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Ratty Muscle Cars: Relax. Have Fun.

By: Brandon Flannery

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With a late-night thrash-n-pack, the boys and I awoke before the sun and pointed The Blue Goose east from our perch just below Memphis. Our destination was the Wilson-Morgan ballpark more than three hours away in Decatur, Alabama. Despite the threat of bad weather, the Ratty Muscle Cars “No Shine Sh*t List” was on, and we were going.

Ratty Muscle Cars was founded by Austin Griggs. He’s a muscle car fan who drove a well-used ‘69 Dodge Dart while in the Air Force, for practical financial reasons. After enjoying the experience, he came to the conclusion people shouldn’t feel like they have to wait until their muscle car is “Barrett Jackson nice” before using it. As long as it’s safe and dependable, it should be driven and enjoyed. The scratches and dents, worn paint and tattered interior are badges of the car’s history, not a source of shame. He challenges everyone with an old muscle car in their backyard or barn to fix what’s broken, drive it now, and make upgrades as money becomes available.

As he puts it: “The style reflects a hardworking enthusiast that wants to enjoy an old car when money is tight.”

The result is a group of like-minded folks motivated to get their old cars on the road. Fake patina isn’t the object, authenticity is. It’s not about making them look like piles of garbage, it’s about slowly improving what is there, starting with the mechanics. Paint and interior should come last. I didn’t even wash the Goose. We simply Windexed the rims, loaded the trunk, and headed out.

The No Shine Sh*t List is a very informal series of events aimed at finding the Top 12 fastest, super low budget-built street cars. It’s very loose, and the emphasis is on fun. No turbos, nitrous, superchargers, or race blocks are allowed. Just good old-fashioned horsepower and production-based engines. The 1/8-mile strips keep the speeds down, and the participants all know it’s about fun. This isn’t the place for cheating or being a bad sport. Cars are limited to 1999 and older, preferably a muscle car, and they must “look like a $5,000 car.” That being said, things like being an AAR or RT model isn’t taken into account for the “value.” While a ratty “holy grail” car like Austin’s AAR ‘Cuda or Super Bee is definitely a bragging advantage and a celebration of fun, it holds no more weight than a base-model slant-six Barracuda.

Our adventure began with a show-n-shine at the ballpark where everyone milled around checking out each other’s cars and talking. The expectation for the event, especially with temperatures in the high 30s and very real chance of rain, was around 40 cars. By mid-morning the lot had swelled to over 80 cars.

Then Austin jumped up on the fender of his AAR ‘Cuda to call the driver’s meeting and gave a brief on the route and stops. The goal was a 65-mile reliability cruise through the Alabama countryside that ended at a place called “Jake’s Dragstrip” for some racing. With the weather forecast calling for rain, we kept the plan loose.

Austin jumped up on the fender of his AAR ‘Cuda  to hold the driver’s meeting. You won’t see THAT at any other car event!

Austin jumped up on the fender of his AAR ‘Cuda to hold the driver’s meeting. You won’t see THAT at any other car event!

There was no map or directions, just a parade of cool cars. After three or four pre-determined “collection stops” at various open parking lots and businesses for the group to catch up, we arrived at the drag strip. The sporadic rain had soaked the track, so racing was out of the question. However, we were allowed to make a ceremonial pass “to say we did,” and it was slick as ice. The Goose spun most of the way.

The boys and I ate some lunch from our trunk picnic and talked with other participants as the track action was stopped. Eventually, the cars began lining up in the staging lanes again, and I pulled the Goose in, thinking we could make another pass. Little did I know it was a burnout contest and I found myself surrounded with no way of getting out of the queue. When my turn came, I lit the Goose’s one wheel and let it rip, easing the brake and going for an eighth-mile burn, figuring I’d go for distance over a smoke show. Things were going very well until the end and the car decided to point towards the wall, and then the other wall, and back towards the other wall, repeating until I straightened the bobble out. Not wanting to be “that guy” I sawed the wheel back and forth and pedaled the gas to keep it off the barriers and avoiding total disaster. Puck-n-roll upholstery now decorates my front seat.

 

 

In the end we said goodbye to our new friends and left out for Memphis, basking in the afterglow of a fantastic day with like-minded souls intent of having fun driving old cars and not worrying about the rain, awards or lawn chairs.

If there is a new revolution in hot rodding, it’s back-to-basics, having fun and cruising and not worrying about the shiny stuff. The day of the Ratty Muscle Cars is coming.

Check out the Gallery of cars below and check out Ratty Muscle Car’s webpage for more info:

Ratty Muscle Cars website

and watch his mission statement video:

Mission Statement Video.