How low can you go?

Its headlights held in place with tape, it looks like a rusting old heap fit only for the scrap yard. But don’t be fooled – this 1959 Chevrolet pick-up truck hides beneath its battered shell some of the most advanced engineering this side of the Atlantic. And it’s all being custom-made at a small workshop in Guyhirn, home to arguably the UK’s
leading custom car specialists Rayvern Hydraulics.

When complete, the Chevy will retain its down-at-heel appearance alongside the altogether more polished creations of owner Ray Ramsay, who started working on street rods in the USA 20 years ago.

“It’s called the ‘rat look’ and it’s all the rage at the moment,” said the 45-year-old. “You get the oldest, rustiest looking thing you can and keep it that way, but underneath it’s got massively high-spec engineering.” Ultimately, the Chevy will sit as low to the ground as the unrecognisable Kia Sorrento, Mazda pick-up and VW Jetta, plus the body-dropped Chrysler 300C that Ray says he hasn’t driven for three years.

And it’s the public’s thirst for evermore low-slung cars and trucks that keeps the Rayvernworkshops busy all year round. The secret is in the suspension which, powered either by air or hydraulic systems, can raise or drop the car at the flick of a switch. “Everyone wants the lowest car – it’s like a competition to see how far you can go,” said
Ray. “It’s a statement – how low can you go? If you ask why, it’s like asking why you need a 52 inch television when you’re sitting six feet in front of it.

“We can build them so that they literally sit on the road. You just flick a switch and it lifts it and brings it up to a normal driveable height. You can get some funny looks if you do it at traffic lights.” For a little over £2000, fans of the lowrider culture can leave their humble Vauxhall Corsa or VW Golf in Ray and his team’s hands and pick it up a week later, complete with kerb-grazing bodywork.

For the past 10 years, Ray has been closely linked with specialist insurance provider Adrian Flux, based at King’s Lynn, who insure all of his cars. “People do need to remember that as soon as they modify their car their standard insurance
policies are invalid, so it’s a really useful connection for me to have,” he said. Rayvern cars have been featured on Top Gear, Men and Motors, the Big Breakfast and Sky Sports, as well as in a Kit Kat TV advert and pictured in catalogues for River Island and Ben Sherman.

As well as the cars pictured, Ray has worked on an Aston Martin Lagonda, a McLaren F1 road car which needed suspension work to help it over London speed bumps, and even a body-dropped Reliant Robin.

“I like to do different and crazy stuff, something a bit weird and diverse,” he explained. “The Sorrento was the first Kia in the world that had been body dropped, and we were also the first to drop a brand new Chrysler 300C.” And that skeleton of a vehicle with the “under construction” sign? A rock-climbing monster truck for a wealthy American costing an eventual £100,000. That’s definitely crazy, and a little bit weird.

To see more from Rayvern you can visit their website:

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