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Gravel Run Customs: Mary Lou

"It doesn't take a big pocket to build cool shit, it just takes a little creativity."



Sometimes it takes a life changing event that drives us to the absolute bottom to say "fuck it" it can't get any worse, so I am going to do things my way now.

Like many of us Jarrod unfortunately experienced a lay off and during his time in between jobs his friends knew Jarrod went to school for wielding and began reaching out for help on their builds.

Jarrod took a risk and pulled together what he had and invested in a CNC plasma table to make money over winter building cars and other fabrication related products.

This led to several jobs and eventually turned into Gravel Run Customs (click here) a small company located in Pennsylvania just outside of Pittsburgh. Gravel Run Customs can help you with your very own rat rod build or almost any other project that requires CNC plasma cutting, wielding, or fabrication.

The rat in this article is a tribute to Jarrod's fortitude against adversity and seeing a project all the way to the end.


The truck is 47 Dodge pick-up but as you quickly see there was not a lot that could be salvaged from the original vehicle.

One year after being married Jarrod and his wife moved out of state to Michigan so that his wife could attend law school. Shortly a friend reached out and asked Jarrod if he wanted to buy an old farm truck that had been inherited from her uncle after he passed away that had been sitting on her property and now was in the way of a new flower garden that was being planted.

Originally the truck was intended to be a project car for the previous owners husband and son to build a rat rod, but luckily the build never came to fruition and became an opportunity for Jarrod.

What was the price?? Only $250! The only problem was the truck was sitting back in Pennsylvania, but the owner agreed to hold for Jarrod until he got back.

Turns out it was basically the whole truck, but it was missing the fenders. Of course, it is never that easy especially on a truck that has been neglected for years. The frame ended up being bad and the motor was stuck leaving only the cab, bed, and hood.

Fourtuniatily this build came at the perfect time as Jarrod was in wielding school at the time and needed a fabrication project for his final grade. While the rest of the students opted for jack stands, fire pits, and other basic projects you would expect for a first final Jarrod asked his instructor if he could take on the monstrous task of making a frame for his rat rod as a third term project.

During his fourth term in school his teacher saw the passion in the project and allowed Jarrod to keep the frame at the school so that he could work on it after completing his regular assignments.

By the time he had graduated the frame was complete with axils attached making it very challenging to get the project out of the shop. Moving the frame required a lot of hands, patience, and brute strength to put the project on its side to carry out the door.

After getting the unit home Jarrod was able to start nitpicking the frame and finishing out the details.


All running gear is from stock and came out of one of Jarrod's old 93 Ford diesel F 250. Ford ran this motor from about 88 to 93. 1993 was the last year before they ran 7/3 power stroke. Other than the better injectors and pump being turned up the engine is relatively stock.

One item that stands out almost as if it was put there accidentally is a pot for the intake.

To disturb the peace and aggravate beta male EV owners, Jarrod custom fabricated a set of four-inch headers straight off the collector that were pulled off a big block Chevy drag car that he purchased at a swap meet that gave him the look and sound that he was after.

What draws attention most to the engine is also what continues to be one of the biggest challenges with the build and that is removing the belts and replacing them with chains.

 In order to this Jarrod had to weld sprockets to all the pulleys, now initially this did not work as he had envisioned as the chains kept coming loose.

There were several headaches that included braking chains, snapped grade 8 bolts, and a cracked alternator housing.

Now most people would lick their wounds and go back to belts but not a true fabricator like Jarrod (with a touch of stubbornness), he was determined to fix the problem. The solution? Build a custom tension plate that applies just the right amount of pressure to keep the chain from slipping.

In addition to the look of the chain when stopped the sound the engine makes with the chain while running turns heads. As a matter of fact, a friend later informed Jarrod that the sound of the chains drowned out the engine and exhaust of his loud ass Vette while he stopped in front of him at a stop light.

So, just like a red headed stepchild that you can't get rid of Jarrod is keeping the chains.

When asked if the car is fast Jarrod stated with a laugh "It's about as fast as an F 250".

The engine originally had a factory turbo kit but that was sold to a friend, this rat wasn't built to be a speed demon, it was intended to be loud and ugly to piss off people.

The transmission is the factory speed manual that was attached to the factory engine. The owner joked that it still grinds gears and needs to be rebuilt eventually.


Jarrod admits he is a car guy and not a mechanical engineer. So, while he knows what is needed for a car to run, building a custom rat proved to be very challenging as each new addition to the car impacted other components as well as how the car drove.

One major challenge was getting the suspension to work properly on how it reacted to daily driving and hitting bumps. Jarrod quickly learned "fuck it, wield it on and let's go" doesn't always work in the world environment. Hahaha

For the build the rear one-ton axel came from the same F 250 and the eight lug was kept in the event the owner wanted to add a trailer to pull.

Adaptors had to be made for the front axle so 8 lug front rotors could be used.

Brakes were also salvaged from the truck putting disc brakes at all four corners. A Wilwood dual master cylinder was added to assist with the brakes and clutch.

Jarrod had always envisioned the rat with large wheels and big tires. After wheeling, dealing, trading and selling he finally was able to get four 17" steel rock crawling wheels and wrap them with 35 rubber which immediately gave the rat an aggressive attitude.

For the suspension Jarrod went with trailer leaf spring in the front and 88 chevy 1500 springs re arched mounted together as one spring pack across the back.

Now the ride comes in just under 4,000 pounds with a one-ton suspension (needed for a possible future trailer) and as you can imagine the ride is like going five rounds in a UFC battle, but hey the rat wasn't built for comfort!


Again, the rat wasn't built for comfort but rather to look cool with items that were available.

Upon opening the doors, you will immediately notice seats that came out of an old Subaru and was donated from a coworker.

If you are wondering yes, the seats are currently in the rat with no back, and surprisingly they aren't that bad to sit on.

The backs had to be removed because the cushions pushed Jarrod to far forward and surprisingly, they are not that uncomfortable to ride in, even his wife has not complained..... yet.

Trans tunnel was custom fabricated using the original hood from the Dodge pickup that wasn't being used because Jarrod wanted the engine to be exposed.

As bad ass as the trans cover is, it left a huge open gap that needed to be covered. Out of scrap metal and ideas he looked to a buddy for inspiration. Looking around Jarrod's garage his friend saw an oversized mailbox and said let's use this! Not only did cover the exposed area but also make a perfect center counsel!


Jarrod and his wife don't have a lot of free time go out on dates due to having kids and work obligations but one night they called up a babysitter and fired up the rat to get a tattoo for his wife. Along the way the car broke down several times. The couple decided to not push it and started to head back home when the car quit working all together.

While they were waiting for a tow the conversation came up about naming the car. I am sure at that moment in time Jarrod had a lot of colorful names for the car but then his wife said "Mary Lou".

As it turns out Mary Lou is the Jarrod's wife's aunt who is described as cranky and hard to get going. So, the name stuck.

Mary Lou is the perfect example you don't need a ton of money instead all that is needed is some grit, dedication, and thriftiness. Jarrod has about $5,000 into the car. As Jarrod stated, "It doesn't take a big pocket to build cool shit, it just takes a little creativity."


When Jarrod responded to a recent post, I thought to myself... where have I seen that ride before?

It wasn't until we set up a time chat that he sent over pictures, and I realized I was talking with a got damn rock star that had the honor to be on the cover of issue #63 of Rat Rod Magazine!

If you are not familiar with this publication you have to check them out! Currently the magazine is only in print format and not available in stores.

Click here to for Rat Rod apparel, other merch, back issues, and current releases: Rat Rod Magazine (You will be redirected to their web store)


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