Rat rod 1937 Chevrolet pick-up – SMOKIN’ 36’S

Roy Zamaripa's Smokin' 36's pick-up is a lesson in rat rod cool, California style!


Roy Zamaripa from Holister, California is a rat rodder, loud and proud. An inventor, creator, engineer, fabricator and ideas guy, a scrounger who has the vision to look at a bunch of disparate parts and bring them together to make something sensational. This is true backyard genius stuff just like the old days. There’s no fancy workshop, only cool ideas, handy wrenching and creative engineering.

This article was first published in the May 2003 issue of Street Machine

Roy’s 1937 Chevy pickup exemplifies the heart and soul of hot rodding. It’s a junkyard dog that takes from the past and adds only a little from the present to be an original creation.

A short while ago he was down at the West Coast Cruise Paso Robles talking with a guy who had built a ratted-out ’35 Ford truck. Roy was just looking for ideas and help but the owner told him to go figure it out himself. So he did. Three and a half months later he had Smokin’ 36’s on the road.

Roy had been collecting pieces for a time and had a ’37 Chevy truck cab and ’41 Chevy pick-up chassis. It was just a matter of cobbling them all together. He trimmed a pick-up frame 20 inches at the rear and C-notched it 15 inches behind where the cab would sit. He then cut 19 inches off the front of the frame, raised it 15 inches and set the Ford axle with 26 degrees of caster.

That was only the beginning. His design called for the cab to sit way back on the frame and it had to be positioned 17 inches aft from where the stock Chevy cowl would have been. This meant slicing another two inches out of the frame, which in effect, pulled the cab forward and gave it its extended and raked-look.

He then fully boxed the frame adding new cross-members and a tunnel for the drive train. To make sure he got the look he wanted, the cab was channelled and chopped so the pick-up sits nearly five feet lower than its original height.

The suspension is a simple but effective combination of parts. The front uses a Ford truck axle set with ’54 Ford spindles, modified stock springs, custom radius rods and Corvette air shocks. The rear is a Camaro 100bolt diff with Firestone air bags and a custom four0link. Roy used a ’58 Chrysler Imperial steering column and wheel which twirls a ’41 Chevy steering box with custom drag link and steering.

The body combination is modified ’29 Ford pick-up bed, ’37 Chevy truck cab and a raked ’36 Dodge grill shell. There are no fenders and the cab is chopped three and a half inches up front and three and a quarter inches at the rear. Roy used a set of headlights from an early Peterbuilt truck and the taillights are ’48 Chevy.

The body is mostly finished in its original crappy paintwork to add to its authenticity with only the areas that were chopped spotted in. As a finishing touch, Roy had Garlic City Signs in Holister, California, add the classic Smokin’ ’36 artwork.

The interior is also quite the novel package with a modified ’98 Ford Windstar minivan back bench seat for comfort. The floor is covered with an off-cut of beige carpet and the dash is filled out with a mix of motorcycle speedo and Stewart Warner gauges. It’s a little crowded and in the cab and big guys don’t stand a chance of driving this rig, but for Roy’s build, it’s perfect!

A key rat rod ingredient is to ensure that the engine bay looks wild and the mass of metal that fills it makes some serious grunt, too. To his end, Roy asembled a 383 Chev stroker with the help of John Lawreake in Gilroy. Internally, it features magnafluxed rods, 11:1 pop-up pistons and high-flow oiling. In addition, there’s an Edelbrock high-pressure fuel system, ported and polished Corvette angle-plug heads, and a roller cam and lifter set-up with spring retainers and girdles.

The induction is a real treat with three dual-throated 56mm down-draft Weber carburettors on an Edelbrock intake. The Weber’s are trimmed with a set of read-throated, chromed custom intake rams which are cut to sweep up as they go back, adding a dramatic effect. The engine electrics are handled with an Accel 710E electronic ignition while a two-row Walker aluminium radiator does the cooling chores behind the early Dodge grille shell.

Roy installed a pair of Chevy boat headers in reverse position so the header drops down to the chassis rail. The result? About 450 horsepower!

This is one stylish rod epitomising the style and bursting with inspiration and great execution. Roy loves driving this wild machine hard and fast, and when he fires it up, older rodders just nod their heads and line up for a ride.


If there were polar differences in US street machining, Boyd Coddington-style super sexy customs may be at one end and rat rods at the other. On Roy’s car you’ll notice a sticker just above old window rubber that reads “Avoid The Boyd” and the message is clear – he’s a member of the billet-free brotherhood.

The style is traced back to the late 40s and 50s when young blokes raced around town in hot rods and motorcycles running red lights, drag racing and picking up high-school girls. The cars were mostly “beater rods” converted into hot rods, because new cars were too expensive, while James Dean and Marlon Brando gave credence to the growing culture in movies such as Rebel Without a Cause.

Today, rat rodders remain the purists of the rodding culture and maintain that there’s more to it than cobbing together off-the-shelf billet parts and kits. It involves using one’s ingenuity and creativity to bolt together a pile of ill-matching parts and make it work – a dedication to the 50s lifestyle helps a lot. It may be living in the past but they have just as much fun as most of the modern hot rod crowd.


Paint: Factory Red

Type: 383 Chev
Induction: Triple 56mm Webers, Edelbrock intake
Compression: 11:1
Heads: Corvette angle plug
Power: 450hp

Gearbox: T10 four-speed
Clutch: Chev truck
Shifter: Dagger-style
Diff: Ten-bolt

Front end: Ford truck, with Corvette air shocks and ’54 Ford spindles
Steering: ’41 Chev
Rear end: Custom four-link with air bags

Rims: 6×15 (f) and 18×15 (r) Ford steelies
Rubber: Coker white walls