Blazing a New Trail
Is the Rodster a fun hot rod kit car or a rolling fiberglass mutant?
Tired of sport/utility vehicles?
Turn them into hot rods. The Rodster's donor car is the Chevrolet Blazer.
Toon Town had an official hot rod, the Rodster would be it. This two-seat,
open-topped roadster was created by Henry M. Caroselli, an ad-guy-turned-carmaker,
at his El Segundo, Calif.-based Caroselli Designs. Caroselli has been
tinkering with cars, from Hudsons to Corvairs to a Lotus Elan Series
II, since he learned to drive.
was brilliant," Caroselli says, as we drive down Sunset Boulevard
in the Rodster. "Restoring the Lotus taught me a lot about cars."
Mostly it taught
him that he wanted to keep tearing them apart.
'em alone, " Caroselli say. "If you do, they become appliances.
They're no fun."
Say what you
will about the cartoonish Rodster's looks, but it is fun. And cheap
compared to traditional hot rods, because under its bulbous skin is,
brace yourself, a Chevy Blazer.
hot rod process involves taking a modern drivetrain and putting it in
an old car," Caroselli says. "It's pretty slick, but we're
running out of old cars. So I said, 'What about reversing the process?
Getting a nice basic drivetrain, and starting with that?'"
the Rodster's fiberglass shell is bolted not on '29 Ford frame rails
but on a 1992 Chevy Blazer, "The Blazer seemed to make sense because
of its ladder frame, simple front-engine/rear drive layout, and because
there are two and a half million of 'em out there," Caroselli says.
it takes Caroselli and crew an hour and a half to dismantle a Blazer
with a 24-tooth Sawzall. The Rodster retains the Blazer's drivetrain,
A-pillar, windshield and doors. The rest is what makes it the Rodster.
not going to replace the '32 Ford," Caroselli says. "But if
you look at one of those you're looking at $70,000 to $80,000 and you're
sweating as you drive it. Are you sweating as you drive this?"
No, we aren't,
but we notice that the donor Blazer (with 104,000 miles on it) has sloppy
steering, touchy brakes and a jumpy throttle pedal. But, says Caroselli,
you can change all that as easily as you can service any Chevrolet Blazer.
As for the looks: "I looked at what the original hot rodders had
in their minds when they created hot rods," Caroselli says. "They
got something that was commonplace, ubiquitour, everywhere, and they
said, 'Okay, I'm going to get a saw out and chop it up and make it look
And do it cheaply
-- Rodster kits range from $3,995 to $5,795 (more info at www.rodster.com).
Yes, there are other bolt-on hot rod kit cars available, but most look
traditional, like '32 Fords. This one... doesn't.