It all began with a burnout at SEMA in 2015…
Back in 2015 Bryan Dagel was attending SEMA for the first time with a 1935 Chevy sedan,, one RATical rat rod. After attending the the SEMA show we did the drive over to the Ignite show just across the street to hang out with the crowd. Tons of builds made there way over to the show, lots of filming going on and people just hanging out and talking about what they had just witnessed at the SEMA event.
Hanging out with my buds the talk was that the Rat Rods weren’t getting the love they deserved. Don’t get me wrong we were getting looked at,, but taken seriously?? Some one said. “You should do a burn out”,, ya right I thought,, jail here we come. Pretty sure it was Garage Mike who stirred my pot up enough to get me to say “go get some water”. Mike took off running,, he came back with a few bottles of water. After wetting down the Firestone Drag Masters I lit them up. Well we lit them up is to say the least,, about a full minute burnout. Then Tommy Lee Byrd came a running over from Coker tire,, “can you do that again”? Asked Tommy. Sure, I responded,, another 30 seconds of burning rubber and the cops came a running,, I shut her down. Got out of the 35 to find huge crowds of people filming and loving the show. This sparked a conversation with a few of my buddies. Jason Groulx, Patrick Wilson, and Sam Hard and myself were talking about getting more traction for the Rat Rod scene,, and what we could do to help that. Jason said “we should have a build off,, then drive them to SEMA”. We all kinda laughed and said “ya, great idea”. Jason was serious.
The seed was planted that night in Vegas.
The 3 teams that stepped forward that first year were,, Team Canada, Jason Groulx from Gasoline Alley Rat Rods built a killer gangster sedan. Team UK/ Mexico, Sam Hard and Micheal Lightborn built a unbelievable Rolls Royce sedan limo. And Team USA, Kyle Lauman with a awesome 40 Chevy lead sled. After looking the builds over we had a winner from Canada,, Jason Groulx won with his killer gangster sedan. Jason was pumped and we planned on pouring the coals to our event,, bigger and better things on the way for next year.
Sometimes life doesn’t always go as planned. The passing of our loved Brother Jason in a boating accident was hard to handle. But I know Jason is smiling down at all of us cheering us on to go on and do bigger and better things,, and I am listening Jason. So here we go.
Four teams were signed up for the RATical Rod Build Off Drive Off in 2017. Only 3 made the SEMA sponsored list. The RATical Rod Build Off Drive Off isn’t just the building and driving,, it’s doing business. Selling yourself to the manufactures. Sell yourself on your ideas, what you can do, what you can build.
The 4 teams were,, Team USA 1, Team Flaming 8 Speed shop, Jeramie Kitching Rosencranz and crew. Team USA 2, Team Cutters with Charlie & Elmo. Team Canada, Team Norseman, with Ken & Dave. And Team Canada 2, Team Swartz, with Grant Swartz, sorry to say Grant didn’t land a main sponsor into SEMA so he didn’t make the trip.
All builds were worthy of SEMA, but only one can come out on top.
Team Cutters won with their unreal 1941 International Semi Rat,, Congrats to Team Cutters!! Charlie and Elmo and the crew did a great job!!
Unbelievable traction was beginning to take place. We had gained notice of Tim Prokop, the Executive Producer or FantomWorks, and now had a production crew following us. We had grown yet agin in the amount of builders and the incredile Tyler Turton from the Zombie Body Shop was the winner this year. This was the year we felt that was going to make us get more recognition at SEMA.
The International RATical Rod Build Off Drive Off took the 2019 SEMA show by storm with its hybrid vision of the Kustom and Rat Rod scene, a new genre called RATical Rods.
These builders are not afraid to transform their vehicles into a whole different kind of beast made for the road. Blowers were ample, creativity was limitless, and the building skills were over-the-top.
Builders apply and must be approved by the IRRBODO staff prior to becoming part of the 10 month long build off that wraps up in a 1400-mile journey. That’s right, builds are started just ten months prior to a 1400-mile drive off portion to the event, where they are put to the ultimate test.
This year the builders set a whole new standard of RATical. Sean Puz, of Bad Ass Rat Rods, took the title of 2019 International RATical Rod Build Off Drive Off World Champion with his IL CAPO, which started out as a ‘36 Packard Sedan, and was completely transformed through the incredibly talented Puz. Sean’s wife, Donna, accompanied him from their home in Florida to SEMA. His main sponsor for his build was Derale Performance.
Builds that successfully made the journey were judged by the builders, themselves, making the championship even more special and prized.
Builders that successfully completed the drive off portion of the event were, Sam Hard, whose ‘70 Charger was originally a stunt car from Fast and Furious; Dirty Word Customz with Dirty Money; the ’39 Hearse owned by Darren and Jess Sheldrick from Double Jack’s Garage in Australia, which was featured on Hot Rod Magazine’s Instagram; Anthony and Terri Abadie’s 1932 Chevy from Team Rat Pac; Lanny Martindale from Canada with a Mapleleaf (Chevy) named The Gypsy; the Youth Program, Keeping Hot Rodding Alive’s Project X; and Bella Rat Custom’s RATical Kiwi from New Zealand.
Other builders that participated in the build off were Lloyd and Linda Pierson, whose ‘57 Ford Gasser was featured on SEMA’s Instagram Page as it entered Ignited; Warwick Andrews, BJ Barger, and Ryan Hopkins. Chris Walker of ITW Hot Rods, also garnered plenty of attention for his “Hulk Camino”, which Chevy Hardcore called a “big smash” that turned “SEMA on ear”.
Unfortunately, some builders were not able to attend the drive off, but still took the show at SEMA. Jacob Griffin’s ’75 Gremlin was a “showstopper” that was featured in multiple publications, including The Classic Cars Journal. Griffin was held back from the drive off portion of the event, as he escaped the recent California wildfires.
A Tribute to our Fallen Co-Founder
I was asked to write about the most amazing, talented man I have ever met in my life, my late Fiance, Jason Groulx.
Jason was most known for his love of mechanics. Anything from diesel engines, his beloved 1951 Ford, to fabricating matching motorized Radio Flyers just to race me in. He was always building something out of this world, proving his imagination was unique and limitless. We used to spend many days out in the country picking for parts or materials, Jason would grab anything that he thought was neat, no matter its value. Value was something Jason did not see as most people do. He saw potential and life in things that were long forgotten and left behind. He would re-purpose them and make them new again, he would give them back their shine. Which ironically is what I thank him for every single day.
Gasoline Alley Rat Rods was Jason’s true passion. After 20 years of working in the oilfield, he left it all to pursue his dream of building cars for a living. Team Canada, from the 2016 International Rat Rod Buildoff, was born here. The Gasoline Alley Rat Rod’s shop was the home for the 1928 Dodge build, which is now known as “Midnight Moon”. The team consisted of some of the best men known to Jason, the people he trusted with his dream, the people he trusted to help make it a reality. I was fortunate enough to be a part of some of the late nights spent grinding and fabbing and brainstorming in the shop that summer. It was a thing of beauty to watch the way that team overcame diversity and disagreements and really came together to build what became the Winner of the 2016 International Rat Rod Buildoff. Everyone helped make Jason’s life long dream a reality and he was forever grateful and humbled by the gesture, even though we all saw it as our pleasure and privilege to work beside him.
Jason is remembered for his talent, generosity and approachable nature in the Rat Rod community. He was always there to lend a helping hand to a friend or a neighbour or even a stranger. Jason believed the Rat Rod community to be his family, the people he connected with the most. His love and passion for this rusty rubbish was so contagious to everyone that came around, he was an inspiration to us all. Jason’s laugh and smile lit up the room no matter where he was or how much grease he was covered in. The only passion that rivaled Rat Rods, was making people laugh.
Sadly, we lost Jason in a boating accident on August 13 2017. He was loved by so many and is missed by even more. His spirit lives on in our hearts, and our builds. May he watch over the teams and builds to come, and never be forgotten.
RIP Jason RR Groulx