Rodster® owners saying about the Rodster®?
A Few Words With Jody
you finished your Rodster?
No, we’re probably about
50% of the way.
What more do you have
We’re about to bond the rear
body on. We have the front end and the doors left to finish. We’re doing
a lot of stuff outside of what Henry actually calls for in the manual
to make the car a little bit stronger and a little more sound. Where
you do the crossbrace on the car, we’ve taken a two inch pipe and manufactured
a nice crossbrace, which makes an “X” behind the driver and passenger
seats – we had that powder-coated. We took the original rollbar -- or
the “styling bar” as he calls it -- and we’ve had that stripped also,
and re-powder coated it in a crinkle finish to match the “X bar”. Where
you cut the rear body down on the original Blazer, it leaves an inner
and outer body skin – we have taken sheet metal panels and stitch-welded
the entire car back together again to give it, I guess you would say,
the structural integrity of the vehicle back, more closely to what it
was. To make it a little more sound. We’ve modified a few of the other
plans as far as the gas filler in the trunk; he has it turned in to
the trunk. We have trial-fitted the body -- it seems like a thousand
times in order to trim the original gas… I would call that sheet metal
close-out from the factory down to where, whenever we put the body on
there, the gas filler is going to be in the fiberglass body, much like
it was in the Blazer originally.
That’s the great thing
about the Rodster; you can do your own touches.
Right. Henry has said several
times that everybody puts on their own individual twists, and he loves
to see pictures of everybody’s different ideas… you know, where they’ve
taken the kit from and what they’ve done with it.
By the way, we were able
to get the Rodster I.D. plate for Alabama for our tag. I sent Henry
an e-mail one day that said, “Just think, Henry, we have only one of
fifty plates that look like this.” He wants to use it on the web page.
How has the process
of building the Rodster been?
We’ve had a lot of fun with
it. As you know, we run a Kawasaki dealership. It consumes a lot of
our time, but outside of that, the time we do have to work on it, it’s
been extremely fun. The kit’s built very well.
Have you worked on
Yeah. We’ve done several
projects before. This is our first full kit car that we’ve ever completed.
Would you consider
yourselves novices then?
In the kit car aspect, yes.
As a whole, I would probably consider us advanced level mechanics because
of what we do. I’ve done aerospace work probably off and on since 1988.
We’ve done modifications; we’ve put cargo doors in 747’s, you name it.
I worked for Gulfstream Aerospace, which is a premier executive business
jet manufacturer out of Savannah, Georgia, and I’ve traveled all over
the U.S. and the world with them. We modified their $30 plus million
business jets all the time. Doing kit cars and motorcycle maintenance
and the things we do now – it’s fairly straightforward for us. It’s
not quite as tedious and as accurate, whereas with the cars you have
a fairly wide tolerance. On airplanes, we get down to plus or minus
within halves of thousands sometimes. This stuff is fairly straightforward
and simple. I’ve got a large roll-away tool box full which makes this
job real easy. We often kick back on the book saying, you know, you
need just average hand tools to do this. We’re thinking wow, we should
have done this a lot faster than your average person because some of
the tools that we have make the job really simple. My aerospace background,
and the tools that I’ve gathered through the years, made some of these
jobs really simple and made it easier to go the extra mile and do our
own special tweaking to the kit.
You’re doing everything
We’re doing everything ourselves.
I think the only thing we’ll farm out is the paint job. I’ve done some
custom painting in the past, but, at the present time, I don’t have
anywhere to spray the vehicle, so we’re going to have someone do that
for us. We’re planning on a brandy wine metallic with ghost flames in
the paint, but we’ve not put that in stone yet.
What color is your
Burgundy. The Blazer was
a wreck through Progressive Insurance Company out of Florida. It had
a cracked front windshield and three bent rims and a scratch on the
hood, and that’s basically the extent of the damage on the Blazer --
that totaled it. Beautiful, clean Blazer. Somebody took extremely good
care of it. The interior seats were like they were covered from the
factory and were never actually sat in. So we were really fortunate
that the Blazer was in as good a shape as it was. We gave $900 for it.
That’s all it takes
to total a Blazer?
That’s what it took. We actually
could have bought the Blazer for $450 and some change, but the people
who towed it, and were storing it, stuck us for the other $450.
Well, $900 is not bad…
No, we stole the Blazer,
actually, if you were to compare it to what most of them sell for. In
our area for a Blazer as clean as that one is, they’re selling for about
$4,500. We have an ’89 with a 4.3 liter automatic.
It was still in good
shape – did it kind of hurt to cut it up?
Yeah. That’s what everybody
said, “I can’t believe you’re cutting it,” because I have a 4-wheel
drive S10 Blazer that we bought at the same time. We were buying up
some Blazers so that we would have plenty to cut up and plenty for spares,
because this is not the only Rodster kit we’re going to do. I bought
a 4-wheel drive just for the engine and parts because some of the 2.8’s
– that is one of the worst motors that Chevy’s ever produced in my opinion.
I’ve had a bad experience with it. So I said, “We’ll buy the 4-wheel
drive and we’ll use the components and all.” The 4-wheel drive was absolutely
in the worst shape – dented doors and the roof was dented and the interior
was trashed. They said, “Why don’t you cut the 4-wheel drive up, it
would make a much better donor car,” and I’m like, “No, we bought the
2-wheel drive for this, we’re going to use it for this.” But it’s like,
“You can’t cut that, it looks too good.” I told them, “We’ve got to
start somewhere; it’s only 900 bucks.” It was quite a characteristic
thing to do, but we did it.
Kind of wild and reckless…
Well, that’s my previous
What is your history?
Being in the Japanese motorcycle
business, we’re very sport oriented. I’ve had a Mazda RX7 R2, a’95.
I currently own a convertible Camaro, one of the late model convertible
Camaros. I had a convertible Z24 back in high school, some pickup trucks
and things of that nature because of my Southern heritage. (laughs)
It’s kind of a Southern boy thing. Usually, everybody knows me and my
products and the stuff that I ride -- it’s either zero or wide open.
That’s pretty much what my mom would tell you. It’s either off or wide
You ever race?
Yeah, we raced through the
years through the dealership, nothing in the automotive industry, though.
You raced motorcycles
Now that tells me a
lot about you… Every motorcycle racer I’ve ever known was pretty wild.
We support a lot of racing
in the area. I’m getting kind of old for that now, so we basically play
real hard. We ride 2-stroke racing ATV’s now, and we go into the mountains
and ride really fast in the mountain area, probably about 5 hours north
of here, a place called Cheehaw National Forest in Alabama. It’s a state-owned
reserve that you can ride in. We go there and race on the mountain trails
and just basically have a good time, out among friends.
How old were you when
you started motorcycle racing?
I don’t know the exact age,
back in the early days, I’d probably say 8 or 9. Because now, most of
our little racers start out at 4, 5, and 6 now.
Actually, pee-wee racing
is what they call it. Fifty cc pee-wees.
How fast do those go?
About 15 miles an hour. If
you move up into the advanced pee-wee bikes, those run probably 40,
45 miles per hour. For a 7, 8 year old kid to run 45 miles per hour,
that’s pretty fast. You have a potential to taste what mother Earth
tastes like at that speed!
Were you professional?
We just raced amateur level.
When did you quit?
I’d say probably in my high
school years, probably 17, 18.
Probably more or less responsibility,
more than anything. We were more responsible for making races happen
and you can’t race and support races at the same time. It’s kind of
like being a lawyer and supporting both sides of the case at the same
time; it’s kind of unethical. Plus, in your early teens, it’s good.
In your 20’s or later, motocross racing gets really rough on you. Your
joints start to go out and you break bones and stuff like that. When
you’re responsible for more stuff, it causes you to take a different
look on it. The ground comes up a lot quicker when you’re in your twenties.
Yeah, when you’re an
Yeah. Now, I’m 29 and I wouldn’t
dare do some of the things I did when I was 17 years old. And psychologically,
also, I’d say, when you’re in your mid-20’s -- 25 to 28 -- unless you’ve
raced constantly up until that point, psychologically, it really takes
a beating on your mind. You’ll look at that jump, and you’ll ride over
it 8 or 10 times before you actually get the nerve to hit it like you
would when you’re 16 or 17. It’s a great deal of difference.
So, are you thinking
about going into the Rodster building business as part of your operation?
Probably we’re going to do
it as a hobby more than anything. As much as we would like to and enjoy
it, we probably don’t have the time to pursue it as a fulltime business.
It is a fairly time-consuming thing for the amount of money that could
be made, and the demand for it. But it’s a lot of fun, and if somebody
saw ours and asked if we could build them one, we probably would.
What did you think
of the quality of the kit?
It’s very good. As far as
I can tell, everything is of exceptional quality.
The fiberglass parts
Smooth, very smooth. I’ve
messed with carbon fiber and fiberglass in the aerospace industry, and
as a whole, for a consumer-level product that the Rodster is, it’s an
extremely good quality product, as far as the fiberglass goes.
How about the fit to
Right now, we’re in a little
bit of a dilemma as far as bonding the rear body, but I think we’re
over-thinking it more than anything else. I was talking to Henry about
it the other day. Because we always shoot triangular measurements when
we build aircraft, you know, setting parts and things. Everything has
to be exact. I think that’s what my problem is. Henry said between Chevrolet
standards of fit and what his are, his tolerances are a lot closer than
Chevrolet’s, but every one of the vehicles are just a little bit different.
That’s the only thing I’m having a little bit of a question about. I
think I’m just overthinking it.
You come from another
world, where everything has to be exact.
Yeah, exactly. Because if
it’s not perfect, we’re not going to do it. Especially if you work on
executive business jets where the Sultan of Brunei may be flying in
it, they will not allow gap tolerances over a certain amount. When I
look at something, I catch myself doing that. I have to say, “Well,
that’s no problem, we can fill that or sand that.” Whereas on an aircraft,
if you modify that part, it has to be per engineering drawings. But
I’m letting my aerospace background run me, I think.
So, it’s a liability
as well as an asset?
Yeah, absolutely. It makes
you a better person sometimes, but it just slows you down, I think,
down to where you calculate everything you do.
I’ve talked to several
other people who have run into the same measurement problem with their
I imagine. With as many of
those vehicles as were built, holding those tolerances and building
them as fast as they built them, I can see where it could easily be
bigger on one side or shorter or longer or taller in places.
Getting back to the
kit, was it complete; did you get all the parts?
Yeah, everything was complete.
We were surprised to see that it made it this far without getting damaged.
We didn’t have any damage on the kit at all. We have freight every week
from Kawasaki and freight handling companies are awful, so we were really
surprised to see that the kit made it this far without any damage. I’ve
heard horror stories about buying kit cars and having them shipped to
you, so… (laughs) I was really apprehensive about that.
Did you get it on time?
What did you think
of the manual?
It’s good. And this is back
into my engineering pride of what I do for a living -- I would like
to see a few more technical illustrations, you know, call-outs. But
as far as the description of a lot of stuff, it’s pretty clear. I’ve
only had just a couple of questions. If I had to rate it on a good,
better, best thing, it’s probably in a good situation.
So you said you had
a few questions – how was it dealing with Henry and Caroselli Design?
He’s very prompt about returning
my calls or e-mails. Everything is good there.
Did you buy the manual
before you bought the kit?
Yeah. First of all, we weren’t
sure how the kit actually went together and we wanted to see a little
bit about it. I guess when we bought the manual, we were going to buy
the kit anyway, but we wanted to get a head’s up before we got the kit
so I’d know where we were going -- what to look for in a car, what parts
were actually required. So we’d know that if we bought one that rear-ended
someone, what parts of the front-end we’d have to have. What could be
done, what couldn’t be done.
How did you find out
about the Rodster?
Kit Car Illustrated
magazine, January issue, to be exact. That’s when they highlighted all
the kit cars in production and gave a little tidbit about each one of
them. I saw the little Rodster, with the snubnose. I told my dad, “That’s
a cool little car.” We kept looking at it and looking at it and I said,
“I’m going to check it out,” and found the web address. I did most of
the research from Henry’s web page, and I basically sold myself and
my dad on it by what we read and printed out from the Internet. I brought
it in to the guys at work and said, “What do you think about this?”
A guy who works for us has always been into kit cars, he buys Kit
Car Illustrated every month. I said, “Hey, do you think you could
help us with it if we do this?” and he said, “Yeah, I’ll help you.”
So, we contacted Henry and he sent us a quote, and here we are.
Do you have some big
grandiose plan to take it somewhere special when you finish it?
We were attempting to take
it to our Kawasaki dealer show, which is the first week in October.
That’s one of the big meetings we have every year. But I can see that
that’s not going to happen now. We probably could have pulled it off,
but we had a big influx of service in the backside of the dealership
that we’ve got to take care of, and one of the other factors that is
holding us up is the temperature here. It has been in the 100, 120 range
every day and bonding the rear body on to the car needs to be done at
a fairly cool time in order for the epoxy not to set up quickly. We’re
just now starting to dip below 70 at night, so we’re going to get up
really early one morning, come in, get set up, and bond the rear body
when it’s still in the low 70’s. The humidity also plays an extreme
factor. Around here, it’s not unusual to have nearly 100% humidity.
But I’m not sure if we’re going to do that. I don’t know, I might just
ride out and meet Henry. (laughs)
The rest of my questions
are for when you finish your Rodster. Any ETA?
It’s definitely going to
get done before the end of the year, but I’d hoped for between October
I’ll call you around
then or you can call me…
You’ll be screaming, “Jody,
what’s wrong with you?” (laughs)
No, you’ll probably
be out driving your car.
Yeah, call me on my cell
phone. (laughs) “I love it!” I’m a convertible fan, anyway, I always
Do you have the hardtop?
Yes, we bought the hardtop.
You’re not far from
Panama City, Florida, right? You could go down there and go cruising…
That’s what I told Henry.
It would be a big thing for the car, promoting it in the area. We’re
about 70 miles north of Panama City. I have a trailer that I keep at
the beach, so we go there a lot. It’s a good getaway from Dothan for
the weekend just to go down and hang out. In the summertime, if you
go down on any of the holiday weekends, like Labor Day or July 4th
or Memorial Day, the Strip, which runs the full length of the beach
near the water, is bumper-to-bumper traffic. You’ll move a mile about
every 4 hours. It’s kids from everywhere, from California to Florida
plates, especially on the spring break week. So, the Rodster is going
to be really popular. It’s something different. No one else will have
it. That’ll be the unique thing about it.