SEMA 2019

SEMA Project Car Update: Cat House Customs ‘Pro Rat’ 1918 Ford Model TT

Right about now, Ryan Hopkins and his crew at Cat House Customs are on the road to the 2019 SEMA Show in Las Vegas with a fresh hot rod—and wondering how the hell they pulled it off.

Cat House built the 1918 Ford Model TT truck in less than 10 months as part of the 2019 RATical Rod Build Off/Drive Off. The program features builders from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand driving their cars 1,400 miles from Nebraska to Vegas to prove what they built is road-worthy. Don’t let the name fool you—these are serious, high quality cars any builder would be proud of. Visit the RATical Rod Build Off/Drive Off website for more information.

Let’s take a closer look at Cat House Customs’ creation.

Pro Rat is a slingshot dragster-meets-Model T pickup. The car rides on a rectangular tube chassis fabbed by Lahrs Speed and Custom. It features a buggy spring front suspension, a Winters quick-change rear axle located by ladder bars and QA1 coilovers, and a 496 cubic inch big block Chevy topped with a 6-71 supercharger making about 1,000 horsepower. The Sanderson zoomie headers are so pretty they’ll bring a tear to your eye.

The Model TT cab is 1918-issue Henry Ford steel. Ryan wisely left the decades of patina as-is under a few coats of clear. The Model T pickup bed was shortened 14 inches and fitted with a Jaz fuel cell covered by a big wicker trunk. Bet you haven’t seen that before.

Want to hear what a blown Rat motor sounds like? Of course you do—check out the first startup of Pro Rat’s engine in this video.

The RATical Rods organization will be posting during the ride to the SEMA Show—you can ride along with them on their Facebook page. And if you want to see more pix of Pro Rat, you’ll find them on the Cat House Customs Facebook page.

Where does one find a 1918 Ford Model TT truck to hot rod? If you’re Ryan Hopkins of Cat House Customs, it’s an old barn in Oregon. The truck is a street project that stalled back in the early 1980s—check out the Z-ed tube chassis, tubular axle, and a ladder bar/coilover setup in the back. The engine looks like a 2.0L Pinto four-cylinder; what do you think?
Ryan had Ron Lahr at Lahr’s Speed and Custom build Pro Rat’s frame from 2” x 4” rectangular tubing. The front end is a suicide-style (axle in front of spring) buggy spring setup with split wishbones. Out back is a Winters quick-change axle located by ladder bars and a Panhard rod. A vintage Moon fuel tank, Gennie Halibrand mags on 32” Radir cheater slicks, and equally vintage American spokes on Coker Firestone front skinnies add a groovy ‘60s vibe.
Stopping power for Pro Rat comes courtesy of Wilwood Dynalite disc brakes with four-piston calipers and 12” rotors. The coilovers are QA1 Proma Stars with 175 lb.-inch springs.
With 1,000 horsepower in a car that doesn’t weigh much of anything, a set of wheelie bars is pretty much mandatory. These are 44 inch-long Competition Engineering bars.
When you can’t buy what you need, you make it. After ordering every aftermarket brake pedal combination available without success, Ryan built his own using the best ideas from the kits he bought. That’s what hot rodding is all about.
We think the kitchen counter is a perfectly good spot to show off a supercharger. Mad Dog Blowers rebuilt the GMC 6-71 supercharger for Pro Rat. Mr. Dog added a front spacer plate to make room for longer 8-71 three-lobe rotors, which are more efficient than the factory 6-71 two-lobe rotors to improve performance at higher rpm. The 6-71 sits on a Weiand intake manifold with Quick Fuel 750 cfm carburetors.
You’re looking at 496 cubic inches of huffed big block. The big block has a SCAT rotating assembly, a COMP Cams hydraulic roller cam rated at 242°/248° duration @ .050” and .540/.560 inch lift, and Trick Flow PowerPort® 365 cylinder heads. The 496 is backed by a worked Turbo 400 transmission with a reverse manual valve body and a trans-brake.
(Barely) room for two people, one transmission, and one driveshaft. Ryan built the floor from rectangular tubing covered with sheet steel. The driveshaft loops are an integral part of the floor frame; they and the Turbo 400 transmission will be covered with an aluminum tunnel.
Ryan fitted the truck’s dash with an aluminum plate and brass acorn nuts for an industrial look. He built a center panel that houses a set of Stewart Warner gauges, electrical switches, and the fuse panel. The cab got a heat barrier coating on the floor and lots of Dynamat on the firewall and in the doors.
These bomber-style seats were made by Iron Ace. That’s about how close together they’ll sit inside the cab, so we hope Ryan and whoever is riding shotgun are sticklers for personal hygiene.
The Model TT cab was remarkably solid and required little work, save for rebuilding the soft top. That’s Ryan’s son Josh and father-in-law Mike Loomis tapping the wooden roof rails in place. Ryan’s son Brandon upholstered the top fabric. Check out their work in this video.
The shell of an old travel trunk hides the Jaz 22-gallon fuel cell to maintain Pro Rat’s vintage look without compromising safety. The cell sits in a Model T pickup bed that’s been bobbed 14 inches.
This is pretty much what Pro Rat will look like going down the highways and byways from Nebraska to Las Vegas. If you’re anywhere on the RATical Rods Drive Off route, you’ll hear Ryan coming long before you see him.


  1. Pingback: Stuff from D. November 3rd, 2019 – Darryl's Drive In

  2. Daniel Wilson says:

    The more time I spent carefully looking over this Cat House Customs display of advanced engineering topped off with an original steel 1918 Ford TT body shell, the better I understand the level of commitment it must take to tackle a project of this complexity. It took a minute to get my head around the fact that the body is 101 YEARS OLD !!! A lot can happen over that length of time and this original steel piece of history managed to survive the test of time so it could fulfill its destiny in the radically different life it lives in today. I wonder if it ever got to meet its father the creator, Mr.Henry Ford ?

    Aside from its historical icon status, the body as it sits on Lahr’s chassis with the modern coil overs, QA1 shocks along with slicks and skinny’s on the ground, has definitely taken on a demeanor that screams badass loud enough to wake ole Henry from his eternal dirt nap in the family skull orchard .

    When it comes to the various components that goes into a project of this magnitude, there are many options available. But the one item that’s absolutely mandatory is the huffer. And with some things in the performance package, size does matter. I’m sure a lot of thought went into the decision to run the 6-71 blower. It’s going to make scary power levels in this feather weight vehicle. But in keeping with the radical in-your-face impact, super size that regular order of Roots positive displacement with a jumbo 10-71 Jimmy and hang on when you hit the loud pedal.

    It’s awesome to see folks tackle a project like this. It’s loaded with the sum of the builders imagination. I guess the well ran dry when selecting a unique engine to compliment this special ride.

    Another BBC ? Well ok then.
    And the beat goes on…..

  3. This is Ron Lahr who built the chassis for Ryan Hopkins. I love your article and it was a great opportunity to get to work with Ryan on his SEMA build. I have been invited to be in the International RATical Rod Build Off for SEMA 2020. I am honored and super stoked to be a part of this amazing opportunity. I would be honored if you would want to do an article on my build as well. Hope to hear from you soon.

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