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Heavy Metal Affliction - The Trophy Rat

John Schommer
Thursday, August 3, 2017


Sometimes one person’s faded dreams can become the inspiration for someone else’s vision. Such is the case of Keith Northrup’s Trophy Rat. When an old roommate called up to ask if Northrup would store his basket-case 1937 International Pickup project, he said no, but added that he would come right over and buy it. It turns out that the old truck would provide the cosmetics for a unique build that would do things that other rigs Northrup had owned couldn’t.


Starting with an off-campus class his junior year in high school, Northrup began expanding his skills as a fabricator. His first job at a local fabrication shop started with sweeping floors. After that, he moved on to construction work for nearly a decade where he took fabricating side jobs; sometimes building skate rails for the local bike and skate shop, or custom handrails to complement a remodel project. Something was missing though.



“I felt the need to get more in tune with the car culture in the Seattle area,” Northrup said. So he took a position as a fabricator at Speedware Motorsports (which was featured in one of the early editions of HMA). After, he moved on to Cantrell Motorsports where he was a lead fabricator. ”I would say that Is where my quality and confidence peaked,” he said. Three years later he started NorthrupFab where he builds roll cages and tube frame chassis’ for both on and off-road racecars, as well as dabbling in interior design. That was four years ago and things are going strong.


Over the years Northrup’s ventures in building off-road rigs of his own has grown from an old Toyota he and his brother use to run trails and climb over things with, to building full tube chassis rock crawlers for competition in events like World Extreme Rock Crawling or King of the Hammers. These days you can find he and his brother racing UTVs within the most difficult terrain in the top level ULTRA4 series.



Sure he’s got the skills but what motivated him to build it? “Once I got my hands on the International, I knew I could try to pull off something cool that I could drive around town and have fun with off-road,” Northrup said. It also presented a couple new challenges. First was building his first set of long travel A-arms. Second was chopping the cab a few inches to give it the right look and fit. Add to that the goal of hiding all the tube frame so the rig would just look like a rusty, fenderless, old truck, and you have something that really showcases the work NorthrupFab can do.


The tube chassis was fabricated from the center flat belly out. The roll cage was built inside the cab so it would disappear. The front tube section under the grill and hood was hidden like the rest, leaving just the huge King shocks and A-arms hanging out. The rear shocks are kept under the bed line with the rear section of the tube frame tightly and cleanly out of sight.



The old cab, truck box, and front-end can all be detached with the removal of a handful of bolts. The truck can even be driven in its naked form. The body is essentially just a skin hiding the truly capable trophy truck underneath. Despite its deliberate low-slung appearance, the Trophy Rat sports 14 inches of suspension travel in the front and rear. Coupled with the 35-inch tires, that’s enough to pre-run in the desert, but still civil enough for a Saturday night cruise on the street. (Yes, the Trophy Rat is street legal.)


Also well-hidden under the truck shell is a mildly massaged LS6. Northrup originally scavenged this motor from the scrap heap at Cantrell and started rebuilding it. It is built for reliability rather than being squeezed for all its potential power. Not that 330 horsepower to the rear wheels is weak, but when you are running potentially hundreds of miles from the closest service, dependability is more important than a few more ponies. Keep in mind this is not a race truck, although wouldn’t it be cool to see it race in something like the Mint 400?



One of Northrup’s current goals is to get back into the driver’s seat, get some factory sponsors, and make racing a full-time job. Right now his shop is putting together a new ULTRA4 buggy for Jason Blanton Racing. It’s a four-wheel-drive 900 horsepower rock crawler with 24 inches of suspension travel up front and 30 in the back. “It should be a fun car, and really loud,” Northrup said.


The Trophy Rat was the first venture into building a full-custom rig for Northrup but, based on the attention it has received and my personal impressions, he is on the right track. The only thing he plans to change is the rear sway bar location. “Overall, I think it came out perfect for my first one,” Northrup said, “I can make my changes on the next one.”


There are so many trick features in this ride. Some that you see, most others that you feel; all have a common intent to present the old rusty truck well while being able to take on any terrain. Think about it and Northrup has really created an amazing nexus, bringing rat rod culture together with trophy truck capability with a touch of street ability that neither of the former are notorious for. Notoriety is also a goal for the patina’d project, and the quality of this build is getting NothrupFab noticed.