Photos and drawings by Robert Selkowitz
Saugerties’ own Peter Duvaloois was featured last March in the New York Times “Auto Ego” column titled “Rat Rods: A Statement Made of Rust.” He sections old truck cabs and builds jalopy looking hot rods with big old engines. He was just featured in an AP web post which was forwarded to me by my brother in Florida and ended up appearing on my Facebook wall. I thought, I’d like to draw these mad machines, and that’s what I did.
Peter welcomed me into his shop and I climbed around old dirty, rusty and impressive car engines and parts. Under wraps were three rods, two Ratty pick ups and one Canary Yellow Businessman’s Coupe, perfectly fabricated and pristine. It’s the ratty ones that get attention. I sketched the old trucks while Peter ground away at a part, sparks showered the shop.
Thirty years ago Peter was building modified stock cars and racing on dirt tracks. He also built and flew small airplanes. A product design engineer, he always loved cars. His first big project was restoring a 1952 Dodge Power Wagon pick up truck. It was a big brutal machine and uncomfortable to ride, so he sold that and his next project was a classic hot rod. He took a replica fiberglass 1946 Chevy Businessman’s coupe body and a rebuilt 1952 Dodge hemi engine and created a pristine quality custom rod in canary yellow. With 425 horsepower and a plush interior, it was gorgeous, but not unique. Peter calls it a ‘belly button’ car, because everyone has one. He spent more time cleaning it than driving it, not so much fun.
His third project was a rusty 1946 Chevy pick-up cab which he narrowed by five inches and mounted on a fabricated frame with a rebuilt 1952 Dodge hemi engine. Old rusty pick-ups were cheap to buy and utilitarian. Peter could figure out all the pieces needed to assemble a vehicle and create a unique contraption that grabbed attention. He found his métier. He’s put 40,000 miles on this rig in the seven years he’s had it on the road. Never needs washing. It gets 23 miles per gallon. He takes his shoe and rubs the sole on the hood of the truck, no problem. He points to the canary yellow rod and shakes his head.
The rat rods are a sub-culture that has grown in recent years. Peter has organized shows and images of his cars have been widely published. He built a rat rod 1963 Power Wagon which he sold to a guy in the Adirondacks. He built a 1936 Ford pick-up with a rebuilt 1956 hemi engine that he’d like to drive to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
His current project is based on a 1936 Ford, a City of Kingston truck. Its faded rusty orange patina and official seal on each door will be maintained, while new shocks, suspension and floor pan are being fabricated and installed. It’s getting a 1950 Olds Rocket engine. Peter designed and fabricated the frame and suspension. I noted twin trailing arms locating a 1968 Mustang rear axle with coil over shocks. He has cut down the cab, grill and hood from the original truck, all else is fabricated and finely machined and detailed.
The Kingston truck will be finished in the coming year. Once the weather breaks, Peter offered me a ride in his ’46 Chevy rat.