As the old saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure.

Put a heap of discarded metal together and it is what is known as a rat rod.

Larry Oakes, owner of Automaster Collision Center on Dennison Road in Spruce Head, knows all about the latest hot rod craze. Having operated his collision center for 21 years, Oakes started building rat rods about three years ago.

"I love my hot rods, always have. This is where my heart is," said Oakes about his three completed projects.

He calls his first rat rod his first born. The 1948 Chevy was a low-budget-build made of stop signs, license plates, and wrenches. It cost him $800 and took 30 days to build. Its license plate is FAT RAT.

His pride and joy is appropriately named SHOTGUN. Made from disabled guns he dismantles for the Knox County Sheriff's Department, it sports shotgun shells throughout the body, has a .357 Magnum as a mirror, includes a .25- and .32-caliber pistols, and even has a sawed-off shotgun as a shifter.

Made on a Chevy S10 frame that can accommodate a variety of wheelbase measurements for handling ability, the vehicle has a 1955 GMC grill, brand new underneath, new gaskets and glass, and is complete with a flame-throwing exhaust.

The 360-cubic-inch small block Chevy engine is designed with an empty Jack Daniel's whiskey bottle for overflow. Harness wiring is used throughout the system tying everything together.

"You go into a corner and it wants more," said Oakes of the vehicle's low-center of gravity and its handling ability.

Oakes, who admits to his love of cowboy boots, even sacrificed a pair or two for the interior door covers. And, fitting of the vehicle name, the arm rests are made from sawed-off shotgun butts.

The rat rod is not complete without a built-in bottle opener. This one happens to be a Howdy Doody head.

Oakes started the project in November 2012 and registered it this month. Pre-1949 vehicles can be registered as street rods, which is similar to current Inspection requirements.

At first glance it looks like a bucket of bolts, but upon closer examination it is all new and rides like a dream, he said.

"We don't want it to be pretty … it's a rat rod," said Oakes of the vehicle's signature rusty appearance. He said he recently had one on display at the Owls Head Transportation Museum.

"People 'oooh and ahhh' over the pretty shiny vehicle, but they don't understand what these vehicles are all about," said Oakes.

Rounding out his rat rod pack is a 1941 Studebaker pickup cab, made on a custom-built frame. It has a 1978 425-cubic-inch big block Cadillac motor. The front-end grill is nicknamed a suicide front.

Tool box handles are used for opening the doors, and pieces of an old Coca Cola machine are cut up for roof visors and indoor panels. It even sports 1915 vintage oil lamps for taillights.

"Everywhere I go, it's a two-hour trip. They're great conversation pieces," said Oakes about the rat rods.

He finds the parts for his vehicles everywhere, and keeps everything he can get his hands on, Oakes said. In his 14-bay garage he displays everything on the wall so he knows what he has to work with.

Other bodies he has ready to work on are a 1946 Dodge, 1952 Chevy, 1961 Diamond T, and a 1954 GMC pickup.

"I just mix and match parts and see what happens. I think I'll work on a family vehicle next," said Oakes.

Oakes said he does get a lot of funny looks as he drives down the road.

"I don't care. I know I've accomplished my mission," he said.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or by email at