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Tommy Johnson

Marti Stephen

Friday 13 May 2016

The Big Cheese at HOODRATZ Hideout

Tommy Johnson is a founding member of HOODRATZ Alternative Transportation Club a group of custom vehicle builders and artists from Huntington Indiana.

The Big Cheese at HOODRATZ Hideout
Hoodratz member J.R. welding a chopped frame. Photo: Hoodratz

Tommy “Buckshot” Johnson is joking when he says he’s the “big cheese” at HOODRATZ Hideout, but if you look at the things he’s accomplished, he really is a big deal in people’s lives. Best of all, he’s helped folks while pursuing his passion for handbuilding, engineering, art, bikes and customization.

tommy johnson

Tommy Johnson takes his mother on for a trike ride. Photo: Hoodratz

He’s been into mechanics and customization since he was a kid and into his teens. As an adult he founded a small group called HOODRATZ Alternative Transportation Club in 2006. The Huntington, Indiana, group got serious in 2015 and now has its own logo, patches, shirts, etc. Anyone can join, as long as they have a custom ride--from skateboards to buses--and the ride has to be at least 50 percent customized.

Johnson goes beyond customization in his own projects to build creations such as the Hoodrat Rickshaw. His favorite project so far, it’s a mode of transportation built specifically for his mom. She was diagnosed in 2012 with Alzheimers and now lives in a nursing home. Says Johnson, “I had no licence at the time. No way to take her out for dinner, ice cream, to the park or even to my house.” The rickshaw is a Schwinn OCC stretched 38" with a posi-split axle trike rear end with a three-speed hub. It has a “big cushy seat for mom” between the rear wheels.

Tommy Johnson Rickshaw

The custom rickshaw Tommy built for his mother. Photos: Hoodratz

“It was my first mig weld and bodywork done on a bike,” he says. “She loved it. I'd take her all over, jamming Johnny Cash. Sometimes family or friends would ride with us. One day when it was just me ‘n her, she asked ‘Where is everyone? Why don't more people go riding with us?" Johnson is too caring and inventive to leave a question like that hanging, so he organized “A Ride 2 Remember" to benefit people with Alzheimer's. The ride is going on its fourth year.

Tommy Johnson is a backyard builder with a big heart and the itch to be creative in everything he does. He’s involving his children in customization and building so they can ignite their own passion for art, customizing, cars, bikes, painting, building and engineering. He doesn’t want them to “ just sit around playing games.” And he adds, “To know one piece of one custom I've made has inspired one person is amazing to me. I still have no money and a 10th grade education, so seeing people see what I’ve made, and their jaw drops–that really feels great.”

As Tommy’s story clearly shows, for those willing to learn, the school of life can provide a great education.

LINK FOR MOBILE PHONES (if you cannot see the embedded gallery below): 

Hoodratz Photo Gallery