Of all the post-apocalyptic survival scenarios we’ve seen, few top the mechanical intrigue of the Mad Max wasteland. Sure, it stands to reason that, with refineries non-operational, the availability of fossil fuels would drop to zero in no time at all, but that didn’t stop the creators from conjuring up a fantasy-land filled with monstrous mechanical abominations so crazy they inspired a subculture of automotive builders to emulate them. Let’s be frank, half of the cool-factor of Mad Max is derived from the tasteful uselessness of Cadillac bodies welded to the back of Cadillac bodies on a deuce and a half frame, a rolling rock stage with swinging guitarists, or an 80,000lb tractor trailer that somehow doesn’t bog down in the desert. Mad Max is less about survival of deranged, feral humans and more about big blocks battling it out in the sand (if they were on horseback, would you watch it?).
Flash back into the real world where governmental rule is still supreme and fuels are plentiful; despite the useless utility of a Mad Max themed build, they are more popular than ever. Drawing on a mixture of steampunk inspiration with a dash of rat rod and a lot of motor and ground clearance, the Mad Max theme has gained plenty of popularity with builders and has inspired apocalyptic-themed desert getaways celebrating the lifestyle. Perhaps one of the greatest things about a Mad Max build is the fact that points are awarded for creativity rather than cleanliness, and grunge is encouraged. Indeed, Mad Max cars have no limits.
18 ’32 Pre-Runner Hotrod Coupe
Forget the Armor All, this ’32 coupe has a much different idea of classy than any Saturday night car show meet and greet has ever seen. In fact, calling it a ’32 Dodge coupe is a far stretch of the imagination. Sure, it resembles the iconic Mopar from the pre-war hot-rodding days, but a slight resemblance (and big power) is about all this monster has in common with its street-constricted cousin.
Heavily modified frame rails are integrated with custom-fabricated chassis components to accommodate a different type of duty cycle while long-travel suspension handles whatever a desert wasteland can throw its way.
Up front, a four-bolt 383cid is fortified with a steel-forged crank, heavy-beam rods and forged positions for bottom-end durability while a roller valve train up top handles precise valve actuation for a 430hp setup that goes where it wants to.
17 Jeepus Maxxus
Whether you’re a Jeep guy or not, there is an undeniably rad aura about this custom build that can be discounted by no man, regardless of your inclination for or against this style build. This particular example was inspired by a few pop-culture themes, namely Mad Max (obviously), steampunk design and rat rods of course. The 2015 SEMA show-stopping Jeep is not just a conglomerate of miss-mashed parts. The 5.9L, 12-valve 6BT Cummins is a 1,100lb chunk of iron from an old bus that was built up to blast 700hp and a staggering 1,200ft/lbs of torque through a built TH400 transmission and NP205 transfer case before heading to the Dana differentials. As it would turn out, the business end of this build is any end you’re looking at it from.
16 Purgatory Plow
Everybody dies someday, even Chuck Norris. But not every journey into the afterlife is as fear-inspiring as a 10’ tall, 20,000lb, 6x6 hearse with enough cajones to make Satan shat his pants.
The truck’s name turns out to be Mortis, and the $600 Cadillac body sits atop a deuce and a half frame that uses six 60” tractor tires to traverse anything that’s unlucky enough to stand in between point A and B.
Constructed in the true spirit of a post-apocalyptic Mad Max wasteland, the rig was assembled entirely from scrap parts and whatever was lying around. Although the owner maintains he built it to go mud bogging with his friends, one can’t help but wonder if this is a façade for his SHTF prep.
15 Rockwell Commander 114
Modes of transportation are typically kept to their own area of intended design; boats in the water, cars on roads, and planes…in the desert? That’s right! Wasteland Weekend, the largest post-apocalyptic celebration on earth, just wouldn’t have been complete without a Rockwell 114 Commander fuselage sporting a fixed-gear setup that feels more at home on the dunes than on the tarmac. The Mad Max theme takes backyard hot-rodding to a new extreme with more combinations of spare parts than a wrecking yard and although this commander is in no condition to pass an annual, it looks ready to handle just about anything else you can throw its way.
At eight feet tall and weighing in at five tons, it’s a project you almost can’t take your eyes off of. Although we saw it in the Transformers installment Revenge of the Fallen, it looks as if it would be just at home chasing water drops through the sand as it would transforming into a 40’ robot. Although it may look like a cohesive and well-planned project, the builder (and Transformer enthusiast, obviously) had to modify the design almost a dozen times due to suitable parts availability, and more design changes are speculated to take place to ensure the replica is as authentic as possible.
13 Forked F-Series
Perhaps you want something a little less grungy to go along with your cup of post-apocalyptic cool aid? Or maybe you get parched easily? Whatever your ailment, this ’77 F-150 will get you through the badlands in style; it’s about as clean as you’d want a rock crawler to be without being scared to scratch it up.
When you get thirsty, there’s a cooler nestled into a boxed section of the tube chassis for your refreshment of choice.
The 460cid big block Ford is more than enough to give the 37” Goodyears plenty of muscle and with King coil overs all the way around, there’s plenty of suspensions to dance with the nastiest terrain.
12 Twin Willy
Monkey do – monkey see; one monkey builds crazy rat rod military Jeep, other monkey has to out-monkey him. By out-monkey, we’re talking custom fabrication of a funny car style cage, twin-turbo 5.3L LM7, beefed up TH400 transmission and Ford 9” rear. Chris, the builder and owner, was not pleased with the 400ft/lb of torque the junkyard build initially offered brining him to the decision to add some forced-induction fury. When the Jeep hit Drag Weekend West in 2016 it consistently put down quarter miles in 10.7 seconds and was producing 661hp with 805ft/lbs of torque. Not bad for junkyard motor, transmission and rear that only cost $500, $200 and $100 respectively.
11 Hell Wrecker
Anyone ever wonder what Satan would drive? If he were to be a diesel guy, I’d elect this ’36 Plymouth as a good candidate; it’s grungy as all hell, has a skeletal appearance with less than half of the original body intact and something about the Camel Towing name painted the door is oddly amusing.
The running gear was commandeered from a ’91 Dodge one ton along with the 6BT Cummins with almost 500,000 miles on it.
The manual gearbox and rear axle were also extracted from the old heavy-hauler to leave us with a soul-snatching rig fit for the likes of the king of the fallen.
10 Rat Rod Wrecker
So maybe that was all speculative, as we really don’t know what Satan would drive. Regardless of his taste, throw dual truck tires on the back of a slammed, skeleton of a rust-bucket truck with a big noisy motor and I’ll sure take it for a spin. This one, questionably more rugged than the Hell Wrecker, is built with the same loving spirit of grunge in mind. Just as anybody can throw loads of chrome at a trailer queen, it’s not hard to mash a bunch of spare parts onto a rolling piece of junk and call it art. But sometimes, with just the right ingredients in just the right proportions, rat rod rigs can be some of the sickest renditions of the rat rod culture. Not to mention if SHTF, you’re already ready.
9 Grumpy’s Wagon
Some builders are meticulous, rulebook thumpers that need a structured environment to create their masterpieces. Others just get it done some how some way. Tossing safety to the side, Grumpy’s Welding rig seems to personify this cavalier attitude with a decorative pump handle hanging out of the side of the cab as if it were ripped out of the pump after fueling. Laugh as you may, but that decoration is just an extension of the same creative mind that uses spare .22lr in place of tube fuses when none are available. I guess when loaded cartridges are rolling around your floorboard it’s easier than stopping by a parts house and spending $3 on an actual fuse.
8 Major Payne
Anything with a blower is cool; anything with tracks – cooler still. Anything that has both and looks like it’s come to get you in your sleep and burn your soul through its combustion chambers? Awesome.
The adapted running gear came from a war-era M5 half-track produced from ’42-’43. 12,000lbs of steel are pushed around by the 1,100hp big block Chevy thanks to the faithful 8-81 blower that feeds the AFR heads.
Extensive modifications were required to get the build just right as the motor was originally mounted in the rear. To allow it to maintain a front-engine appearance, a reverse gear had to be custom built as the tracks are actually moving in reverse whenever the Major is rolling forward.
Stepping down into this Beetle carcass will disorient your equilibrium. Half of you feels like you should be getting into a Volkswagen, the other half feels like you’re stepping into a tank. It’s so low the top of the body sits just about level with the tops of the massive tires and being chopped as it is, visibility is extremely limited. Not helping matters is a four-barrel carb with an air cleaner taller than the tires. In true hot rod fashion, this mutilation of sheet metal was constructed in a garage and is tied in together with a custom chassis that the remainder of the bug is mounted to.
6 Northrup Trophy
Using the term rat rod is a bit of a stretch for this truck, but rough and rugged would be a perfect set of adjectives; the $500 ’37 International was a deal too hot to pass up for the fabricator when he stumbled across it.
Taking inspiration from rat rod culture and breeding with the pedigree of off-road racing produced this ugly lovechild; it can take a hostile gravel road quicker than your Subaru boxer can spin a main bearing.
The tuned Corvette motor’s 320hp may not sound blindingly fast, but the racing suspension lets it glide over unforgiving desert terrain with the liquid smooth travel at speeds greater than the ’37 was ever built to endure. This truck can easily give the Ford Raptor a good, hard run for its money.
5 Zoro Camaro
There’s no doubt this thing looks bad, but seeing it in action is twice as amazing as anything it can inspire within your sweet little heart by just sitting there. That’s because the Team Zoro Camaro is a Baja 1000 racecar that’s proven its endurance in one of the hardest, longest races you can expose a vehicle to. It’s a racecar, so obviously everything is built, and the 640hp 383cid is plenty ready for whatever you toss it up against. Over two feet of suspension travel and huge brakes are tucked behind the 37” Goodrich rubbers round off the beast with handling attributes you’ve only dreamt about.
4 Croc Hunter
In a world saturated by a proliferation of custom builds embodying a trendy theme like rat rods, one must think outside the box to make a shockwave of an impression. Using three wheels on your rat rod build will get you some attention, but if you really want to get noticed, how about turning those wheels into monster truck wheels?
The mid-engine three-wheeler is not only street legal, it’s dangerously powerful.
This truck was actually built to take a hard beating – and deliver an even harder one. It’s a tractor pulling, street-legal, Caterpillar diesel with some of the most unique engineering, especially in the custom steering system.
3 F6 Dump Truck
Wheelies are rare to see period. Watching a 1950 Ford F6 cab do it is infinitely rarer, and a four-wheeled wheelie is just about impossible, right? If you’ve seen Stubby Bob in action, you may be able to cross all three off your bucket list. Of course, this comes with a few caveats; the frame is shortened and there’s no engine in the front. In fact, the engine sits directly above the rear axle while the engine bay stores extra oxygen. So it’s probably easier than it looks, but no less dangerous. The cage-less cab has man-sized holes in the floor to facilitate the custom shifter assembly and rather than a racing seat with a nice five-point harness you get a bench seat and a lap belt if you’re lucky.
2 Monster Maverick
Ford has produced some great cars and trucks, there is no doubt about that. It has also had its share of flops, just like any large automaker. This yellow Maverick is no exception, and there’s not much you can do to make these things very cool.
One failsafe option when dealing with such putrid ugliness is to accentuate it by making it as visible as possible.
Lifting it up to the sky, painting it yellow, and driving it around a dirt track until the engine catches on fire is probably the coolest thing you can do with it. That’s what Top Gear did. Although they subsequently buried it halfway through the filming, it was likely the coolest 15 minutes of fame the Maverick has ever seen.
1 Prime Hauler
Amazon Prime offers amazing deals on occasion, and to further accentuate the value of the online mega-vendor, Prime members get expedited shipping for free. 48 business hours is all Amazon needs to place packages anywhere within an incredibly small window of time – now we know why; their line-haul trucks just drive through, on, over or past whatever is in between the front bumper and the destination loading dock. The truck attracts attention everywhere it goes, and although not much is known about the monstrosity, its Jersey-based operation may be the inspiration – Jersey motorists are probably a little more inclined to give this guy the room he needs to navigate tight, inter-city streets with sheet metal shredding features at every corner.
Sources: lftdxlvld.com, drivemag.com, motorpoint.com, hotrod.com, speedhunters.com, roadkill.com.