Leonard Erdman, 56, a manager of auto body shops and of the service department at Melloy Dodge in Albuquerque, N.M., on his custom 1952 “Joker” Ford pickup, as told to A.J. Baime.
I have lived in Albuquerque my whole life. We have a huge car culture here. Lowriders, customs, hot rods—you see everything. You can see $100,000 show cars, but I don’t build cars like that. I build custom cars to drive.
My first one was a 1931 Ford roadster. I built a 1928 Ford Model A, an old-school hot rod. Then one day in 2016 a friend showed me this rat rod—which is a beat-up hot rod of sorts—built out of a 1952 Ford pickup. It was in rough shape. There was rust on every panel, the bed had no floor, the glass was in bad shape, the tailgate was welded shut, and the front wheels came off of some other random car. The doors had holes in them big enough that you could stick your hand right through.
I felt that the truck had good bones, however, so I bought it in May 2016 for $7,000. It was a little expensive because it was already chopped, meaning the roof had been lowered, and it had air-bag suspension so it could lower and raise itself.