Student-built ‘Rat Rod’ roars to life
Auto tech students at Socorro High School, with some help from their teacher, built a 1936 Ford pickup “Rat Rod” from, more or less, scratch.
And news of the students’ accomplishments has reached beyond the borders of Socorro; their project was featured in a recent issue of New Mexico Rods & Rides magazine.
Tony Montoya, the class’ instructor, said the idea to complete this type of project stemmed from talks with his dad, the late Leo Montoya. With the help of his students, Tony Montoya made it a reality. Within three years, the auto class has grown from 17 students initially to more than 50 today.
Socorro High School offers six classes focused in the auto tech trade, each covering one specific category, from brakes and suspension to electronics and air conditioning — and everything in between. However, before any of the content is covered in class, Montoya spends two weeks focused on safety. He also provides lectures on each of the tools the students will use.
The students are covered under the school’s insurance plan but Montoya said he supervises “each and every student to prevent any unnecessary accidents.”
The curriculum is provided by the Socorro Consolidated Schools. Although he must incorporate all aspects of each category, the curriculum grants Montoya the flexibility to change what he will teach for each.
Students enrolled in the class earn dual credit from Western New Mexico University as well as Socorro High School. Students can graduate with six elective credits from SHS and thirty major credits from WNMU. Ten students will graduate in May with this dual-credit combination.
A team effort
Montoya said the students, a mix of girls and boys, weren’t afraid to “get their hands dirty.”
Every student, past and present, contributed to this project by transferring their classroom instruction to this real world application. For some, this included using skills they had learned in other classes – such as welding and woodworking – used to help make the bed rail and glove box. The students were responsible for fabricating, welding, wiring, sanding and more.
“The students used their imagination to put this project together, no matter what category level they were at,” Montoya said.
Some students, he said, have the ingenuity to “know” which direction to take, while others helped complete the required course of action. In both cases, the students “were able to complete this project as a team,” Montoya said.
The entire project was completed in less than eight months. The Rat Rod was comprised of a 1980 Dodge D-50 chassis powered by a 350 turbo transmission, all housed under a 1936 Ford bed and cab.
“Once we had all the parts and the right body, everything fell into place” Montoya said.
All the shop equipment, which Montoya said his students maintain, is provided by WNMU and is state-of-the-art. Many of the parts and equipment for the Rat Rod came from donations and purchases from numerous community supporters, including Bozo Cordova, Gordy Hicks, Buck Elliott, Frank Torres, Mike Vallejos, Chris Salas, Brian Chavez, Mike Gaines, John Pearson, Carlos Carrillo, Orlando Martinez, Joe Scates, James Mishoe, Michael Herrera, Rodney, Rick Stump and Montoya himself.
While the project is done, is it completed?
“Rat Rods are never finished,” Montoya said. “We want to change and update things all the time.”
So now what?
For now, the future of the Rat Rod has not been decided.
A few adjustments, Montoya said, would allow the pick up to be safely driven on the road and from there, the Rat Rod could be sold. Possibly, to make enough money to do it all over again.