The art of fabrication, design, welding, and hot rodding (on a budget as a DIYer) all come together to make rat rods. Who doesn’t love to see the unique and sometimes wacky creations that builders invent? Larry Kilburn is an up-and-coming 21-year old mechanic that recently started his own shop, Kilburn’s Kustoms, to showcase the amazing work he and his team turn out on a regular basis. This awesome ’32 Hudson rat rod is a prime example of the top-notch fabrication and creative thinking that comes out of the Fort Pierce, Florida, shop. Kilburn and his team, including his father, Larry Sr., Timothy Meehan, and Joseph Manniello, completed the rat rod construction in about eight months, debuting it in the show-n-shine competition at the 2015 Scheid Diesel Extravaganza where it won “Best Custom Diesel Vehicle.”
“There is just enough clearance to open the suicide doors when the frame is sitting flat on the ground.”
After purchasing the 1932 Hudson Terraplane shell for just $2,000, Kilburn and his team went to work giving it a new home on a completely fabricated chassis from 2x3x1/4-inch wall tubing. To strengthen the chassis and allow the suspension and drivetrain to be bolted into it, they used a combination of plate steel and tubular round steel forming mounts, as well as a full roll cage to make sure the occupants stay safe within the confines of the 83-year old body shell.
In keeping the rat rod somewhat traditional, it runs on a Model A straight axle front end, but the way it connects to the chassis is far from traditional. Kilburn and his team fabricated a cantilever suspension design with Accuair 2,500-lb. air bags on each side to control the front ride height and provide a smooth ride when cruising. The rear features a Ford 9-inch axle held in position under the fabricated frame rails with a double triangulated 4-link setup fabricated by Kilburn and his crew. Another pair of airbags is used in the rear to determine ride height and smooth out bumps in the road. They set up both the front and rear suspension travel to allow the frame to lay flat on the ground when the airbags are deflated, but he can easily inflate the bags to bring the rod up to ride height for cruising.
Moving inside the Hudson, once the roll cage was welded into the car, the team fabricated the floor, firewall, and rear package tray and transmission tunnel with welded sheet metal. Continuing with the metal theme, they installed a set of Iron Ace Hot Rod welded metal seats with a set of four-point harnesses to keep the occupants in the seats. The headrests feature gray leather with red stitching at the seams and a red embroidered FFS (Far From Stock) logo to really make them pop inside the cabin.
To keep an eye on the rod’s vitals, Kilburn relies on a set of eight Auto Meter gauges mounted in a fabricated steel panel welded to the top front roll bar hoop. The eight Auto Meter gauges are joined by an air pressure gauge in the center to monitor pressure available to supply the suspension. A fabricated steel transmission tunnel houses a Precision Performance Products Kwik Shift II shifter and leads up to a steel dash panel that houses the starter button and switches to control the air suspension. Steering chores are handled by a vintage 4-spoke steel Model A steering wheel with a piston inspired skull plasma-cut from plate steel installed as a center cap with the mounting bolts acting as eyes. Rather than installing a sound system, Kilburn chose to be entertained by the roar of the Cummins and rush of the wind.
The most obvious feature of this unique build is the 12-valve Cummins and its two massive Borg Warner turbo chargers sitting out in the open between the custom frame rails. Kilburn and his team built the engine themselves starting with a Cummins out of a 1998 Dodge truck then stripped it down for a performance rebuild. While the bottom end remains stock the build team installed a new bump-stick from Hamilton Cams to actuate the valves. Before reinstalling the head, the block and head were machined for O-rings to withstand higher cylinder pressure; they also installed a set of 110-lb. Hamilton Cams valve springs to prevent valve float under high boost pressure.
To reach their power goal of around 700 horsepower, the build team opted to go with plenty of fuel combined with plenty of air. On the fuel side of the equation, they used an AirDog 165 pump/filter system installed under the rear of the car to deliver fuel from the rear mount fuel cell to dual feeds on the Bosch P-pump on the Cummins engine. The injection pump is enhanced with 5K governor springs to allow the engine to rev higher and 191 delivery valves to send plenty of fuel to each of the 5X.018 injectors in the cylinder head.
On the “air side” of things, the build team went with a Borg Warner compound turbo setup that feeds directly into the head without an intercooler. Spent gasses are sent out of the engine through a three-piece manifold that feeds the S363 turbine through a diverter and 13mm wastegate that comes into play if the boost gets too high. Then exhaust gasses are carried up to the S480 through a wrapped hot pipe that also flows into the mounting plate and features a Cummins “C” cutout. Intake air is sucked into the S480 compressor through an open element aFe cone air filter before it’s compressed and sent over to the smaller S363 compressor. The compressed intake charge is then sent over to the intake on the Cummins head through a custom dual outlet pipe to help with air distribution between the cylinders.
“To preserve the patina, they sprayed the body with clear for protection from the elements.”
The Cummins is linked to a Dodge 47RE transmission that was built by Sam Barbuto at Meehan’s Automotive in Port Saint Lucie, FL. He stuffed the slush box with performance goodies, such as, a manual valve body and upgraded clutches throughout. Power is transferred from the engine to the transmission through a stock flexplate and FTI Performance billet single disk torque converter. Output from the transmission is handed off to a Ford 9-inch rear axle through a custom driveshaft. The rear end sports 4.11 gears and a welded factory differential to get the lightweight rat rod up and moving quickly; it also has disc brakes to slow the rod down.
“The crew at Kilburn’s Kustoms did not chop the roof, and it retains its original 1932 dimensions.”
Kilburn set out to make a statement with this rat rod—he wanted it to turn heads and to show off the capabilities of his shop; we’d say his mission was accomplished. The car draws attention wherever he drives it and not just from diesel guys. Gear heads from all walks of life love the car and want to check it out. He took home winning hardware at the Rat Rod Invasion in Daytona Beach, making 2015 a great year for his latest creation. If you get a chance to check it out in person, do it. You’ll be glad you did. DW