hate guys who have drop dead gorgeous cars with big power that only get to sit on the grass surrounded by lawn chairs once a month. My car used to look like shit because I was only concerned about winning races. After a few years the rust got removed, and it wound up with some shiny new paint. Was much happier after that.

  16. JRC99

    I like the idea of just getting something running and driving it as is. If they make it intentionally look like crap, I find it stupid.

  17. john t

    I love em ratty.. I like a car that’s all nicely restored but they’re frankly a bit boring – particularly the ones that are much shinier than factory, every last tag and sticker placed just so…if its not like factory how do you call it restored anyway??

    I have an Aussie XB Falcon coupe that I’ve had for about 15 years, currently in grey primer, but soon to be satin black again. Even in grey it draws a ton of attention on the street or at meets, even though its far from perfect.. guys talk about day 2 cars? mines’ a 10 year car, what I grew up with in the 80’s – bit rough, goes hard. Its funny , these coupes are getting seriously rare – one of the FB groups I’m in has over 10,000 members and they recently did a poll of how many members actually own a coupe – around 1,000…the other 9,000 members love to tell us off for driving them, for not pulling them off the road and restoring the crap out of them – my utter pet hate is when these armchair critics pull the line of `you’re not the owner, you’re a custodian so don’t modify or change anything’ – how about fuck off? my car, I’ll do what the hell I like with it.

  18. Russ B

    In the mid eighties I had a rusty 340 cuda with a rebuilt engine would take to local car shows or cruise ins people would look right past it to look at the trailer queens but that was OK for me I had what I wanted a daily driver that would beat all those nice looking cars in the race from light to light wishing I still had the one that got away and respectful of seeing the not so perfect old school hotrods today just recently bought a new challenger rt to relive those days bring what you bought make them yours no one to impress but yourself they are what you want it to be

  19. thefatguy

    personally i LOVE “10 footers” that are daily driven…

    i tell ya, theres nothing better than blowing the doors off some other dudes
    ride thats got a ‘big name’ motor that cost more than my entire car did,
    and a paint job that cost more than parts & machine work on my motor.
    (since i build everything in the garage with just wife/kids/little bro)

    its a hoot hearing them bitch about “that fat f*cker in the rattle-canned
    piece of sh*t vette with the f@ggy pink motor” that just shut them down
    3 for 3 in front of everyone else…at 1/10th the cost, all home brewed
    and no power adders. yeah, buddy!

  20. AL@uglycarpictures

    The beauty of muscle cars or really any car in general is how it performs, how it drives. It’s a shame many cars live their lives out in a garage under a blanket. I understand preserving some cars for their historical value but I just can’t comprehend owning a high performance car and not driving it other than when the weather is right and to/from a car show.

  21. Brendon

    +1 for this. They’re enjoying their cars, which is what counts. My ’67 Firebird is clear coated over bare metal and people crowd around it, and always have to touch it every time I take it to a car show. And I drive my car, too, and take it to open track days, and enjoy it without having to detail it every time I take it out.

  22. Crazy

    I’ve been say’n this for YEARS..
    They are for enjoying and that means driving and driving hard..
    I’ll never understand the Barrett Jackson Crowd.. They have more money than brains, but are afraid to drive them, They out of any group in the hobby, have the means to replace it if the worst happened..
    I just hope this doesn’t go the way of the rat rod, that turned into a trend. Where people built them to be “IN” And took them over the top..
    Think this is great, first the power tour then cars that are not perfect show cars not getting looked down at, then local cruise nights, And random social media meets, on the fly.. AkA we will be ______ tonight come join us.. And now this.. The get out and drive th wheels off of it.. no matter if it’s a rattie looking p.o.s. get out and enjoy it, not look at it, want to look at it only, buy a 1:24th model..

  23. Matt Cramer

    I don’t like it if someone intentionally makes a good car look ratty, but if you’ve got a car that isn’t perfect, it’s best to drive it anyway. I’ve done that with several collectible, or at least moderately interesting, cars when a proper restoration wasn’t in the budget. For my ’72 Chevy truck, a proper restoration might have made me feel guilty about using it as a truck. With a beater truck, you don’t have any qualms about using it to haul a bed full of yard waste to the landfill. OK, I also used a not exactly perfect Corvette to haul a bunch of garbage bags to the dump – THAT got me some really weird looks.

    That said, T-bird owner probably could get the hood aligned in an afternoon, and I’d do that if it were mine. Something that can be put right with a little elbow grease and minimal parts should be put right.

  24. Jeff W.

    Check out Their ” No Shine Shit List” video on Ratty Muscle Car Facebook page and tell me you see the car show polishing car owners having that much fun.

  25. kraven

    This movement is pretty key to getting a lot of people to ratchet down their whole “I’m gonna build a stroker with twins and 3 nitrous kits and blackjack and hookers!” A lot of really cool cars were torn down by people with Discovery Channel induced ADHD. These people are great at facebook and forum posts about what they’re gonna do once they get their money right. They’re great at tearing cool cars into pieces too. What they’re not great at is finishing tasks.

    Ratty musclecars can be the excuse a lot of people need to save face and reimagine their project at a more sane level of execution. People who don’t have experience building stuff, but have a YouTube University SAE patch, can safely have an entree into racing and minimal mods with this subset of the hobby. They can put the car they tore into a million pieces back together and actually do something besides daydream. Seat time and meatspace experience matter. It’s okay to have a ratty car that works. Totally 100% better than that pro-touring tube frame 10 second car you’ve been talking about for a decade while you’ve spent more collective time watching street outlaws and searching eBay for a “twins kit” than actually wrenching.

    You don’t owe Dom a 10 second car, dude. Just work with what you got and enjoy yourselves.

  26. Steve Olshefski

    I’m currently building my own ratty 1969 Firebird convertible. The goal is to rebuild all the mechanicals and worry about the visuals at a latter time. Safety and dependability are priority. To get it out on the road and drive and use it as any car. So I won’t be up at the trophy table come next car show. I see it as I have 2 options. The ratty muscle car or the blown apart and sitting in the garage for another 20 years muscle car.

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