Thursday, April 25, 2024


The industrious and hard-working people who cultivate our land as primary producers are never short of grey matter when it comes to innovation and initiative. It’s been ingrained in them for generations. Their remoteness remains an environment that is governed by a ‘make do with you’ve got’ mindset.  Ducking out to the shop to grab a thingamajig to fix the whatchamacallit is not an option.

Joe Tibbles has grown up in these surroundings on a farm near Tarpeena, in the deep south of South Australia. He’s been swinging spanners with his dad since he could walk and driving anything with wheels as soon as he could reach the pedals. When 2011 rolled around, Joe was 17 and working towards finishing his secondary schooling at Grant High School in Mt Gambier. As part of his studies he had to undertake a project of at least 120 hours, including photographing and documenting all aspects. The above attributes melded with his passion for rat rods saw him formulate a project plan, the likes of which had never been seen before. While not rejected, the teacher didn’t believe he could do it, let alone within the six month timeframe. That was the fuel. 

In terms of raw materials, decades of farming provided him with almost everything he needed. Playing garden gnome in one paddock was what would become the foundation for the project, an early 70’s Dodge truck. The property was also littered with Deutz irrigation pumps of varying ages, condition and working order. There were five that had been cast aside following replacement and Joe figured one would be perfect for truck motivation. This, more than anything, fitted his scope priority, and that was to build a rat rod with a difference. That’s cool, but where do you even begin contemplating powering your rat rod with an irrigation pump? Refer paragraph one.

When Joe had to choose from the five potential candidates, he simply went with the biggest! The fact it was seized didn’t deter him. He changed the oil, cranked it over with a crowbar, got some fuel into it and away it went. These engines sit on their own stand, so instead of removing it from the stand and trying to mount it into the truck chassis, Joe and dad Maurice just cut off the front of the truck chassis and attached the Deutz engine, stand and all, to it. The diff was bolted to the top of the chassis instead of underneath as a simplistic way to achieving its intimate relationship with terra-firma, while the original Dodge front steering and brakes were refitted.

This of course left the burning question; how to get the power of the Duetz irrigation pump to the Dodge diff – the former has nothing that resembles a gearbox. Once again, refer paragraph one. Laying around on the workshop floor was a five speed gearbox from a Rodeo. They made their own adaptor plate, cross-member and tail shaft in order to get it moving under its own steam. Lastly, the roof was chopped a massive 11.5 inches which necessitated it being stretched about 6 inches in each direction. In true rat-rod style there’s no putty, no glass, no guards, no material and no care factor for any of it. 

It took Joe about 6 months of work after school and on weekends, the cumulative time of which more than doubled the project scope but it was presented on time and passed with flying colours. A grade however was largely irrelevant, far more rewarding has been the constant and overwhelming intrigue and interest shown by the general public at events like Chopped. Even at a show full of mechanically-minded revheads, the enquiries as to what type of engine it is are continuous. If Joe had a buck for every time he’s had to say Duetz irrigation pump, he’d be well on the way to funding his CM Valiant build.

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