is Kit Car magazine saying about the Rodster® Street Rod?
(Their November issue features the Rodster in these two articles.)
Kit Cars On Tour
by Jim Youngs
We Hit the Road With
the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour for a Cross-Country Jaunt
Power Tour -- it's a 10-day car show and party (in a new city every
night) interspersed with some cross-country driving amid a horde of
cool cars, stunned passersby, and car folk of every ilk. It's an after-dark
burnout contest on the boulevard in front of the Rock-N-Roll Hardee's
in Springfield, Illinois, as the Hot Rod TV cameras roll and
encourage the local cars and hundreds of people there to watch. It's
an incredible visit to the Northwest Kansas Technical School in Goodland,
where the service garages are open and the instructors and students
are standing by to help fix or service anything from a bent wheelie
bar to a rearend replacement and everything in between. It's snow flurries
in the Rockies, unrelenting, three-digit heat across the Mojave, drizzle
in Lansing, Illinois, and rain in Denver. It's a steady diet of hamburgers
until you get to the Boyd Coddington barbecue in St. Louis. It's the
Stinky effect. But best of all, it's a logical expression of our obsession
and a long drive for the sheer pleasure of driving.
This was the
3rd Power Tour, and its growth has been phenomenal. Some 125 long-haul
cars traveled the entire 2,250 miles from Los Angeles to Mount Clemens,
Michigan, but as each leg began, anywhere from 200 to 500 cars of practically
every configuration joined in. We saw plenty of hot rods, street rods,
a few Pro Streeters, an odd vintage Jag from Canada, new trucks, a lot
of old pony cars, a bunch of new pony cars, 4x4s, several Vipers, a
few Japanese tuner cars, and, yes, a slew of kit cars -- but only one
that made it the whole way.
interest in the tour was just for fun, but Rodster designer Henry Caroselli
approached us with an idea just too good to pass up. "What would
you think about building a special Rodster and hitting the Power Tour?"
Henry asked at lunch. Our quick "yes" apparently threw this
former corporate marketing director off-balance because he spent the
remainder of the lunch mumbling something about the rest of his presentation.
We immediately saw this as an opportunity to not only get a build-up
story on the car (see "Cruisin' Machine," elsewhere in this
issue) but to encourage other kit car buffs to use their cars for something
other than shows. We'll never admit that we also signed on for the fun.
Well, as it
turns out, a lot of kit car people obviously also read our sister magazine
Hot Rod because plenty of kit cars showed up to make various legs
of the trip. We also talked to hundreds more during the jaunt who made
a point of searching us out at the evening shows just to say "hi."
It was like seeing the pages of Kit Car come alive, since we
spent plenty of time talking about various kits, answering technical
questions, referring queries about old kits to Harold Pace, and giving
out source information for car kits and components. We also got to check
out some cool kit cars and watch them run with the big boy cars and
such hot rod luminaries as Boyd Coddington, Chip Foose, Posie, Vic Edelbrock,
and many others.
the kit cars we spotted was Thomas Scaman's Beck 550 Spyder. He's a
fireworks manufacturer from Stanton, Missouri, and drives much like
the Roman candles and sky-blazers he makes. We talked to him several
times while his car was sitting in the show areas, but every time we
saw him on the road he appeared as little more than a silver streak.
He uses his turbo motor to the fullest and not without mechanical consequences.
We drove along
for one stretch in company with Karl Baughman's nicely detailed hardtop
Cobra sporting race numbers, sponsor decals, and a Terlingua Racing
Team sticker. Cobra replicas were, of course, out in force, and we were
pleased to watch them run out on the open highway.
The Power Tour
has a very simple premise. Get in line at the Petersen Automotive Museum
in Los Angeles and drive to Las Vegas, Nevada, for a show 'n shine.
Head over the Rockies to Denver for a show 'n not-so-much-shine. Head
for the Northwest Kansas Technical School in Goodland for show and a
fix for anything that needs fixin'. Find the Metcalf South shopping
center in Kansas City, Missouri, for a huge show. Head for Forest Park
in St Louis for an even bigger show. Drive to the Rock-N-Roll Hardee's
in Springfield for more showing and a bonus of smoky street burnouts.
Head for Lansing and line both sides of 170th Street for a show. Head
for downtown Mount Clemens to make a grand entrance with the rest of
the long haul gang and freeze your butt off for a day of showing.
Each night a
meal was hosted and great goodie bags went to all the entrants. The
best part was that it only cost $10 to enter, and you really didn't
have to enter unless you wanted to eat free each night and get the goodie
bag. What a deal. Almost before you knew it, you'd driven 2,250 miles
and spent 10 fun days on the road. At each night's show stop there was
even a midway filled with performance goodies, T-shirts, memorabilia,
a shindig of this magnitude wouldn't be possible. These folks are the
ones who pay for the cruise nights with dinner and entertainment. Sponsors
for the '97 venue were Auto Custom Carpets (ACC), Baer Racing, BFGoodrich,
Boyds Wheels, Centerforce, Chevrolet, Classic Chevy International, Crane
Cams, Dura-Bond, Edelbrock, Ford Motorsport SVT, GM Performance Parts,
Holley, Hot Rod Rock, JET Performance Products, Kicker, K&N, Lokar,
Mobil 1, Mopar Performance, Mothers, Mr. Gasket Performance Group, MSD,
Octane Boost, Racing Champions, Rhino Performance Mufflers, ROL, SplitFire,
Summit, Suzuki, Vintage Air, and Walker/DynoMax.
Rodster was an ideal vehicle in which to traverse the country. Since
it's essentially a rebodied S-10 Blazer, albeit one with a nostalgic
flair, we had a reliability advantage that many hot rod cars lacked.
Plus we had modern mecanicals, a good heater, great suspension, roll-up
windows, a lift-off Carson top, power steering, excellent headlights,
comfortable seats, a lot of legroom, plenty of storage, and an aaoogah
horn just for fun. This is a kit car meant to be driven without thinking
about the consequences. Henry tells folks that his impetus for the platform
was to afford something other than what he calls 100-mile cars: those
hot rods that are typically driven only 50 miles from home and back
for fear of breaking down somewhere.
at the planned 100-mile gas stops, where service stations probably sold
more premium fuel to these thirsty performance cars in an hour than
they usually sell in a month. We averaged something like 24 mpg for
the entire trip and burned less than a quart of oil. After a while,
we felt guilty about not checking the oil level when we stopped for
gas, and we had to look away from those greasy guys under their cars
in the evenings, getting ready for another day on the road.
have said that the Rodster may not be representative of the hot rod
genre, we have to disagree strongly. It actually nicely represents the
very roots of hot rodding, because it took a ubiquitous, plain-jane
vehicle and transformed it into something cool and powerful for very
little money. It perhaps even represents hot rodding much better than
that pro-built fiberglass '34 coupe costing $75,000. Sure, the high-dollar
cars instill the hobby with a kind of dream factor, but at the same
time they quickly turn off the majority of interested young rodders
who will never be able to afford such luxury. But enough political commentary.
To give our
Tour Rodster more of a hot rod flair, we added quite a few aftermarket
items, each to accomplish a given task. We added an ACC molded, OEM-style
carpet kit which not only fit perfectly but featured embroidered ACC
and Rodster logos on the mats. Flowmaster had just come out with a new
Delta-Flow muffler with internal baffles arranged in a delta shape for
less harmonics which gave our 2.8L V6 a healthy rumble.
is always the name of the game when it comes to hot rods, so we installed
a JET Stage II computer chip, a K&N filter, and a 180-degree thermostat
in addition to the muffler for a boost of 15 to 20 hp. It was definitely
a seat-of-the-pants improvement for the five-speed drivetrain. We chose
a set BFGoodrich T/A big 'n' littles mounted on Superior Tribar chrome
wheels for great, aggressive looks and easy cleaning.
LeCarra three-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel complements the
otherwise stock interior. A Mooneyes tach housed in a chrome cup --
a hot rod icon -- was mounted atop the steering column, partially to
hide the ugly S-10 instruments. Mooneyes billet pedals and gear shift
knob were also installed. We thumbed through the Summit catalog for
a variety of goodies such as a billet rearview mirror as well as some
engine cooling components. We even installed a Predator Black Panther
dry cell battery to keep the electrical system humming. It's a unit
that can even be mounted upside down, but the beauty is that it can
be 100 percent discharged then recharged repeatedly. When it came time
to paint the Rodster, we picked up a Sharpe HVLP spray gun and slathered
on a Sikkens urethane basecoat and clearcoat in a two-color pattern
and then had the car pinstriped.
was a people magnet everywhere it appeared on the tour -- so much so
that Petersen Automotive Performance Group photographer, Scott Killeen,
a very jaded car guy who's seen practically everything, commented, "What
is it about that car?" Part of the attraction is that it just looks
fun. And Henry never seems to tire of telling the "what is it"
story and trying to convince people that it really is an S-10 Blazer
underneath. We heard plenty of guesses as to what people thought this
original design really was, ranging from a Studebaker, a Morris Minor
on steroids, and a Henry J to an English Ford, among others. He also
likes to say, "There is a serious side to hot rodding, and this
How to Build the S-10 Blazer-Based Rodster
by the Kit Car
(To see enlarged versions
of the articles and photos of the buildup process, click on the magazine
Elsewhere in this issue you'll
find coverage of our sister magazine Hot Rod's Power Tour,
an event in which very cool cars and hearty people make a 10-day trek
across America from Los Angeles to Mount Clemens, Michigan. Our involvement
in the Power Tour was intended to encourage other kit car folks to participate
in something other than shows and parades, to use their cars for what
they were intended -- driving for the sheer pleasure of the drive. We
also wanted to have some fun and see the USA in a Chevrolet. To that
end, Henry Caroselli, the Rodster's progenitor, suggested we build a
special version of the car and hit the road with the Tour. Great idea.
We took the bait on the first cast. Aside from the promise of a good
road trip, we also got to follow along on the Rodster buildup so we
could show you how this cool kit goes together.
The Rodster is another of
those kit cars based on an unusual, if not unique, donor car platform:
a Chevy/GMC S-20 Blazer/Jimmy. The aim of its designer was to create
something with a nostalgic feeling on a readily available platform with
modern, easily serviced mechanicals that would also be reliable, inexpensive
to operate, and safe. It's kind of a why-reinvent-the-wheel scenario
-- instead, just make it look different and better and have some fun
really driving it. Caroselli wanted to get away from what he
calls 100-mile cars: rods that you only feel comfortable driving 50
miles from home and back.
A rebody of
the S-10, the Rodster maintains the donor's mechanicals, brakes, and
emission system, but even more interesting is that the steel doors are
retained without having to be reskinned, and the windshield remains
unaltered. Additionally, the interior remains intact even down to the
complete dash, seats, door panels, and windows. Of course, such components
can be changed with custom or aftermarket stuff, and if parts of the
interior are the wrong color, plenty of replacement items are available
for swapping. For example, the donor car used here had a dried-blood
color interior, so we swapped in seats, door panels, and a dash from
a salvage yard for a more soothing gray color.
The basic Rodster
kit retails for $3,995 and includes the one-piece tilt-forward front
clip, quarter-panels, rocker panels, a tonneau cover, a one-piece rear
clip with a trunk lid, doorpost caps, a header cap, and a detailed assembly
manual, which you can buy separately for $35 and then apply the cost
toward purchasing a kit. Caroselli also offers a Deluxe Kit package
for $5,795 which includes practically everything needed to build the
car, including front and rear suspension lowering components, a light
package, a sportbar kit, and a battery relocator, among other goodies.
After the kit
was installed, the rest of the project involved readying the vehicle
for paint and then adding the brightwork, lights, grille, and such.
We also installed a molded ACC carpet kit, a Flowmaster Delta Flow Muffler
for the right sound, a JET Stage II computer chip for better performance,
a set of BFGoodrich tires mounted on Superior Tribar chrome wheels,
a LeCarra steering wheel, and several Mooneyes trim items such as a
column-mounted tach, billet pedals, and a gear shift knob. From Summit's
catalog we installed an electric cooling fan, a fuel pressure gauge,
and a billet rearview mirror. A Sharpe HVLP spray gun was used to slather
on the yellow and red Sikkens paint. The cross-country Rodster was then
pinstriped before it was ready to rub elbows with top-name rodders.