Jeff Rankin
Camarillo, California

Bob Condie
Milpitas, California

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What is the Sedan Delivery Street Rod?
The automotive press writes about the Rodster®.
Rodster® Owners speak.

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About the Rodster® donor vehicle.
Cruise the Rodster® price list.

The Rodster® goes on the Hot Rod Power Tours.
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Caroselli Design
214 Main St., Unit # 15-B
El Segundo, CA 90245
(310) 322-2767

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What are owners saying about the Rodster® Street Rod?


Cumberland, Maryland

Owner-builder Jim Crabtree with his "what color is it?" Rodster®.

What kinds of cars have you built?

I’ve built a few dune buggies, but I’ve also built eight Cobra replicas and by the time you get this testimonial done, I’ll have done two Rodsters.

For other people or for yourself?

I’ve built one for myself, and I’m in the process of doing one for a man in Tennessee. And hopefully, I can get enough interest in the Rodsters, so I can just build Rodsters because it’s easier to put together because it’s just a rebody. With the Cobras, I have to start from the ground up and do everything. The Rodster is nice to drive and cruise around in and there’s a whole lot less labor in them. I’d like to be able to do just those.

What kind of reactions do you get on the street to the Rodster?

More than I get with the Cobra. People are just, “Wow!” First they say, “What year is it?” They’re not really sure what it is. Every car show I’ve taken it to, when I pull in, everybody immediately moves over from where they’ve looking and start looking at the Rodster. I had it at the Carlisle Kit Car Show, and it was busy the whole time I was there. It was probably the biggest attention-getter at the whole show.

What do you think people like about it?

It’s something different. Cobras have been done by everybody, even though they do have an appeal. This is something different and it looks fun. And it is fun. It reminds me of a cartoon car. It just looks fun.

Jim's Rodster with his friend Jerry George's nitrous-equipped, tubbed, and fast -- but big bucks -- '40 Ford Big Block. (That's all great, but after about half an hour of cruisin', the exhaust overheats the Ford's starter.)

What is your car history? Were you always into putting cars together?

When I was younger, I put dune buggies together with my brother. I got married and kind of got away from it. I’ve always had some nice cars – Porsches, a Lexus, a Dodge Viper. I’ve always been a car nut and I got back into building Cobras about three years ago. I really just enjoy working with the mechanicals and putting cars together, so I’m doing it fulltime now. I’ve been doing it fulltime for about a year.

How was Caroselli Design to work with?

Henry’s been great to work with. Anything he’s ever told me he was going to do, he came through on it. Shipping it was great. The quality of the fiberglass is exceptional compared to the other kit cars I’ve worked with. It seemed more than twice as nice as the fiberglass of some of the others I’ve worked with. The kit was complete, the shipping was complete. I wish all companies did as good a job of taking care of the customer as Henry does. I think he’s put a new mark for everybody to shoot for. He’s done his homework and it shows, both in the car and his customer service as well as the quality of all the parts.

Have you had to call him up and ask him many questions?

No. I’ll tell you, the manual he’s done, he’s spent a lot of time on it. I think you can gauge a company by the manual it puts out. Some manuals say, “Put chassis together.” Real basic. But he’s got some good pictures and good illustrations. I did notice where one measurement was a typo, and I called him and he was really appreciative. But the manual is terrific.

Did you buy the manual before you bought the kit?

Yes I did. I would suggest that to anyone who’s slightly interested. It’s not an expensive manual and I know he’s got more money in it than he’s charging. I don’t know if it’s $10 now or $20… he runs specials once in a while.

I last heard it was $20.

It’s well worth it. Once you get it and see what you have to do, it’s nothing. It sounds pretty daunting – you’re going to cut a car apart. But when you see how well the instruction manual is laid out, it gives you the confidence that you can do it and get started with the Rodster.

Yeah, the thought of cutting up a car is pretty daunting to me. Although I did talk to a customer who really enjoyed cutting up the car.

That was one of the most fun… to take a saw to the top of this car and cut the top of it off. (laughs) You want to do one of those tool man “Arrgh! Arrgh! Arrgh!” grunts. Men can’t give birth, so this is their way of creating.

You being in the business, you're experienced at this sort of thing. You say it's easier than other kits –

Way easier than any other kit I’ve put together.

How many hours have you spent on it?

I would say 100. I’ve probably got less, but people wouldn’t believe it.

Is that including the paint job?

Yeah. I have less in it than that, and I’ll include the paint job. It’ll be right at 100 hours.

Did you do the whole thing yourself?

I did not do the paint job. I got it prepped for the paint job and I had somebody else spray the paint. Everything else, I did. I can paint, but I don’t paint as well as this other guy does.

A custom paint job puts Jim Crabtree's Rodster® in a class of its own.

Do you think a homebuilder type guy, nonprofessional, could put this thing together?

Two years ago, I was a non-professional and I wish this had been the first kit I did. I would have been able to read it and get it done and not have to go back and do things two or three times or fix anything.

You have to do that with other kits?

Well, the directions can be so vague. You may put something together that’ll get in the way of the next step they show you. Henry points out not only how to do it, but he’ll tell you what not to put on it at this time, “Do not put this on at this time.” That keeps you from doing things two or three times.

The same Rodster sports its alternate nose, providing a completely different look for the car.

Did everything fit to your donor car?

Yes. It fit great.

Did you have trouble finding a donor car?

No. I looked in the papers after ordering the manual and spent about two weeks and went through several vehicles I was interested in and bought one.

What year?


How many miles?

It had about 160,000 miles on it.

What do you think of driving a car that has the modern drivetrain?

It’s great. It’s nice to be able to get in a car that looks like that and not have to worry if it’s going to start or if it’s going to overheat or if you can drive it more than 50 or 60 miles at a time. I’ve gotten in it and drove it about 400 miles one day. Just for a little pleasure.

Jim's Rodster sports the nifty scoop, tach, SuperDeluxe logo and custom seats.

So it's comfortable.

You’ve got all the mechanicals of the Blazer; you haven’t changed it except for the ride. It rides more like a car because it’s lowered. You get rid of all that top weight, the roof and all the glass that makes it top heavy. So it rides completely different, more like a car.

How about the sitting position? Do you like it?

Oh, it’s great. I’m about 6’2”, kind of a hefty guy. A guy told me one time that I looked like a bear on roller skates driving the Cobra. I was just crammed in there. But with the Rodster, there’s plenty of room in it. It’s comfortable.

Basically, are you having fun with it?

I’m having a blast!

Jim's Rodster shows up in some pretty exotic company, since he also builds Cobra replica kit cars. 

Is yours 2-wheel drive or 4-wheel?

This one’s 4-wheel drive, or it was originally. I’ve taken the front driveshaft out and turned it into a 2-wheel drive.

What size engine?

2.8. It’s got a 5-speed.

Would you recommend the Rodster even if a guy wasn't a mechanical whizz?

Especially if he wasn’t, it’s so easy to put together. Yeah, I could recommend it to anybody.

How about the bang for your buck?

Probably the best I’ve seen.

Are you talking kit cars in general?

Yeah, of all the kits. You’ve got a lot of excitement. You can get the car done in virtually three weeks and you can get in it and drive it, have some fun.

Can you find the Rodster in this photo?
Crowds swarm Jim Crabtree's Rodster® at a show.

Are you showing it, too?

Yeah, I show it at car shows locally and regionally.

Have you won anything?

Yeah, I won a people’s choice. It was at an auto parts show and the customers gave it first choice.

How far along are you on your customer's car?

I’ve got the donor lowered and cut and I’m just waiting for the kit to ship.

Is he pretty excited?

He sure is.

Did he see your car?

Yeah, he drove it up from Knoxville, Tennessee to see my car. I guess it was about a seven hour trip and looked at my car. Once he actually saw one, he said he liked it better in person than he did in the pictures. The pictures didn’t do it justice. He went back that day and ordered one from Henry.

New Classics

Cumberland man re-creates two popular automobiles.

by Mona Ridder
Times-News Staff Writer

It's a "Rodster," a play on words that combines "roadster" with "rod" to create the description of a "Classic Replicar."

Classic Replicars is a hobby turned business and the Rodster, created from a Chevrolet S-10 Blazer or S-10 pickup truck, is one of two models Cumberland native Jim Crabtree re-creates. The other is a Shelby Cobra which uses a Mustang engine, transmission and rear end.

Crabtree was selling new homes in the Martinsburg, W.Va., area when he built his first classic replicar, a 1965 Shelby Cobra.

"It was a stress reliever," he said of his first and subsequent auto reconstructions.

"As a kid I built dune buggies," he said, noting that tinkering with the cars helped him relax.

He built his first Cobra for himself but then sold it when someone offered a price he couldn't turn down. "I did it for fun," he said.

"Then I built another one and sold it on the Internet to a man in Massachusetts," Crabtree said, adding that it's still fun.

The buyer traveled into the Martinsburg area on business and when he saw the car advertised on the Internet he decided to stop in and take a look, Crabtree explained.

"He rode a bus down to take delivery," he said.

After a couple more sales, Crabtree said he decided he could make a living out of his hobby. He gave up his real estate business and returned to Cumberland where he has opened a shop in the rear of an auto parts store on Henderson Avenue.

His most recent customers, a couple from Austin, Texas, took delivery of their Rodster Wednesday, flying in to drive the car back.

One of the things that makes the cars special is the finish. In the Rodster that went to Texas the paint finish is "Tangelo," a pearlized finish that appears orange, gold or yellow, depending on the viewer's perspective while looking at it.

The paint is the only part of the process Crabtree does not do himself. That is left to Eric Broadwater of Stringtown, Pa.

The current Rodster in the shop is finished with Dupont Chrome Illusion, a paint made by Dupont with prismatic chips as opposed to metallic chips, Crabtree explained. The result is a spectrum of color change from lilac and lavender to blue and gold as one walks around the vehicle.

The two-seater also features a removable hardtop. "The Rodster idea came from a man from California, Henry Caroselli," he said.

He said that Caroselli was a design engineer who had worked at Disney Studios for a while and helped with the release of the Mazda Miata when it came out.

Crabtree said the S-10s are proven models and by using them as the basis for the Rodster, there is more reliability. "It's kind of like a rod without all the spaghetti wiring," he added, noting that the S-10 wiring harness is one of the assets of using it as a base. "You just clip and reconnect," he said of the wiring.

Rusty Howell was one of the first people Crabtree met when he returned to Cumberland and it was he who introduced Crabtree to a lot of the local street rodders.

"He followed me down Route 40 to the shop when I was cleaning it out and that's how we met," Crabtree said.

Howell is restoring a 1938 Ford Coupe.

Dan Cox, another local auto enthusiast and traditional restorer, said he really likes the results Crabtree gets with his recreations. He said he doesn't really like "kit cars or glass reproductions" but changed his mind after seeing the Rodster and Cobra.

Cox is looking for a Willys station wagon to restore, said Crabtree.

Crabtree said he uses the S-10 models from 1983 through 1994 for the Rodster and Mustang models from 1987 through 1993 for the Cobras.

He created his first Cobra four years ago and to date has completed 13 of the cars. He has completed four Rodsters in the last 14 months.

The Rodster transformation includes removing the front of the Blazer or truck, shortening the frame and cutting off the top.

"It's an easy cut from the back bumper," he said of the shortening process.

The end result is a 10-inch shorter vehicle but the wheelbase remains the same.

In taking off the glass and metal the vehicle is also reduced in weight by about 800 pounds, thus making it more efficient to operate, Crabtree explained.

It also is three inches lower when completed with new shocks and coils for a softer ride. The vehicle is then refashioned with Fiberglas panels.

He said he usually keeps two finished cars and two cars in process on hand.

Crabtree said his profit margin is about 15 percent on the reconstructions which take about six weeks.

He said he also likes for his clients to provide their own S-10s because then the customer knows the car is "mechanically healthy."

"I don't change how it works only the cosmetic makeup... then I charge a fee for the panels," he said.

Providing the base also can prove to be a cost saving as well. The couple who just returned to Texas with their Rodster saved $1,000.

The cost of a recreated Rodster is $18,000. The Cobra is $20,000 but Crabtree said he believes it's time for an increase in the cost of the Cobra.

Crabtree can be reached at his shop on Henderson Avenue at (301) 722-0740. More information about the Rodster can be found at on the Internet.

The Rodster can be seen at the next Cruise-In at Wal-Mart in Bedford Plaza on May 6 and on May 7 at the Church of God in Cumberland.

Man takes hobby for a spin

Turns car reconstruction into lucrative business


CUMBERLAND -- Jim Crabtree was selling real estate when he reconstructed his first classic car, a 1965 Shelby Cobra, for fun.

Then someone offered him a price he couldn't turn down.

"Then I built another one and sold it on the Internet to a man in Massachusetts," Mr. Crabtree said.

After a couple more sales, Mr. Crabtree decided he could make a living at his hobby. He gave up selling houses in Martinsburg, W.Va., and returned home to Cumberland where he has opened his Classic Replicar shop in the back of an auto parts store on Henderson Avenue.

Mr. Crabtree builds two models, the Shelby Cobra and a "Rodster," a play on words that combines "roadster" with "rod."

To build a Rodster, Mr. Crabtree starts with the Chevy S-10 Blazer or pickup from 1983 through 1994. He removes the front end, shortens the frame and cuts off the top. The result is a 10-inch shorter vehicle but the wheelbase remains the same.

It is three inches lower when completed, with new shocks and coils for a softer ride. Taking off the glass and metal reduces the vehicle's weight by about 800 pounds, making it more efficient to operate, Mr. Crabtree said.

The vehicle is then refashioned with Fiberglas panels.

To build the Cobras, he uses the Mustang engine, transmission and rear end from the 1987 through 1993 models.

The Rodsters cost $18,000. The Cobras go for about $20,000.

Mr. Crabtree said his profit margin is about 15 percent on the reconstructions, which take about six weeks.  He said he likes his clients to provide their own S-10s because then they know the car is "mechanically healthy"--and they get a price break.

He created his first Cobra four years ago and to date has completed 13 of the cars. He has completed four Rodsters in the last 14 months.

His most recent customers, a couple from Austin, Texas, took delivery of their Rodster last month, flying in to drive the car back.

The only part of the process Mr. Crabtree does not do himself is the paint finish, which is done by Eric Broadwater of Stringtown, Pa. The finish on the Rodster sent the Texas was "Tangelo," a pearlized finish that appears orange, gold or yellow, depending on the viewer's perspective.

 On the Net:  http:/

Photo Caption: Jim Crabtree of Cumberland sits in a Rodster built around a modified 1985 Chevy S-10 Blazer body in the shop of his business, Classic Replicars. Mr. Crabtree builds two models, a replica of the Shelby Cobra and the Rodster.