South Texas Performance begins national build-off competition

By Bianca Montes , Bianca Montes

By Bianca Montes , Bianca Montes
Aug. 14, 2014 at 7:36 p.m.
Updated Aug. 15, 2014 at 1:01 a.m.

When Darrell Heibel set his eyes on a set of tires made for an 18-wheeler trailer, he instantly knew what to do with them.

Heibel and his crew were selected to compete in the Rat Hard 2014 Great American Blue Collar Build-Off, a national contest that challenges car lovers to rebuild and restore a rat rod in 30 days, spending no more than $3,000.

As the only Texas team in the competition, Heibel knew immediately he wanted a truck that knew how to represent the Lone Star State, and said the larger-than-life tires inspired an "everything's bigger in Texas" theme.

The Victoria-based team, which consists of Heibel, his wife, Jennifer, and twin uncles, Ronald and Donald Heinold - along with the support of family and friends - were selected to compete in the build-off in February and have spent the last several months gathering scraps and the body of the rat rod.

They are team South Texas Performance, a company the Heibels own in Victoria.

"You don't really choose the parts," Jennifer Heibel said. "It's more like you go out and buy a truck for its engine and then scrap the parts to buy things you need. This contest isn't about how much chrome you can buy and stick on a car for $3,000. It is about putting your own personality into the build and not spending a ton of money."

Inside their shop on Southwest Moody Street, the team put their life and business on hold Wednesday, delving into the project. The first item on the agenda was the tires and then building a frame.

That was the easy part, they said. Thursday, they tore out some old, rotten floor boards and chiseled out new flooring with a large sheet metal panel. So far, the team is spending about 12 hours a day rebuilding the rat rod, a shift that'll probably increase during the next 30 days.

The group will leave Victoria on Sept. 11 to begin its 900-mile haul to St. Louis, where they'll join 11 other teams for a tour to Lebanon, Tenn. Along the way, Heibel said they'll keep fans up-to-date on their Facebook page, encouraging people to come out and hang along the way.

"Not being in St. Louis by the due date is not an option for us," Jennifer Heibel said. "Not finishing isn't an option - this is what we do."

Darrell Heibel, who's been working with cars for almost a decade, said it's unusual to rebuild a rat rod in 30 days - a task he said typically would take a year - but he plans to do whatever it takes.

"It's a lot of pressure," he said, "but I just want to represent Texas to the fullest."



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