Terry’s American Dream

Pictured is a rendered drawing of the ‘American Dream’ Austin Terry will build for his entry into the 2020 International Radical Rod Build-Off / Drive Off. The Build-Off will begin Jan. 1, 2020, and end with a Drive Off in Nov. 2020 from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Las Vegas, Nevada, where the entries will meet at the SEMA Show and be judged by the builders. (Photo provided)

Austin Terry, owner of Austin’s Automotive in Shenandoah, has been selected to build a car for the 2020 International Radical Rod Build-Off Drive Off (IRRBODO).

The International Radical Rod Build-Off Drive Off was formed in 2016 by Bryan Dagel after he attended the 2015 SEMA Show in Las Vegas for the first time with a 1935 Chevy Sedan. Dagel and a few friends said the Rat Rod scene needed more traction and came up with the idea of a build-off where the builders would drive their cars to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The SEMA Show is a premier automotive specialty products trade event with exhibitors and new product showcase that features new parts, tools and components.

Each year builders apply and are approved and selected by the staff to be part of a 10-month build off that wraps up with a 1,400-mile drive in November from Lincoln, Nebraska, to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas.

“Just because you apply doesn’t mean you will be selected,” said Austin. “It’s by invitation only.”

Austin explained the application process includes photos of work and pre-screening questions.

Builds that successfully make the drive to Las Vegas, Nevada, are judged by the builders themselves to select the winning build. Builders are not allowed to vote for their own car.

Builders can begin working for the 2020 event Jan. 1, 2020, and will be given until the end of October to complete.

“It’s tough that I can’t start now because I’m pumped, I’m ready, and I want to work on it,” said Austin. “We will have a little over 10-months to build this car and it’s start to finish from raw body frame to completely done.”

Builders will meet in Lincoln, Nebraska, at Speedway Motors before driving their vehicles 1,400 miles to Las Vegas in November to the SEMA Show.

“You’ve got to prove you can build a car in 10-months and then prove that its roadworthy and able to be driven down the road at highway speeds,” said Austin.

Austin finds it fascinating that builders from all over the world enter this event.

“You meet other builders with the same skill set, and you just drive off,” said Austin. “It blows my mind that halfway around the world, the same things are going on.”

Austin said they had the opportunity to talk with the builders from this year’s event while they were at the 2019 SEMA Show.

“They’re super nice people,” said Austin. “They said, in the beginning, it was all about winning the competition.”

Austin said they told him toward the end, however, it became about being a part of a family and winning or losing took the back seat.

“I’m excited for that,” said Austin. “To meet people from different parts of the country and world.”

Kayla said it is unique to build those connections with people halfway across the world and said the cars are a universal language.

In the past, builders entering the contest did a lot of heavy metalwork and left them as rat rods.

A Rat rod is a custom car with an unfinished appearance usually left unpainted.

The build off is now leaving the Rat Rod scene and going Radical. They are challenging the builders to come up with something radical and heavily modified that shows craftsmanship.

“They want you to show your skills, and they want you to challenge yourself,” said Austin.

Austin and Kayla attended the 2019 SEMA Show this month to begin making contacts with potential sponsorships for their build. They talked to more than 200 businesses and their next step will be to come up with sponsorship proposals. Having parts and products on these radical builds is good testing grounds and good promotion for the sponsors.

While Terry's are not too concerned now about getting sponsors for their build, they said it was important to start making contacts and have a plan ready for Jan. 1 when the build begins.

Austin will be starting his build with a 1940 Dodge four-door sedan. A rendered drawing of his vision for the vehicle was a requirement for the build off.

“This is the first time I’ve ever built a vehicle off of some kind of plan, I guess,” said Austin. “I mean, it’s all my ideas, and I told him everything I wanted. Usually I just kind of work by the fly. This is amazing that I’m this far away from a build, and I’ve nailed down a paint color because I usually go through a hundred different paint colors before I ever paint something.”

Austin said he wants the finished product to look like it came out of the late 1960s drag race but plans to use a modern transmission and brakes. To do this, he said they would cut the back half of the vehicle off, build a frame and box.

“So we’re going for a late 60s style gasser,” said Austin. “It’s not going to be 100% period correct. We’re going to modernize things that they didn’t have back in the 60’s for drag cars.”

Austin purchased the 1940 Dodge a year ago and intended to turn it into a gasser pick up eventually.

“Sometimes, it’s just not possible to build my own cars whenever I want,” said Austin. “So when we got invited into this, that was my motivation.”

Austin finds the challenge of building the gasser pickup intriguing but says he is really looking forward to drive off with all the guys and their cars. After the event, Austin said this is one build he has done that he plans on keeping.

The couple both said the challenge is not building the car itself but making it durable enough to withstand the road and make it the 1,400 miles to Las Vegas.

Austin explains that even though 10 months sounds like a long time, it takes some people he has known years to build a car. He said in this instance, he not only has to build it in 10 months but make sure it is ready for the road as well.

He said even if someone has a brand new car, they would have concerns about driving it 1,400 miles away from home.

With the time limitation on the build, Austin and Kayla are thankful they have family, friends and employees that are willing to help them.

“Yes, it will be a lot of hours,” said Austin. “But when it’s something you really want to do and enjoy doing, it’s not really work. It’s more fun. Building old cars is just something I truly enjoy. Everyone has their own hobby, and this is my hobby.”

Austin feels everything happens for a reason, and their application wouldn’t have been accepted if he wasn’t meant to do the build right now.

“The good Lord has a plan for all of us,” said Austin. “We wouldn’t have gotten accepted if we weren’t going to be able to do it.”

Austin said he will be putting a Super Charge 3D3 Chrysler engine in the pickup and is hoping for 700-800 horsepower in the engine. He said with this motor, he expects the gas mileage to be three to five miles per gallon.

The couple plan to have a support vehicle along on the 1,400-mile drive to Las Vegas that will be carrying gas tanks. They said it is necessary with the gas mileage they are anticipating with the vehicle because gas stops with the group are only planned every 200 miles.

“I think it’s going to be really fun,” said Austin. “It’s a long drive, and that’s the challenge of it. I want to be able to build something and say I drove it to Vegas.”

Kayla added that they were going to put all their skills to the test.

Austin and Kayla plan to have a YouTube channel where they will be documenting the build from start to finish.

“I’m going to cut this car in half, and a lot of people don’t know how this works,” said Austin. “I think it’s going to be kind of neat for people to see how I get to that end product instead of just showing them a before and after picture.”

Austin said he roughly figured up how much the parts and supplies he needed for the build would cost. He came up with a total that did not include labor of about $100,000.

“We appreciate anyone that wants to be a sponsor,” said Austin.

Those interested in assisting Austin can contact him at 712-215-2530.

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