Rat rods are really four-wheeled art objects and are governed by the same principles of free expression and creative flare.


Most rat rod builders have a vision when they start a project and just run with the idea.


A rat rod is not pretty by even the loosest definition, but they get plenty of attention at car shows because they are unique and unlike any other rat rod since that is the point of a rat rod.


A rat rod is menacing and uncivilized when done properly, so most builders will seek out the kind of look that would have made Mad Max envious enough to hijack the rat rod and its owner by force if necessary.


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Bruce Campbell built the kind of rat rod that draws an enormous amount of attention whenever he hits the street in it. Bruce took a 1950 Chevrolet COE and built one of the baddest rat rods we have ever seen at a car show.


A COE is a cab-over-engine truck and the name is an accurate assessment of the vehicle because they are snub-nosed with the engine positioned under the cab. There are very few COEs left in the world because most of them were worked to death and crushed a long time ago.




Bruce is a confident guy with more than enough mechanical, welding and creative talents to tackle a major project like his COE rat rod.


He is also an identical twin, so he is used to plenty of attention and is well-prepared to handle the crowds when they gather around his truck.


Bruce enjoys an inexplicable female reaction to his wild ride because women seem to enjoy flashing him when they pass him in his rat rod on the road.


The unusual rat rod sits on a long 1996 Chevy truck frame and is powered by a 454 Chevy big block. Bruce explained the process: “You don’t fit the engine to the cab-you fit the cab to the engine”.




Bruce has given the truck many features that illustrate his welder theme on the truck, plus a bonus round of cosmetic features like 1959 Caddy tail light lenses jutting out of the wheels and broken side mirrors.




A closer look inside the cab reveals a gear shift made out of a cutting torch and some very basic seats. Bruce admits the seats are tough on the southern regions of the body on long trips but he wants to stay true to the minimalist rat rod approach to creature comforts for driver and passengers.


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Bruce will  literally drive the COE anywhere and has logged trips as long as 1000 miles behind the wheel. Outside of the seats, the truck travels very comfortably down the highway with its 1996 Chevy truck frame.


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Bruce did not include the air conditioning from the donor truck and instead built a very simple roof vent out of a Ram air cleaner that directs outside air into the cab. Sitting on top of a big block Chevy produces plenty of heat, but the roof vent keeps the cab reasonably comfortable for Bruce.


The rear quarters of the truck have a weathered look and Bruce has an interesting side bar to the process. He bought a large amount of peroxide, vinegar and salt from a supermarket and triggered a panic button with the staff because they thought he might use the ingredients for a bomb.




There was a conversation with the police where Bruce explained how he just wanted to weather metal in a hurry.


There are plenty of stories about the truck and the most surprising one is it only took Bruce 6 months to build his COE rat rod. He has taken on massive custom projects over the years and they have all taken many years to reach completion.




Bruce was always worried about the completed projects and rarely enjoyed them because of the enormous investment of time and money in them. He was never comfortable with the vehicles and spent more time worrying about them than enjoying them.


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The COE is a completely different ball game for Bruce and he gets nothing but pure enjoyment out of it.


So does the viewing public.


Jim Sutherland

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