In the future, rat rods will be based on our current favorite cars. This is what they might look like.
Once a niche segment of custom car culture, rat rods have become big money spinners and an even bigger attraction for those who appreciate the finer details of motoring culture. Typically based on the classic car scene, and often muscle cars whose best days were thought to be behind them, hot rodders have begun interpreting the rat rod style for the modern age, applying wraps and paintwork to modern vehicles to turn them into retro-styled rat rods with modern conveniences and underpinnings.
But what might the classic hot rod look like in a few decades when a hot rodder takes cars that are on sale today and turn them into rough, bare-metal modified versions of themselves, typically lacking paint and showing rust in all the right places?
We asked AI to imagine what 10 contemporary cars from all walks of life might look like if they were reimagined as rat rods from the future.
We previously reimagined the Chiron as a miniature city-clicker supercar, but to see it reimagined as a rat rod is something else entirely.
One part record-setting hypercar, one part rust and patina, and five parts Mad Max, the result is something entirely different from the beauty it leaves the factory with. Considering Bugatti offers full restorations for cars less than two decades old, it's unlikely any owner would ever let their Chiron get to the point where rat-rodding it is a logical option, but we're sure someone, somewhere, is crazy enough to try.
Lamborghini's angular styling language makes it a prime candidate for the rat rod treatment, and with Lambo itself already handing the Huracan Sterrato a dose of off-road muscle, the Lamborghini Ratacan doesn't look all that farfetched.
A raised ride height and chunky tires could easily be adopted from the Sterrato, while a custom-fabricated front bumper would reimagine the Huracan Evo's angular nature in post-apocalyptic style pretty easily. But it's the chunky rear arches and overfenders we love here, particularly with the unique blend of steampunk style and perfectly implemented rust and patina.
Who says you can't have an electric rat rod? It may be the ultimate juxtaposition of concepts, but we like the idea. And, since Tesla isn't exactly known for matching panel gaps, the ratty Model 3 is just playing off its inherent traits. While a new front end that looks straight out of a salvage yard may do no favors for the aerodynamics, we doubt this would be anything more than a show car.
That said, a lift kit and some chunky rubber wouldn't help either. You may think this particular reimagining is a little far-fetched, but we've seen enough Mad Max-style Model 3s to know the Tesla community is crazy enough to make this a reality.
What are rat rods, if not two contrasting ideas of what a car is and what it could be? Well, that's precisely the idea behind a rat rod made from the previous-generation FK8 Honda Civic Type R, which would typically be modified to accentuate its Gundam styling rather than looking like a rough halfway-complete race car build.
Exposed rivets on the overfenders and much of the beading stripped off gives the Type R rat rod its unfinished appearance, while the prominent rear wing has been given a rougher look with exposed bolts and stripped paint.
Classic Porsche rat rods are not at all uncommon, but modern ones? That's a different story. This blend of retro and modern combines the hallmarks of old rat-look Porsche cars, where they borrowed bits and pieces from other models and even other vehicles like the VW Beetle.
With a chopped roofline, old-school Beetle-style headlamps, and rough-hewn fenders welded and riveted into place, this take on a traditional hot rod for the 911 Dakar is unlike anything else. Of course, a roof rack and front nudge bar had to be included to complete the look.
We sincerely hope no one ever lets a McLaren P1 degrade to the state of disrepair where hot rodding one like this becomes a viable option because the P1 is one of our favorite hypercars. Unlike many of the cars on this list, a P1 rat rod would not just be a case of stripping paint and letting some of the metal decay because the P1 has carbon fiber bodywork.
This could be aged by stripping off its lacquer to create a patina of sorts, but to create the rat rod look, a lot of custom body molding would be required, too. We can't say the AI imagined this quite how we would've, but as a "what if" scenario, the concept is intriguing.
So many people dislike the way the BMW M4 looks, so we're pretty sure not many would cause a stir if someone decided to butcher the coupe to create a custom street rod out of its bones.
This interesting creation does just that and adds a healthy dose of classic car styling to the mix with a rear end modeled on the old BMW 2002. Plus, it has a real Hofmeister Kink. The big kidney grilles have been retained for this concept, but they're easy to look past with the rest of this wildness going on.
One of the more expensive cars on this list in stock form, it's also one of the most beautiful when left untouched by anyone other than Ferrari technicians. But rat rods aren't about traditional beauty, and there have been several Ferraris converted into classic hot rods in years gone by, so what's stopping someone from finding an abandoned Roma one day and creating this monstrosity, replete with janky LED headlights, makeshift wing mirrors, and a hand-cut hood to try and manage the heat from the twin-turbo V8 under the hood. As far as custom cars go, this isn't a build we'd like to see, but it's also one we can imagine coming to fruition if hot rodders found a Roma in a barn decades from now.
While it's hard to imagine many of the cars on this list being allowed to reach such a poor condition that it becomes viable to hot rod them, there's something to be said for a Subaru WRX STI rat rod.
There's a ton of rally heritage behind the name, so we can totally imagine one finding its way into the hands of some young hot rodders in the future, being taken through a forest hooning, and losing some bumpers and fenders along the way. The dirt and mud would strip some of the paint, and our enterprising young guns would find, or make, replacement body panels in traditional hot rod style from whatever they found lying around.
It might not be a classic hot rod - JDM cars seldom are - but we can see this becoming a reality.
In the fight against carbon dioxide, studies have shown that older cars have long since paid off and offset their carbon footprints. One study even suggested driving a classic car was better for the environment than buying a new EV.
But imagine if someone bought an eco-conscious Prius and decided to keep it alive through any means possible, even turning it into a custom car that vaguely represents the Prius it started life as. AI seems to think it has a good idea of what that might look like, with a stripped-out interior, ripped-off front bumper, and a strong steampunk aesthetic going on; no chrome exteriors here.
Join The Discussion