"Rat rod" project teaches life lessons to young men

Nov. 18, 2013 @ 04:05 PM

Building a truck from scratch was no big deal to Wayne Anderson. Shoot, he built a car from scratch 18 years ago — when he was still in high school.
But the truck Anderson just completed, casually referred to as a “rat rod,” isn’t so much about Anderson. It’s more about the young men who worked with him on the project for the past eight months, learning a lot about auto mechanics — and life — in the process.
Anderson, who attends the Life On Lexington church on E. Lexington Avenue, used the project as an outreach ministry for several young men between the ages of 15 and 26, most of whom live in the low-income neighborhood where the church is located.
“I used this project to share the Gospel,” Anderson explains.
“The definition of a ‘rat rod’ is that it’s not finished — it’s all ratty and rusted and unpainted. The whole idea is to put together a bunch of old junk parts and put a new engine in it. It’s just like when Christ takes a person that society says is an addict or a homeless person. Society pushes those people aside, but God gets a hold of them and they’re a new creation. They’re still the same person, but with a new engine — a new heart.”
The project began around March. Every Sunday after church, Anderson would bring several young men to his workshop just outside of High Point, where they would grill hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch and then work on the rat rod for a few hours.
“They did most of the work,” he says. “I just gave them instructions on what to do.”
It took a while before the young men could actually see the rat rod taking shape. For the longest time, they just saw a bunch of parts, some of which Anderson already had, others that he purchased cheaply from Craigslist: A Chevy Camaro front end. A Chevy engine and transmission. A cab from a 1952 Ford F1 truck. Front fenders from a 1947 Ford truck. A seat from a 1936 Plymouth car.
“I could see what the finished product would be,” Anderson says, “but they just saw it as a bunch of junk that we should’ve taken to the scrap yard. Then, about the time we put the body on the frame, they started getting excited because they could see the progress.”
Furthermore, as the work progressed, several young men took to heart Anderson’s message about how the rat rod project was similar to the message of Christianity.
“Along the way, six of them came to Christ,” he says. “If just one did it, it would’ve served its purpose, but six of them did.”
The young men say the project was a real eye-opening experience.
“I really didn’t know anything about putting a car together — that’s when Wayne came up with the idea to do the rat rod project,” says Willie Adams, 19.
“I have seen so many people come to Christ, and it’s been such a great learning experience for me, because I plan on being a mechanic. I had already accepted Christ, and then it became a missionary project. I know so much more about cars than I did before it started.”
The other participants were Richard Squires, Codee Jones, Rodrick Quick, Shaterious Wilson, Shaquan McManus, Kendrize Hayes, Bryan Lewis, Kevin McMillan and Dominique Young.
Anderson, a 1996 graduate of T. Wingate Andrews High School, says the rat rod will be street-legal once he gets license tags for it. He and the young men plan to take the vehicle to various rat rod shows, he says.
jtomlin@hpe.com | 888-3579