Rat Rod Tour movie to hold premiere in Moose Lake today

It's a different kind of documentary. Part documentary, part reality show. Starring a bunch of rusty old "rat rods" creatively pieced together by their equally unique owners, the new film "4,000 Miles of Rust" will premiere at 1 p.m. today at the...

Roger Rentola and Bryan Dagel
Roger Rentola (left) and Bryan Dagel, members of the Peckerheadz Rat Rod Club based in Mahtowa, stand next to their creations. (2010 file / Pine Journal)

It's a different kind of documentary. Part documentary, part reality show.

Starring a bunch of rusty old "rat rods" creatively pieced together by their equally unique owners, the new film "4,000 Miles of Rust" will premiere at 1 p.m. today at the Lake Theater in Moose Lake. Cost of admission is $5.

Less than an hour long, the movie tells the story of the 2012 "Rat Rod Tour" from Mahtowa to Las Vegas and back, a trip that covered 4,000 miles and lots of fun stops.

"In a word, it was epic," said Steve Thaemert, publisher of Rat Rod Magazine. "I don't know how else to describe that long of a trip through that many historic places."

Unlike their more polished cousins in the antique and/or street rod family of older automobiles, shine is not necessary for a rat rod to stand out. Neither is a particular production year. What makes a rat rod a rat rod is a matter of creativity combined with mechanical know-how, resulting in a sort of mobile collage that comes together to make one vehicle.


"It's hard to define a rat rod, because every builder has a different idea of what they want," said Bryan Dagel, a member of the Peckerheadz Rat Rod Club based in Mahtowa. "I see it as more of an expression of art, what you can come up with. Plus you don't have to polish and clean during a show, just BS with everyone and enjoy. There's not so much ego or keeping up with the Joneses."

Mahtowa's Roger Rentola, for example, constructed his rat rod truck out of several different trucks, vans, automobiles and a school bus, along with a beer keg, a cow horn, a couple of street signs and an antique Boy Scout canteen, which serves as an overflow container for the radiator.

Rentola left his truck at home for the trip, however, to drive the chase car for the first annual tour, which departed from downtown Mahtowa with 10 rat rods on Labor Day.

"I was kind of like the guide," said Rentola, who was joined in the chase car by the Rat Rod Magazine publisher and his camera. "Plus, we would drive ahead and find good spots to film."

The rat rods traveled through Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado and Utah on their way to Las Vegas. They even crossed into California, just to say they'd done it, Rentola said. After a car show at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev., they made their way back along a different route, traveling through New Mexico to start.

The original tour group included three rat rods from Canada, one from Nebraska, two from Wisconsin, several from the Mahtowa area and "two deaf guys" from southern Minnesota, Rentola said.

Everywhere they stopped, he noted, they caused a stir.

"We picked up people along the way," Rentola said, noting that the group went from 10 rat rods to


14 by the end. "Every gasoline stop was a good hour. You don't see that every day.

"In Winter, S.D., people left their jobs and came flying in with their cameras."

Rat rods have to be street legal, which means in addition to running, they need turn signals, brake lights, headlights and windshield wipers. Despite traveling through desert terrain and over mountain ranges, the group of cars had almost no mechanical issues, Rentola said, aside from one alternator that had to be replaced.

The magazine devoted an entire issue to the trip.

"Issue 16½," Rentola said. "It was a special issue that came out the month between issues 16 and 17."

In addition to its publisher, Rat Rod Magazine brought a photographer who rode in different cars during the journey. They also mounted cameras on top of a rat rod, in a grill and on a tail end, Rentola said.

A DVD of the "4,000 Miles of Rust" should be available to purchase within a couple of months, Thaemert said. The Rat Rod Tour to New Orleans down the old Highway 61 route is set for September 2013, after the annual Rat Rod Rendezvous during Labor Day weekend at T.J.'s in Mahtowa.

The Rendezvous -- which registered more than 200 rat rods last year -- is part of the reason Rat Rod Magazine has formed such a strong bond with the Peckerheadz Rat Rod Club.


"The magazine has small-town roots to begin with," Thaemert said, noting that the magazine operates out of Shakopee, Minn., now. "And there's a great group of Rat Rodders up there. It's kind of like family now."

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