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

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What are Rodster® owners saying about the Rodster®?

A Few Words With Jody Spann

Dothan, Alabama

Have you finished your Rodster?

No, we’re probably about 50% of the way.

What more do you have to do?

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 cars before?

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 yourselves?

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 interior?

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 history.

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 open.

You ever race?

Yeah, we raced through the years through the dealership, nothing in the automotive industry, though.

You raced motorcycles yourself?

Uh huh.

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.

You’re kidding!

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 old man…

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 your donor?

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 Blazers.

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 and mid-November.

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 have been.

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.