Jeff Rankin
Camarillo, California

Bob Condie
Milpitas, California

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Caroselli Design logoContact Henry Caroselli
Caroselli Design
214 Main St., Unit # 15-B
El Segundo, CA 90245
(310) 322-2767

© Copyright Caroselli. No images or text located anywhere on this site may be reused or republished without expressed written permission from Rodster, Inc., d.b.a.: Caroselli Design. The Rodster Street Rod design is protected by U.S. Patent # D450,284. "Rodster®" is a registered trademark of Caroselli Design.
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What are Rodster® owners saying about the Rodster®?

A Few Words With BOB CONDIE

Milpitas, California

Have you finished your Rodster yet?

(laughs) No. My son is leaving on a religious mission a week from tomorrow, and so we’ve been working with him, preparing him. It’s been three weeks since I’ve worked on it, and I’m so anxious to get back to it. It probably won’t happen until September 30. We’ll leave August 28th, take him where he needs to go, and then we’ll come back and in between work, etc., I’ll finish it.

I hear you have five kids. Are they working on the car with you?


How old are they?

I have a nine year old son, Jared, a fourteen year old son named Mitch, a sixteen year old son named Ryan, I have a seventeen year old daughter, Kristin, and I have a nineteen year old son, Kyle.

Do they all have their own specific jobs on the car?

They kind of do. When we first started the project, I came up with a company organization chart, where my wife’s the CEO, and I’m the chief mechanic, and my youngest boy, Jared, is the parts counter person. Every time we got a shipment in, he’d be the one to open the box and count the parts and make sure it matched the invoice, etc. My other two sons were assistant mechanics and my daughter was an assistant mechanic, but also had the paint and color scheme, etc. What it’s turned out to be is everybody’s an assistant mechanic and I get on the phones as much as I can.

How much can a nine year old help with?

All he can do is twist nuts and bolts, so I had him take off the hood and he took off the front grill. If I give him a wrench and I say, “You need to undo these five screws” and point where they are -- by golly, he took the hood off by himself -- he and a nine year old friend, and they both took off the front grill. My two middle boys took off the front bumper. I’ve got a picture with both of them under the car with their knees and legs hanging out.

Are you a mechanical kind of person?

As far as automotive mechanics, what I’ve done before was change the oil. Literally, I had zero mechanical ability. I’m an engineer by trade, but it’s more software engineering. My wife calls this my midlife crisis… I’ll give you a little chronology to answer your question: my son was surfing the ‘Net in October of ’97 and found the Rodster Homepage. He showed it to me and I said, “Ennh…” I wasn’t interested at that time. But over the next few weeks, I think in December, I ordered a manual from Henry. Then in February, I did an Internet search for a 2-wheel drive, 5-speed Blazer and I found one up in Vallejo, which is about an hour and15 minutes north of where I live. I called the guy and arranged to go up there. It was in mint condition, so I bought it on the spot and drove it home. But because it was in mint condition, I didn’t want to cut it up. So, off and on, I searched the newspapers for another 2-wheel drive Blazer. I never saw one until December of ’98; there was a 2-wheel drive white Blazer that showed up and I went and looked at it. It was the wrong color; I wasn’t interested in it. And then by January of ’99, or February of ’99, anyway, I offered this guy a ridiculous price and he didn’t take it for the Blazer.

Anyway, my wife and I talked a little more and agreed it would be a fun project. I’d been a workaholic my whole life, you know, when my kids were growing up, which is a little bit of a regret of mine, so I wanted a project specifically to bond with my kids. They’re somewhat interested in automotive, new, late model sportscar type things. Well, I can’t afford that. Plus, I wouldn’t buy one for them anyway. So, I still had the phone number of this guy who had this car for sale, thinking that I didn’t want to rip up my good one, and this is a year older and less expensive, so I’d do that one. I called him up; sure enough, he never did sell it, and this had been a month or two after he listed it. So we went out there and on the spot I said, “Fine, I’ll buy it.” And then I came home, and by coincidence, an hour or two after I bought it, there’s a postcard from Henry offering $500 off the Rodster. So the fact that, one, I’d kind of committed that weekend to it, two, I found and purchased a Blazer, and, three, Henry sent a postcard with $500 off… That’s quite a coincidence happening in a couple day period. So, I left a voicemail for Henry the day I bought the white Blazer saying, “Let’s do it.” And next Monday, I made voice contact, so that’s what started things off. The goal of my project was to do the project with my kids.

How easy was the Rodster to work on; how do you rate the ease of assembly? You’re saying kids can work on it…

(laughs) I’m somewhat mechanically inclined in that growing up, I had a minibike when I was in 5th and 6th grade, so I learned a lot. I was destined, I think, for an engineering profession, because I learned a lot just working on a little minibike. And then when I was in high school, I had a motorcycle. I’d do things like take the engine on and off, so, though I’d never worked on automotive, I was somewhat inclined mechanically. I went into my career, sort of a computer science professional, and my garage does not have any tools. So, when you’re talking about ease of assembly, after I got the manual from Henry and I searched through it, the one thing that impressed me was that there was no welding, no engine work. To me, that’s still a very foreign entity. I didn’t want to get involved with that. When I went through his book and noticed that it was just some cutting here, some fastening there, that’s what gave me the confidence that even though I had almost zero automotive experience, I had confidence that I could do it. I’ve got to admit, it has been a struggle, and I’ve had to call Henry periodically to say, “Hey, what about this, what about that?” because I have no experience from an automotive background. He’s been able to point me here and there. There have been one or two rough spots just because I could not visualize what I needed to do, but the fact that I’ve gone through it now -- I’m 98% done -- I could do the next one in a snap, because now I’m familiar with the automotive angle as far as where things go, etc. So, as far as ease of assembly, it’s been excellent, except for the hiccup places where it was literally my lack of experience and know-how that caused me some questions in his manual.

Did you find the manual fairly comprehensive?

Yes. Again, for a rookie like me, it could have been a little more detailed. Yet, talking with Henry on the one hand, he could put mounds of information in there, but I think for most automotive types, I think they’d have no problem.

Just a couple of spots that weren’t clear for you?

That’s correct. But Henry was always willing to walk me through and have patience with me.

So it’s been good dealing with Caroselli Design?

Very much so. Both through voice and e-mail. I notice he checks his e-mail usually between 6 and 7 a.m. So, I know that if I get something off by midnight, I get a response the next morning.

How much time have you spent on this?

You know, I’ve kept track to the penny of what I’ve spent on it, but I have not kept track of hours. Henry says you can probably do it in 100 to 120 hours. Because I’m new at this and because I have children helping me, it’s probably been double that for me. So, I think I’m in the 160 to 180 hour range by now. And I’m another 20 hours away from completing all the detail stuff.

So you’re using this as a teaching experience for the kids?

Absolutely. And the biggest thing with my kids is -- I’m really going to overuse this word “bond” and I don’t mean it as a touchy feely type thing. It’s been good to rub shoulders with my kids, get them to work with tools, because their confidence level in working with air compressor tools, grinding, sanding, wrenches, etc., has increased greatly. Plus, they are all so proud of having this hotrod in the garage and telling all their friends, it’s been a plus and a win all the way around.

It’s been very much a teaching and learning experience as we go. And so that’s why it’s taken extra hours. But, we don’t care. We’re all anxious to see the finished product. We’re willing to put it aside for three or four weeks while we get our oldest son – he’s going on a Mormon mission. They go out for two years…

Henry says you believe in teaching process to the kids… What exactly do you mean by that?

Do you understand what a pert chart is?


It’s used in program management where you line up things that need to be done and in what order they need to be done. If things can be done parallel, that’s fine, you line them up parallel. So I got some 3 feet by 4 feet poster paper and put it on the kitchen table. We had yellow stickies, Post-It notes. The last one said, “Drive to Santa Cruz,” so that’s on the far right. Another yellow Post-It says, “Paint body,” so I put that to the left side of the sticky that says, “Drive to Santa Cruz.” And so we worked our way back… One Post-It says, “Mount the back,” another Post-It says, “Get the front tires on,” another Post-It says, “Take care of the windows,” and then, “Order these parts.” We probably ended up with 30 or 40 stickies of things that need to be done on the car. I asked the kids, “What needs to be done before we can put on the back end?” So all the things that were dependent on that, we put in front of it, then we drew lines funneling into this one thing, “Mount back end” and things that were parallel went on the front or the bottom, and then we drew a line to where it says, “Take it to paint shop.”

In project management, you can put down what needs to be done, and if it takes two weeks, then all the prep work needs to be done two weeks prior. I didn’t go into that detail with my kids, but just the overall concept of scoping a project, writing down the things that need to be done, and then putting them in the order that they need to be done, just so we have a visual of what we need to do.

Are your kids mechanically inclined?

My 16 year old son is, my other children were not. You know, I purchased a grinder, a stand-up grinder from Sears, and boy, for a week, my 14 year old son would be over there helping me any way he could, polishing up some screws, or doing something, or grinding this piece of metal. My 16 year old son -- I think he’ll be an engineer. He has adapted very easily. My other kids have had a blast. I don’t know if they’re mechanically inclined, but they’ve had a blast learning how to use tools.

That’s great. I don’t mean to be sexist, but your daughter’s into it too?

Very much so. You know, a lot of girls her age sing or something like that. If your last name is Condie, you have no musical talent. And so, she gets good grades in school, but I think she’s looked for something to latch onto to be individualistic, so she’s latched onto NASCAR racing. She’s been down to Sears Point a few times to see Jeff Gordon, etc., so she’s very interested in automotive, not from a grease monkey point of view, but just interested in that type of entertainment and sports. So, I’ve had her help me. The sad thing is that she works from 3 to 9, and I’m off work around sixish. When she helps me on the car, it’s usually on Saturdays. She’s turned wrenches and sand papered stuff. In fact, she helped me with the door assembly. So, she’s as much involved as the boys are.

Are you guys having fun with the Rodster?

Very much so. It’s just fun to see it take shape in the garage. It was interesting to cut up the body. Then we got the back end on it and saw the curves of the car start to come alive, you know, you work on that for a month. Then we got the front end on and finished the curvature of the car. It’s been a lot of fun to see it come together before our eyes. I look at other convertibles, like the Chrysler Sebring, and a few other convertibles, like the Mustang II and the BMW, etc. -- it’s nice to see those kinds of cars, and I’m sure they’re fun to drive, etc., but because each of my children and myself have been involved from the ground up in this project, they’re all very proud of it. They’re very proud of their work, individually and collectively as a family. So even though it’s got an “old interior” whereas a new Chrysler Sebring or Mustang II has a new fancy interior, leather seats, etc., it still doesn’t compare to the fact that they put in their blood, sweat and tears -- and bruised their knuckles -- on getting the Rodster put together.

You can always put a new interior in it – another family project.

Yes. Next time we go to one of these “pick and pull” salvage yards, certainly, leather seats are on our list if they have any. We got it to the point where it’s driveable, meaning, we live in a kind of out of the way place, so there aren’t cops running up and down our street… we don’t have the front headlights in. The taillights and everything are all working, but the last week or so, yeah, we’ve been taking it up and down the street and everybody’s smiling when we’re driving it.

You live out in the country?

We live on the edge of San Jose, a little town called Milpitas, we live right next to the hills.

So people are reacting to your Rodster? They like it?

Very much so. And our neighbors are aware of the project; they always come over and they’re all smiles and complimentary to the kids. In fact, my son drove it around the block to show the neighbors, one of whom who had back surgery a couple of months ago, and they were raving on and on. So, it’s been a big confidence and ego boost for my kids. And yeah, they’re all smiles and excited about it.

What more do you have to do?

We have to put on the other quarter panel, and then just put on the lights and the grill.

That’s it? Wow, that’s nothing.

The quarter panel is one of the hardest parts because I visually could not understand from the documentation, and from a couple of phone calls with Henry, how it worked. And then, two Saturdays ago, my 16 year old son and I, we just brute forced it as far as “We’ve got to make this work.” There’s no magic here, we had to line it up and fasten it, and that’s what we did. We just need another four hours to get the other quarter panel on, then it’s probably a half a day to get the lights and grill working. Then we’re ready to go out and drive it legally. So we are, literally, that close. It’s just time. I can’t put the time in right this minute.

Are you going to do the paint yourself?

No. We’re going to find somebody to paint it. We have a friend in Utah, but I don’t know if we’d drive it up just for that. I’m getting some quotes here in the San Jose area of someone who could paint it for us.

Let me ask you about the overall quality of the kit itself. For instance, the fiberglass parts being hand-laid versus the cheap chopper gun. Was it worth the extra cost? Was the quality there?

Let me answer that from a naïve point of view in that I’m not familiar with other fiberglass manufacturers and how they look, but yes, I was very impressed with the quality. Let me at least mention this – all we’d seen was pictures and because I was a little bit afraid of not having worked on one, the whole family drove down to the Caroselli Design center in El Segundo to pick it up. We were all impressed when Henry took us back to his shop and we saw his red Rodster. You know, I thought fiberglass would have been cheap, but after hitting our knuckles on the fiberglass, we were all very impressed at the quality of work that it was capable of, as far as putting it together and getting the paint on it. So that was a thrilling part, just seeing how professional looking it was.

How was the fit of the Rodster parts to your donor?

Uh… good. The only reason I hesitate is because I found out that cars are not built square. (laughs) So any issue I’ve had is not with the Rodster part, it’s just been that cars are mass produced, they’re not all perfect.

Another customer I talked to said the same thing.

On my Blazer, there’s three quarters of an inch difference. So, when it’s up high, you can’t tell that difference because the delta is a smaller percentage, right? But now that I’ve lowered it, I can tell, and I think others can tell, that one side is ¾ inch higher than the other. What I’m going to do is fix that with the blocks that Henry’s going to send me. I’ve got some 4” lowering blocks on it now and it’s too low for my tires because I went a half inch wider than the recommendation, so Henry’s going to send me 3” blocks. I’m going to shave, if I can, a half inch off on those blocks and even it out. I don’t see that as a Caroselli kit car problem, it’s more a General Motors problem.

How about the completeness of the kit?

It was all there. I appreciate having the list of hardware, nuts and bolts. I’ve got to admit, though, I’ve made more trips to the hardware and auto parts store than I ever have in my life. I’m going at least two or three times a week, because not being an automotive or mechanically inclined person, my garage is not full of extra nuts and bolts and brackets and braces and all those things that maybe a normal, automotively inclined person would happen to have in his garage after years of experience. So, for me, it was many, many trips to the auto parts and hardware store.

Speaking of trips, I’ve got a note from Henry… he says you took your kids out of school, you took four of your kids, and you have a U-Haul trailer on the back of your car and picked up the kit?

Yes, on a Sunday we left San Jose, and drove to El Segundo and caught a hotel there. The next day, we picked up the trailer -- largest trailer U-Haul had -- and drove to the Caroselli Rodster place, and loaded the kit up and drove home. So, my kids missed a day of school, but they had a blast. It was fun trip. We didn’t go to Disneyland, of course, but spending three or four hours with Henry was a lot of fun.

Are you planning to show your Rodster when it gets done?

Yes, very much so. I’ve got to admit that when I first contacted Henry, I said, “I want to do this right and I want to make it a show quality car,” but I’m finding out that these “show quality cars” have tens of thousands of dollars pumped into them. It’s a business in itself. So, I’m going to show it, but I can’t pump tens of thousands of dollars into it. I splurged an extra thousand dollars for some nice wheels. But it’s a unique enough car, and there’s nobody else up here in the Bay Area who has it. My daughter and I have gone to car shows over the last three years, and I’ve taken the whole family to a couple car shows. We’re going to show the Rodster when we’re done with it, so we want to get a primo paint job.

What color?

That’s kind of an argument in our family now, now that we’re getting this close. I say argument in a joking way because we haven’t figured it out yet.

So it’s up for grabs.

It’s up for grabs. I don’t know if we’ll do a community vote amongst the family -- do it democratically -- or whether Dad will dictate something. We’ll see.

Did you tell me how many dollars you have invested?

Right now, I’m at $20,200.00. Now, in light of that number, because I’ve not been automotively inclined, I’ve had to farm out stuff that, normally, other people could have done.

Like what?

New brakes, putting in the shocks. I had people do those, whereas, right now, if I did another Rodster kit, I’d do all that stuff myself. Prices are high up here in Northern California, so I’ve probably paid an extra $2,000 that I could save off the next one I do. And I paid a premium price for my donor vehicle because it was in such good condition. That’s why I drove it for a year before I found the second one. But I backtracked, because one was an automatic, one was a stick shift, and for some reason, in my brain, I thought, “Gee, hot rods have to be stick shift,” so I decided to cut up the real primo one. I paid a good price for my donor vehicle, so that’s what pushed it up to the 20K mark.

What year was it?

A ’92.

What kind of engine?

A 4.3 liter, 5-speed.

And you said it was a 2-wheel drive?


How many miles on it?

I think it had 86,000.

Are you doing any custom touches?

I’ve put on a Moon gas pedal. That’s kind of a nostalgic thing. Moon Eyes used to have high performance parts in the mid-60’s or 70’s. For me, growing up as a kid in Arizona, I remember hot rod type cars having gas pedals that were like a foot imprint. But, I’m kind of joking, it was a $14 part.

Henry said that you bet your wife that you were going to finish it by August…

That’s true. One thing led to another. I had to build a shed to move all this stuff out of the garage, and so, my wife, Maureen, her car has been out in the driveway as long as the Rodster has been in. Maureen knows me -- that I start projects and don’t finish them. So, she wrote up a contract – now, this is all in fun, nothing is dead serious – but, she wrote up a contract saying that parts will be put away, kids will be in bed on time on school nights, the executive CEO has final say on all things… then it says this will be done by August 30, 1999, which is my birthday, so I promised her I’d drive her to Santa Cruz and buy her lunch in the car.

Not going to work, huh?

Well, we both agreed that this deal with my son receiving his mission call, which is unexpected – he was off to college when we started this project – we both agreed to put it off till September 30.

What happens if you don’t finish by September 30?

What the agreement says is that all the parts get thrown out into the driveway. (laughs) She says she gets her garage space back and so I finish the car out in the driveway.

Since it’s driveable now, you could drive her somewhere in it...

Without it being painted, I could finish it by Saturday -- if I had all day Saturday -- and meet my goal.

Do you work in Silicon Valley?

I do. I work for Quantum Corporation, which is hard disk drive manufacturer. I have been what they call a “firmware” engineer my whole career. It’s between hardware and software. Hardware are the electrical engineers, the software engineers are the ones that program their computers for the Internet or bank programs. In the middle -- and closer to hardware -- is a classification of engineer that writes assembly language programs to make the hardware talk together. So, if you have a modem, or you have a disk drive, there’s firmware, meaning there’s software embedded inside a chip, which makes the modem work, makes the hard disk drive work. So, it’s kind of in a class by itself.

Are you planning on building another Rodster? You keep talking about the next one…

(laughs) We’ll see what happens and what we do with this one. We do have a second 2-wheel drive Blazer that my daughter drives right now, which we may do something with in the future.

Now, it’s only a 2-seater – are the kids going to arm wrestle to decide who gets to ride in the car? You’re going to have to build another one…

Right. I told my daughter that if she wanted to drive it herself, well, if it’s the 29th of February and a full moon, I’ll let you drive it. (laughs) I’m kidding, of course. They’re arguing and saying, “Dad, when can I drive it?” type things, so that’s a sticky point. We’ll have to work out something.

More photos of the buildup of the Condie Rodster.