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Hopeful Seller? 1959 Ford “Rat Rod”


Craigslist and eBay are full of cars for sale that look like junkyard cars repurposed as dream cars. And by that I mean, that their sellers are dreaming. I assume that sometimes sellers’ dreams do come true too, when overly ambitious buyers think they can turn one of these ratty old cars into a driver.

Here is what a 1959 Thunderbird engine looks like.

I hope you do not think I am being overly harsh. It just seems that the rise in prices of really nice old cars has caused owners of some of the more dreadful junkers out there to think they can cash in.


Here is an example of what I am talking about, a 1959 Ford in Danbury, Connecticut that is for sale on craigslist. A few years ago this would be considered a junkyard parts car. Now it’s being offered for sale as a “rat rod”. Believe it or not, the seller is asking $3,850 for this thing. There are two photos provided, and a very minimal description. It has a “Thunderbird” motor in it (which I think must mean the 352 cubic inch engine), an automatic transmission, and is said to run and drive, which does not tell us very much at all. Not a peep about the floors or trunk, interior, or the missing front bumper, headlights, and grille. From the trim around the rear pillar, I think we can guess this might be a Galaxie, but even that is uncertain here. It’s sitting very low to the ground, so either the springs are shot or at some point in its life, maybe this really was someone’s hot rod, and it was lowered on purpose. Who knows?

Here’s a “real” 59 Ford Galaxie Rat Rod

I don’t think anyone is going to pay this kind of money for this car, but maybe I’m just a stick in the mud. What do our knowledgeable readers think about this car? And do you agree with me about what has happened to the old car hobby? And what can we do about it, if anything?


  1. Rando

    I look at CL several times a week. There are lots of cars listed as “rat rods”, when they are missing parts and close to being junk. This one does “run and drive” but is missing a boatload of parts and the pics are very sparse. Seems at least 2x what I would consider. If that much. I would consider something like this if it runs, drives, and has most of the parts wth it and a usable interior. But this one needs too much for that price.

    I found this yesterday. https://wilmington.craigslist.org/cto/5570716969.html

    $2K and looks pretty good for a fun car without much work. Yes this one does not run, but could possibly be an easy fix? Have to look closely to try to identify the issue. Seller say sfuel pump maybe, but that sounds too vague. Should run on the bottle. IF so, then this might be a good un. Certainly better than this listing.

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    • Keith

      Ahhh the old “fuel pump” routine. If I had $1 for every car I’ve checked out that didn’t run just because “the fuel pump don’t work” I’d be a rich man. 9/10 times it’s not the fuel pump (or it is, along with a host of other things). So let’s see, he did an alternator, new tires, new carb, but couldn’t be bothered to replace the fuel pump? Sure. Ask the seller if you can bring a new fuel pump to install so you can test the motor. If he agrees, he may be on the up and up. If he balks, move on to the next car knowing you probably avoided a major headache.

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  2. Mike H. Mike H.

    Perhaps by “Thunderbird Motor” he’s referring to the the 200 cu in (3.3 L) Thriftpower Six, which was available during the eighth generation (1980-1982)? In fact, he could be referring to ANY of the numerous motors offered in the Thunderbird. . .

    Perhaps it has a non-intercooled 2.3L from a 1983-1/2 to 1986 Thunderbird. Small motor, big car; it could still work.

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  3. Terry J

    Way back in circa ’63 my older Sis had an ex-sheriffs car. White plain Jane 2 door post ’59 Ford. It had a 430 cu in “MEL” engine with a 3 on the tree. Blue Green bench seats and that was about it. That big Ford would really haul, and Janet drove it like she stole it. Scared the hell outta me ( I was 15 ish).

    Like 1
    • Deputy169

      I was with my dad when he bought a 1959 Edsel Rangef at Berens Mercury Lincoln in Chicago. The MEL which was on a door jamb badging from the factory indicated MEL The acronym stood for Mercury Edsel Lincoln. Just some old trivia

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  4. Rando

    Wasn’t the “big” thing for Ford motors of the day to have “thunderbird” stamped on the valve covers? I don’t know what made them so special, but I know it seems to be the “hot” motor of the day back then?

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  5. piper62j

    This guy is living on that “funny stuff” we’ve heard about..
    Great find, not so great car.. Should put it back in the bone yard and finish stripping it..

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  6. Cody

    I think there is a fine line between “Rat Rod” and “Rolling Restoration”. I think this Ford is more the latter. Rat rods, to me, need to have cool pin striping and clever junk yard substitutes for broken or missing parts(shifter made out of a chain with links welded together, antique oil can for air cleaner). That is what you are paying for in a rat rod, some actual work and design. This car is just worn out, broken, and overpriced. Although, for the right money you could have some fun with this car.

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    • DrinkinGasoline

      “Quote: That is what you are paying for in a rat rod”.
      “Quote : Although, for the right money you could have some fun with this car.”

      The very definition of a “rat rod” is spending the least amount of money possible to create one.

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  7. Ikey Heyman Member

    Yeah, I can’t help but laugh at some of the listings I see. I especially like it when somebody can’t be bothered to pull the crapped-out heap they’re trying to sell out of the underbrush so you can actually see what remains. Undoubtedly it has already been stripped of the hardest-to-find parts yet they’re asking thousands of $$ for their “rat rod/project car”.

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    • Keith

      Or even better when it’s so vitally important to sell the car they can’t wait until day time and have to take pics of the car at night, outside. Gotta love that.

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  8. Gary

    The solution to the insane prices that we are seeing is quit simple. Quit buying. Once the pool of insane buyers dries up the prices will drop like a rock. Personally, I’m completely priced out of the market at this point. I don’t have the kind of money that is needed to purchase a drivable classic car these days. Fortunately I purchased a 76 Spitfire several years ago, just as the insanity was starting. I got it really cheap and its a very nice car with low miles. But it also wasn’t worth much more than I paid for it at the time. So I’ll just keep it and enjoy it until the craziness ends. Then I will hopefully be able to afford another classic car.

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  9. Tracy

    The T-Bird enging could be referring to the 312 cu offered in ’59 if it is original. Half the money and I’d buy for the engine as it appears to have been reworked.

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    • Rando

      The engine picture is NOT the engine in this car – it says “what the engine SHOULD look like”. On the listing, there are only 2 pics of the hull of a car.

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  10. MG'zer

    Some of us do dream. I recently bought on ebay, a 65 triumph Spitfire feature here on BF. Bad floors motor on the side lots of rust. But im dreaming. Actually im about 1/5 of the way completing the body.

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  11. G 1

    Raced one for years on dirt, those 1957-59. $0-$50 per car in the late 60’s(went through a few). 352 Police or Thunderbird, 300hp. solid lifers and dual points standard. That engine hard and fast for years. Always ran in the top three.

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  12. Joe Btfsplk

    A lot more “rat” than most folks care to handle for that money. The ’59 styling leaves me cold, however, I always loved the sweeping style of the 1960 model… especially the Starliner.

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    • HotRodLincoln

      I must agree…as the ’60 Fords are My favorites.

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  13. HotRodLincoln

    The description of “Rat Rod” has only been used in the last 5 years or so. It is a loose interpretation of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s “Rat Fink” Customs Campaign which was huge. The term is way over used to describe projects that have been forgotten do to loss of interest or lack of funding or just plain laziness. I’ve been around cars and trucks for 50 of My 55 years that I can remember thanks to My Father working on and driving sleds. Don’t tell the EPA but I have bars of lead for body work tucked away…Yep, Pop taught Me how to fill with lead. At best, this ’59 is a promising parts donor at $2k tops for the sheet metal alone, but it is far from a rod, of any kind, in any world. If I could pass along any advice to anyone selling a vehicle…
    DO NOT use the term “Rat Rod”.

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    • HotRodLincoln

      I should have included “Patina” also, as it is simply exposure fade and surface rust . “Rat Rod with Patina”….I think I just threw up a bit just typing the words. Going to brush My teeth…..

      Like 1
  14. piper62jT

    I agree HotRod..From what I remember of the Roth Rat Rods, they all had a finished “finesse” to them.. Complete would also be a good overall description of his works.. I’ve seen some of his originals and cannot recall them being just a pile of junk parts thrown together and rusted out.. You think like I do that the “Rat Rod” has morphed into something far from it’s original conception and idea.

    Why not just call these current machines “Rats”, instead of Rat Rods???

    Like 1
  15. Dan

    First I agree this is a parts car, who knows from the lousy description and a poorly done ad…….But I will say I have sold quite a number of 1950’s cars on Craigslist……and the number of uninformed and stone stupid questions and inquiries I get is stunning. I sold incomplete project cars before at reasonable prices ……of course nobody what’s to pay you for making sure it’s movable and has correct paperwork for titling…..cause they view it’s value from when they were a teenager or when they were a dime a dozen…..more likely they have no skills and want a drive ready car at junkyard pricing…..most anything from the 50’s that is drive able is pretty much out of the Craigslist bottom dwellers price range…..Keep in mind also if you say 5,000 on Craigslist that means the offers will start at 1500…….so your kinda forced to price high knowing you’ll be selling low, cause everyone wants to brag about how they beat up the seller……it’s just how doing business on a free platform like Craigslist is…….so remember asking price is more likely just a random starting point.

    Like 0

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