Audiences love “The Beverly Hillbillies” in large part thanks to the Clampett family: Uncle Jed, Granny, Elly May, and Jethro. Another equally important “character,” however, is the pickup they use to tool around Beverly Hills. Not only was it custom-made for the show, but you can still see it today if you take a trip to Branson, Mo.
The Swamp Rat
“The Beverly Hillbillies” pickup, affectionately known as “The Swamp Rat,” was a 1921 Oldsmobile Model 43-A roadster with a 43-horsepower, four-cylinder engine. If you bought this then-midlevel sedan directly from the factory, it cost $1,445.
Custom car designer extraordinaire George Barris was tasked with building a vehicle suitable for the Clampetts. He found the ’21 Olds behind a Fontana, Calif., feed store. It was already weathered and lacked a back end, but Barris was fine with that.
Barris also designed Jethro’s “Hot Rod Truck” seen in a seventh-season episode. Tired of the Swamp Rat, Jethro wants a high-performance car and buys a souped-up hot rod. Built on a 1925 Oldsmobile frame, the roadster came with a 1969 442 Olds engine, fender flares, eight chrome headers, dual chrome rollbars, and four dune buggy-style seats. Jed doesn’t approve, and Granny restores order in the family after she beats Jethro’s hot rod truck in a drag race.
Other vehicles his company Barris Kustom Industries made include the Munsters Koach and an updated KITT used in later episodes of “Knight Rider.”
Ralph Foster Museum
Paul Henning, creator of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” donated the original Swamp Rat to the Ralph Foster Museum in Branson, Mo. (“The Beverly Hillbillies” movie, released in 1993, recreated an almost exact duplicate.)
Located on The College of the Ozarks campus, you’ll see the Swamp Rat on the first floor of the museum as soon as you walk in the main entrance.
The Ralph Foster Museum has an eclectic collection of items and is well worth visiting if you’re ever in Branson. In addition to the Swamp Rat, you’ll see exhibits on gems of the Ozarks, Masonic swords, and the Bengal tiger. This wide range of artifacts has led some people to dub the museum “The Smithsonian of the Ozarks.”
The 83-year-old Max Baer, Jr., who played Jethro, may be the last surviving cast member of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” but you’re only a road trip away from seeing the Swamp Rat, another beloved character from the show.