Sedgwick man builds working vehicle out of junk

Roger Regehr of Sedgwick sits inside the “rat barrow” he built out of miscellaneous items he's collected over the past two years. Regehr finished the project a couple weeks ago and was showing it off at the Bentley Car Show, last Sunday.

By Jared Janzen

SEDGWICK—One man’s trash is another man’s…means of transportation.

Over the past couple of weeks, Roger Regehr of Sedgwick has been putting the finishing touches on a working vehicle that he’s assembled out of miscellaneous parts and pieces of junk.

“It’s one of a kind,” he said.

It all began with the front end of an old tractor that Regehr bought for five bucks in Newton.

“That’s kind of where it all started,” he said. “Then, for a year-and-a-half or two years, I just started gathering up parts. I didn’t know what it was going to be.”

Roger Regehr demonstrates how to operate his rat barrow. The homemade vehicle actually runs and can reach speeds of 25-30 miles per hour.

He calls the finished product a rat barrow. Regehr follows some Facebook groups of other people who’ve build vehicles like this, which he used as a bit of inspiration during his building process.

“So, I had the wheelbarrow and I just started building,” he said.

He turned his wheelbarrow into the cockpit and part of the dashboard. The gas tank is made from an old fire extinguisher and the floorboard is made from some old street signs.

“It’s just stuff I’ve gathered up and stuff I’ve found,” he said.

The transmission comes from a ’76 International Club Cadet, while the motor is a Predator 212. The steering mechanism comes from a golf cart. The half dozen gauges on the dashboard don’t actually work. They’re just pieces he salvaged from North 81 Tractor Salvage. The lights, blinkers and horn on his vehicle do work, however.

The seat is an old lawn chair that Regehr estimated was at least 50 years old from his garage. He had to cut about 4 inches out of its width so it would fit. He added springs beneath the seat to improve the comfort with suspension.

“It’s real comfortable,” he said.

Attached to the front end is a small tackle box that he said he used to carry down to the river when he was seven or eight years old. Now he keeps some tools in there in case the rat barrow breaks down when he’s out and about.

“Building something like this, stuff’s going to fall off. Stuff’s not going to work,” he said. “You just have to go back through and do a little re-doing.”

One of his trial-and-error discoveries was that 16-inch front wheels wouldn’t hold up.

“I went out behind the shop and started doing donuts,” he said. “About the third one, all the spokes broke out and the front wheels fell off. Then I had these 20-inch wheels, so I put them on, but they ain’t no better, so I don’t do donuts no more.”

The hood ornament comes from an old tractor-pull trophy in memory of his late friend, Duane “Shorty” McGinn of rural Halstead.

The rat wagon uses a fire extinguisher as a gas tank. Its taillights are held in place by beer cans and decorative brass pieces from a fireplace.

Eventually, he’d like to add some custom painting to the sides.

Regehr was showing his rat barrow off in public for the first time last Sunday at the Bentley Car Show, where he won in the Hot Wheels category.

“I just got it done, more or less, a couple weeks ago,” he said. “First off, I had the guys out there following me around on the golf cart, so they could pick up all the stuff falling off of it.”

Now that the rat barrow is up and running, Regehr said folks in and around Sedgwick can probably expect to see him out and about in it from time to time.

Building the rat barrow has been like therapy for Regehr during retirement, he said. He estimated that he’s spent around $300 on parts for the vehicle.

“I build stuff all the time,” he said. “This is the first time I ever built anything like this. Probably ain’t going to be my last. I’ve already got some dreams for some new stuff.”

One of those ideas is to build a vehicle out of a bathtub.

Regehr said his son in Valley Center is also working to build a rat barrow and so is his son’s friend in Andover. Eventually, they want to build a track to drive their contraptions on.

“I ain’t racing though,” he said. “I’ll be like the pace car.”

He can reach speeds of about 25-30 miles per hour in his rat barrow.

“It’s fast enough when you’re sitting on the ground,” he said.

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