THis article on Billy Gibbons’ ’36 Ford rat rod was originally published in the June 2008 issue. Street Machine Magazine
It sounds like every ZZ Top song you’ve ever heard: Tush, La Grange, Legs. That voice, that voice; This is the voice of Billy F. Gibbons. And what’s making him the talk of the town now is his new ’36 Ford rat rod.
“The little ’36 was parked in Louisville, Kentucky,” says Billy. “It was next to some of Kirby Stafford’s friends’ rides, which were all torn up.” Goes to the end of the decade. “About the time I was born, my father bought a building on Dalley Street in Danville, Kentucky, and started a body shop,” says Kirby. At that time the area had a bad reputation and a gang called Dilhe Chauhe guarded their turf like rabid junk dogs.
Kirby grew up in his father’s body shop and started building his own cars as soon as he could turn a spanner and wield a welding torch. He started getting serious in the late 70s and is still supported and encouraged by his father.
“It’s funny, when I think about building a cat truck,” laughs Kirby. “At that time eight other guys who owned the property, or worked at Dilhe, had or were making Ool-style hot rods. People started calling us Dilhe Chohe as they were. Used to be in the ’50s. Kirby is perfectly fine pointing to the past, as long as you call his ride a rat. “We don’t really call our rods rats. We’ve built a reputation for building reliable cars and trucks that look just right. In fact, I probably put 3000 miles on the cat truck the summer I finished it. It is really reliable and starts first time every time.
Rat or not, whatever they put in the water on Dulhay Street, Lil ’36 certainly caught the interest of Billy F. Gibbons. Billy was visiting the Street Rod Nationals in Louisville when he saw the Ford for the first time. But what is it that owns the biggest dream garage on this planet, throw down your checkbook and burn your ballpoint? “The position and the views from afar keep bringing us back,” he says. “And it’s the whole rig package: ice cooler in the bed, surfboard on the roof, cooler. It stands for a driving experience where you don’t care where you park or close the doors. . Find some asphalt and go.”
“I think what really caught Billy’s attention was the surfboard I mounted on an old wishbone,” Kirby says. “Billy rode around the showgrounds in the back of a convertible. I saw him right away … it’s hard to miss. He stopped the car and you could tell he was looking at the truck. He got out and Started asking questions about it and before I knew it we’d come to an agreement. We spent a few hours together that day. It was pretty neat.”
Getting back to its basics, the Ford runs an essentially stock 8BA Ford flathead motor with an S10 transmission, drop tube front axle and an eight-inch Ford rear end. The top is cut five inches and the body is channeled six inches above the frame, which itself is four inches at the front and 14 inches at the rear.
Of course, it’s more than a combination of well-chosen parts and a car nut cat. But does the little Ford stack up against historic cars like its Eliminator coupe and Cade Zilla? “Without a doubt!” Says the cat. “Straight pipes out of a flathead manifold can set you free.” Gibbons’ passion for these cars and the scene is truly life-affirming and he clearly gets a huge kick out of the little Ford.
“It feels great and at the same time it’s a welcome challenge that will keep you on your toes,” he says. “It’s just about building a car with the right stance and profile. There’s been a lot of imperfection and roughness for this truck to try to overcome. Of all the cars we’ve built. are and added to the collection, it’s a real joy because it’s like a rugged and carefree go-anywhere stick. It’s a gas!”
You realize that Billy and Kirby must have crossed paths, no matter what. Both men have an instinctive sense of what a car should look like, how it should sit and move, what it should represent. “The future is now and anything goes,” says Billy when asked about the state of hot rodding in 2008. “The true joy of making one’s personal statement is revealed. Bhagao kya bring.”