Kenny Hauk of Haük Designs never builds anything normal. Instead, he lets his imagination run wild so that he can create the most unique builds on the planet. His Project Phoίnix Wrangler JK and WWII warbird-styled Tomahauk Jeep were one-of-a-kind creations that garnered national attention from automotive and off-road enthusiasts. Now he’s back with what has to be his magnum opus, pièce de résistance, tour de force and simply put - his masterpiece. Named “Rock Rat,” his newest creation is a Jeep like no other. Taking influences from the rat rod culture, the Steampunk scene and some Mad Max movies, the Rock Rat blew people away when it was revealed at the 2015 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, NV.
Author: Kristie Bertucci | Photography: Dale Martin & Eric Warrenlftdxlvld.com
“We love the rat rod scene and the creative designs we have been seeing in that segment of the car world. We thought it would be cool to mix a rock crawler with a rat rod inspired Willys CJ2A. Something that we could slam down low for cruising around town and then lift up with a little nitrogen and take it off-road.”
The project vehicle is based on a reproduction 1947 Willy’s CJ2A body from Omix-ADA and has been chopped and stretched to fit a modified YJ frame. “The Willys is where offroading began. So what better vehicle to show our love for offroading heritage and blow people’s minds than a cool custom rat rod rock crawler?” The Willys CJ2A was the first mass-produced Jeep created for civilians back in 1945, which was first inspired by World War II model MB vehicles.
Hauk started out with a rough rendering to get a basic idea of how it would look, but things kept evolving in the midst of the actual build. Once he received the body, he realized it was too small for everything he wanted to add and proceeded to stretch it only to find that the engine and transmission didn’t fit the frame rails. Over the course of three months, the rendering saw several revisions to get everything just right.
He also knew that he wanted to go with a Cummins diesel to power his project, so he called his friends at Industrial Injections and Turbonetics - who are world-renowned for their diesel engines and performance- to help them build their old 12V that they pulled out of an old school bus. Now, it produces just over 700 hp and 1,200 ft.-lb. of torque. Power is routed to a TH400 transmission before hitting its NP205 Transfer Case, where it’s then split to an Auburn-locked Dana 60 front axle and an Auburn Gear-locked 14-bolt rear axle, Hauk explains.
Allowing it to traverse over rough terrain is its custom Synergy and Steinjäger suspension which allows 14” travel, ORI STX Struts and Super Industrial rebuildable ball joints from Rare Parts, as well as its 44” Pit Bull Tires on B.A.D. Beadlock wheels - all linked together with J.E. Reel driveshafts. A complete Red Neck Ram hydraulic assist steering setup from West Texas Offroad was fitted and helps it easily maneuver on the trails.
The Rock Rat is covered in detail such as the custom HID Projectors headlights that feature etched skull logos which add to its intricate detail and give it that bad look. Other vintage parts from the likes of semi trucks, tractors, firetrucks and airplanes have found a new purpose on this Rock Rat, too. The windshield glass is actually repurposed safety glass from an old house that was being torn down, while the unique center console features 120 feet of steel round bar, a well pump handle shifter and some old switches from a 1960s fire truck.
The tailgate is a custom bead-rolled piece that fits the old vintage Willys look and materials for the interior was cut at a local saw mill. According to Hauk, during the sawing process, the band saw blade broke, so he just used it as part of the trim that can be seen in several spots on the 1947 Willys body. But Hauk’s favorite highlights are the vintage looking Kicker Audio system built by Sounds So Good Audio from Waynesboro, PA; the one-of-kind hand-built ram skull steering wheel and the “wormy maple wood” interior that gives it that Mad Max feel.
The outcome is a head-turning machine that’s built for any apocalyptic world. “I was really surprised at the overwhelmingly positive response from people who have seen the build,” Hauk says. “People love all the little details we squeezed in all over this thing. The Willys guys, the 4x4 guys, the rat rod guys - they all seem to dig it.
Now there will always be some purists who will hate anything new or different because it doesn't fit into their mold or classification, but honestly they can keep living under that boring rock while we keep innovating and creating. To date, this has been the most popular build we have done. I think it is because it reaches out to people from all sides of the car and truck world.”
Hauk’s creations don’t just look good, and his Rock Rat was more than capable of dominating off-road. “Surprisingly we found a nice compromise that still performs really well off-road and is fun to cruise around on the streets.” Since Hauk was thrilled with the results, he’s actually looking to build a few more rides with a similar theme. Now, it’s touring the country, “blowing smoke, burning rubber and scaring small children.”