From Rat Bikes to Jet Cars: An Interview with Spud Innit

When I first hatched the idea of creating the Aftermath event website with helpful interviews featuring some of the most prominent people in the Wasteland scene, Spud Innit topped the list of car builders I knew I had to feature. He has built some of my personal favorites out at Wasteland Weekend, and has been an integral part of the annual California event itself.

Not only is custom car building a passion of Spud’s, but it’s also his career. Current owner of Lord Spud’s Motorcycle Emporium, and former owner of S&M Customs in England, Spud has been building Mad Max style rat bikes and vehicles since he was 17 years old.

“When I first started out all I really had to work with was a hacksaw and a hammer,” he recalled. “But I’ve gotten smarter about it now.”

Spud has been featured in Awol Magazine at the age of 18 with several other published features under his belt since. When he moved from England to California, he brought his love of all things ratty along with him. And then he discovered Wasteland Weekend.

“When I first joined the event I was part of a very talented group of people building set pieces for the event, including the stage, main gates, Atomic Café, and Wastey the Crane. During the last few years I have had the opportunity to branch back into building vehicles and have done many bikes and cars.”

It’s these vehicles that have gained Spud more nation-wide attention as Wasteland Weekend’s – and the post-apocalyptic genre’s in general – popularity has exploded. So I asked Spud to describe his most notable vehicles that have been showcased at Wasteland Weekend.

“Screwloose: This massive people mover is a tribute truck built after Max’s camel truck in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome,” he said. “It started life as a 1987 Ford F250 diesel that was owned by our good friend Matthew Nelson, a member of Deathguild who approached us to build the truck in 2015. We stripped it of all the body work but the cab and set to work building a custom steel exoskeleton with long bench seats running down either side where the bed used to be. It has four removable steel ribs which support the canvas shade that covers the back of the vehicle, giving it that iconic ‘covered wagon’ look. We then found 36 15×15.5 flotation tires to carry this behemoth across the desert. This required extensive work on the truck to get them to fit. It is now an unstoppable, all-terrain people mover, and carries our camp mates across the desert at both Burning Man and Wasteland Weekend. Screwloose took “Best Survival Vehicle” at the Wasteland World Car Show in 2016.

“Rapture: What looks like an unassuming, flat black golf cart, is really a roaring beast on four wheels. Underneath the golf cart body work is the motor and full suspension of a Raptor 660 quad. The motor is held in place by custom fabricated motor mounts, and it may well be the fastest and scariest golf cart that ever was. (Seriously, somebody is probably going to get injured on this thing someday). Rapture also boasts a custom fabricated shifter by Cupcake and my own custom steering wheel and controls.

“The Widowmaker, aka Loophole: A two-person stand-up scooter with 25-inch ATV tires. It is run by an 80cc Honda Elite scooter motor, which has had the gear box removed, my own custom driveline, and has been converted to run on propane. (Dinosaur farts!) My wife did all the cosmetic welding, most notably the steel spider-webbed floorboard. An ammo can on the side provides counterweight against the motor for balance, and also holds the battery and propane canister, along with 2 spare canisters. Loophole took first place in the Puddle Jumper category at Wasteland Weekend 2016.

“Lockjaw: A 1957 Chevy Bel Air, which has been mounted on a shortened 1996 1500 Silverado Chassis. (We cut 26 inches out of it!) This rust riddled monster boasts 42-inch super swamper tires on the back, and 37s on the front, giving it an aggressive rake, reminiscent of the vehicles in ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’. We removed the trunk lid and welded in a reinforced standing platform in the back, perfect for screaming ferals to hurl thundersticks from, and threw a nice cushy futon in as a back seat. (Soon to be replaced by the bench seat out of an old Suburban). The electronics and fuel injection were immediately removed to keep it as simple as possible and replaced with a two-barrel carburetor and HEI distributor. This vehicle goes to Burning Man as well as Wasteland Weekend, and playa has a notorious reputation for ruining electronics. It also boasts twin vertical exhaust stacks, and a custom tunnel ram. Like Rapture, it has a signature custom steering wheel and shifter, along with a custom steering column and Blazer seats. We co-own this baby with Nathan Cox of Deathguild, and while she made her debut and was well-received at Wasteland Weekend 2016, we are not done with her yet. Lady Ares has been planning some aesthetic upgrades in conjunction with Nathan Cox, and plans have her completely finished by Wasteland Weekend 2017.

“The most notable bike would be Beastie, a custom GPZ700 survival bike built for my good friend Doug Corbin. It’s my signature style that has followed me from England, with wide bars, a huge fuel tank, low seat, and knobbly ATV tires. It is built to go anywhere, anytime, and has no issues with any kind of terrain. Beastie won ‘Best Technical Motorcycle’ at the first ever Wasteland World Car Show in 2016.

“Maggie O’Monster is a pair of Suzuki GSX600s welded side-by-side and electronically synchronized to power a custom-built dual-sport chassis. Nothing on this vehicle is stock. From the suspension, to the brakes, to the steering, every inch of this vehicle was fabricated from scratch. She seats two but does have a standing platform directly behind the passenger and driver’s seats. It was built in conjunction with Matthew Jane, who is also part of the Wasteland Weekend build crew.”

Despite these award-winning masterpieces, Spud plans to ramp it up even further for this year’s Wasteland Weekend. The agenda includes serious upgrades to the Mutt (a former Wasteland Weekend vehicle currently owned by members of the Deathguild), several new bikes (including one with a sidecar), the ultimate post-apocalyptic work truck made from his own “trusted and beloved” Chevy dually, and… a jetcar.

“The jet car is being built around a jet engine. It is a Marborough MK 5, which produces 880 foot-lbs of thrust at full throttle (also drinks 18 gallons of fuel a minute). Lord Spud’s Motorcycle Emporium: speeding through the apocalypse in style!”

Photo by Fantasies Muse Photography

At this point, I asked Spud about Wasteland cars that he admires but didn’t build himself. “It would have to be Cupcake’s Banshee,” he told me, referring to Thomas “Cupcake” McElroy’s 1967 Ford Mustang. “That Mustang is the standard of post-apocalyptic perfection. Everything from the build quality, to its functionality, reliability, and aesthetic appeal, is the example I give everybody who asks ‘What makes a good PA car?’ My wife affectionately refers to it as ‘sex on wheels’ and drools over it constantly.”

And with all of his years of experience, knowledge, and creativity in this field, I just had to find out what kind of advice he would give to others looking to turn their own car into something worthy of the apocalypse.

“If you insist on turning your daily driver into a wasteland vehicle, my advice to you is this: think practicality, both for the future apocalypse and now,” he advised. “For example, keep your vehicle road legal. This eliminates having to haul it to events on a trailer, which after a while can get very, very tedious. And probably most importantly, keep the doors on! It’s the apocalypse. What better way for a raider to steal your ride than to shoot you right through the side of your open vehicle? Doors also provide valuable protection from the elements, which believe me, you won’t realize until they are gone.”

I want to give a special thanks to Spud for this wonderful interview, which I hope helps a few of you with your own vehicles. Next up on the car-builder interview agenda is the Godfather of the Wasteland himself, Ron Griffith. Look for that interview coming soon!

Cover photo by Mark Matcho.