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A different kind of car ‘restoration’

Most people use their voice, or perhaps a pen, to tell their story. Not Rob Honeycutt.
Instead, Honeycutt tells his life story through his car — a vintage 1951 Chevrolet Styleline 2-door that he has named the ‘BR-51.’
“Jonesborough’s known for storytelling and this is my storyboard,” Honeycutt said, pointing to the vehicle. “I just pieced it together into a collage.”
Considered a ‘Rat Rod,’ which is a car that is generally stripped down to the bare bones and then suited up to match the owner’s attitude on life, Honeycutt’s low-riding BR-51 boasts a rust color that makes an ‘in your face’ statement right up front.
“Rat Rods can be built out of all kinds of things and they don’t have to be shiny. There can be rust, and it’s definitely a cheaper form of the traditional Hot Rod, and maybe a little more original,” said Honeycutt, a Johnson City native and graduate of Science Hill High School. “Rat Rods are the opposite of Hot Rods. They go against the grain.”
Honeycutt’s car has no siblings — it’s a one-of-a-kind, wacky work of art that you can’t look at without taking a second glance.
Powered by a 350 Chevy engine, it is carefully distressed and rusted clean through in some places, but that’s not from neglect. Virtually no surface on the BR-51 has been left untouched, adding a certain patina to what appears to be rust.
Two surfboards, one with a big bite taken out of it (Honeycutt tells people a catfish did it) adorn the roof of the car, and there are cane fishing poles with lures attached to the sides.
“I like to tell folks it’s a Hillbilly Surfer because my wife is from Florida and I’m from Tennessee,” he said. “I brought her up here and turned her into a hillbilly.”
A surfer doll riding a wooden wave that looks for all the world like the tail of a dragon, serves as the hood ornament, and a metal cluster of wheat taken from a defunct coffee table found in a dump is planted where the radio’s antenna used to be.
All of the lettering and artwork on the car’s exterior was done by hand with a spray can, right down to its Hillbilly Surfer Shop logo, which is an extremely stylized adaptation of a Mountain Dew soda label.
Meanwhile, the interior is classic tacky with hibiscus floral print side panels, and burlap feed sacks, purchased on EBay, for seat covers. Hawaiian hula dolls dance in the rear window and a comic painted piece of bamboo sits on a venerable wooden glider in the back.
“It didn’t have a back seat and I thought a glider would be fun,” Honeycutt said. “That was (a friend’s) grandmother’s porch glider. I used all of it – I like to recycle.”
Just like all the flavor he’s added to his Chevy ‘51, Honeycutt named his unique car after much thought and research.
“I was going through some old Science Hill annuals from ’49, ’50 and ’51, and found out there was a Sievers Bakery here with a ‘BR’ telephone number, and then the ’51 is for the year of the car,” he explained. “Of course, there’s Jr. Samples’ BR-549 number from the old Hee Haw TV show, and then there’s Bad Rat, or Big Rob or Bad Rob . . .”
Honeycutt said he enjoys doing “the opposite of what most folks would do” when it comes to restoring old cars.
“You can’t be stuck-up drivin’ a car like this,” he said. “I think the most fun I’ve had with it was at Daytona Beach when I got to drive it on the beach. There’s five thousand cars down there. I can park it next to a mint condition Corvette and the crowds will be around the BR-51 because there’s only one of these. My wife says it’s almost embarrassing the crowds that gather around it.”