By Victor Venter
Owner: Benja Smith
Dubbed “BUICK-ED”, this Rat Rod is something of a Frankenstein. There is also a lot more to it than meets the eye at first glance. This 1948 Buick Sedanette was once the pride and joy of a former 1950’s Springbok rugby player – the one and only “Daantjie”Rossouw. Daan wrecked the Buick when he drove into a farm gate in 1958 whilst racing against his friend on a gravel road. The Buick was towed away and left to stand on a farm 300km from Upington.
This was until Benja Smith got hold of it and dragged what was left of it home.
The old girl was too far gone to restore however, anyone who knows Benja would have known he planned to build a Rat Rod right from the start. He wanted to build a 4×4 Rat Rod, an idea that he had had for some time however, he initially thought that this would be a 5 year project.
The Hot Rod Rumble and a few side bets from his friends changed the build into a 1 year long project. His wife Gerda joined him and they worked together on week nights and weekends to get this insane build off the ground. Fellow Road Bandit Club members joined in to help – some bringing bits and pieces whilst others manufactured parts. A few picked up tools and helped. Buddies Paul and Chantel slept over on weekends to help.
To achieve the proper 4×4 stance, the Buick body was removed from the frame and the frame scrapped. In its place Benja used a Datsun 4×4 chassis and drivetrain from a Safari pickup truck. The diesel engine that was purchased along with the chassis was supposed to be a good runner but turned out not to run at all. Benja had to pull a rabbit out of a hat to get another engine so that the Rat was ready in time.
He bought a second Datsun pickup with a stock standard six pot petrol 2.8 l engine. He fitted this into the Buick. This would eventually be changed back to an oil burner as Benja says “I have always dreamt of rollin’ coal down the road!”
The grill from a Morris Commercial truck was used for the front end. This was accompanied by 2 headlight holders that Benja made himself. On the rear he had special adapters made so that the huge 16 inch double wheels would fit. They give the Buick her badass attitude. In the front she runs 31 x 11.5 x 15 inch rubbers.
This car has many crazy features which make for hours of amusement whilst looking at the car. The side doors feature some pin-up art and a plate that is attached to the rear wheel reads: “Insanity has replaced reason in the modification of this vehicle”.
You will find a trap in the fire extinguisher exhaust and the turn signals on the rear are from a Kawasaki Z1000 motorbike. The seats are from a Mazda 3 and the battery box between the front seats is formed into a coffin shape. The gear lever resembles a hand grenade and the gauges (of which there are many) each have their own story re where they originated from.
Benja and Gerda said that without all the help, advice and assistance they received from all of their friends, this build would not have been possible. They made a special “Fellowship of the Buick-ed” section on the boot lid which shows all the names of the people involved with the build.
Rat Rots (Rodding’s imperfects stepchildren) will be something that will always keep a conversation going amongst petrol heads. This Rat speaks volumes with regards to Benja’s differing Hot Rod taste and when you look at this Buick you might just think that the guy behind this build has lost his mind but what I see is somebody’s ode to the past and somebody that was willing to make his dream into a reality.