Jeff Rankin
Camarillo, California

Bob Condie
Milpitas, California

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Caroselli Design
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What are owners saying about the Rodster® Street Rod?

A Few Words With Carolyn Youngs

Castle Rock, Colorado

Carolyn Youngs built her Rodster Sedan Delivery as part of the "Tri-Rodster Project," a story written by her husband, Jim, while he was editor of KIT CAR magazine. What began as a challenge turned into a labor of love -- their Rodster Street Rod has become the company car for the Youngs' latest project, National Kit Car Club. Check out the "Tri-Rodster" build-up.

"It’s a good cross-country driver, we’ve found... very comfortable. Lots of room to take all of our stuff. We’ve gone to St. Louis and Oklahoma and Topeka and California. We load up all of our gear and our luggage and our ice chest and food, and all sorts of stuff. Even our computer. We plug in and we continue doing our work using our laptop computer and cell phones. So we just have our traveling office… You couldn’t even fit much more than a picnic lunch in a Cobra... Of course, it gets all the looks, too, so it’s fun from that standpoint."

You had originally thought you would build the car for the Tri-Rodster Project story and cross-country cruise (the Power Tour) and then sell it, but you’ve held on to it. Why?

I’m not sure that I really planned to sell it, but we’ve just had so much fun with it and it turned out really great, that I wanted to keep it. I was originally going to use it for my real estate business, kind of as a fun thing for some clients; not all clients would appreciate it, but… But we’re actually using it more now for our National Kit Car Club business and driving all over the country in it to go to kit car shows. It’s a good cross-country driver, we’ve found.

So it’s comfortable?

Yes, very comfortable. Lots of room to take all of our stuff. Of course, it gets all the looks, too, so it’s fun from that standpoint. We really enjoy it. It turned out to be a worthwhile project. A lot of fun.

You couldn’t travel like that if you’d built a Cobra.

No. You couldn’t even fit much more than a picnic lunch in a Cobra. We’ve driven to Detroit and Detroit to San Bernardino. That was our first trip after we’d gotten the paint. The paint was barely dry by the time we headed out for the Power Tour. Since then, we’ve gone to St. Louis and Oklahoma and Topeka and California. We load up all of our gear and our luggage and our ice chest and food, and all sorts of stuff. Even our computer. We plug in and we continue doing our work using our laptop computer and cell phones. So we just have our traveling office. We also set up booths for some of the shows, some of them we don’t, but we take our wares to sell.

Do you take your own booth materials in your Rodster Street Rod?

It depends where we go. A lot of the car shows are smaller, so we don’t really set up a booth. But we’ll take our magazines and our books and just talk to people. We might just have a table set up. But to Knott’s Berry Farm, we do take a booth. This next year, going to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, we’re going to drive and take a booth as well. It carts a lot of stuff, but it’s comfortable. I do want to redo the interior. I haven’t done that yet. Everything on my car is stock interior. I want to change out the color. It’s fine. It’s in pretty good condition, but it’s a red color and I would like more of a gray. So I’ll just change out the seats and the carpeting, more with the gray and black. It’s a personal taste kind of thing.

Are you going to get Blazer interior or a custom job?

I think we’re going to go with the Blazer interior. I haven’t really made any calls yet. Actually, Jim was going to talk to Henry to see what contacts we should call from here. Obviously, one option is to look at salvage yards for models that have the gray interior that’s in good condition and then go from there. Then we’d probably have the carpet done by somebody. Or I think you could just buy Blazer seats. We’ll research to see what’s the most economical.

That’s the cool thing about the Rodster Street Rod. You can get the parts anywhere.

There’s a lot of standard parts and a lot of different years will fit. That’s also good if you’re looking in salvage yards. There’s a company here in Denver that has parts that they’ve already collected from the junkyards, so we don’t have to traipse around. I guess it just depends on how much legwork we really want to do. But I think we’ll probably do that versus a custom approach. Obviously, we could do that as well. I’m just assuming it will be more reasonable to do the Blazer approach.

When you go on some of these tours, do you find yourselves just motoring past some of the more esoteric kit cars that have broken down?

The only cross-country one we went on was the Power Tour, and yeah, every so often, you'd see cars broken down. But there were a lot of cars on that trip, though. And we've been to shows where we were expecting someone to show up and they had a problem with their car and couldn't get there. We've had breakdowns, hopefully, knock on wood, we won't have more. It's possible, but I think the good thing is that the parts are readily available.

A lot of people also have to trailer their cars to the shows, while you don't...

Yeah. A lot would trailer because they don't want to drive it on the road. Or because they're so cramped, there's no place to put their luggage, because it's not just a day kind of thing near their home.

Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

Yeah, it does. We just load it up and drive out of town.

With all these trips, how many miles have you put on the car since you built it?

Good question. I don't know. On our first trip I think we put on 8,000. We drove it from Phoenix to Denver. We went to Detroit and out to California. Maybe it was 5,000. I'm not really good at that kind of stuff. I think we have 158,000 [total] miles on it. [Editor's Note: Carolyn and Jim added up the miles after the interview and determined that they've put on 40,000 miles in the two years they've owned their Rodster Street Rod!]

In all those miles, have you had any problems?

We've only had one breakdown. It was on the Power Tour. It had to do with the alternator and it was on a Sunday out in the middle of nowhere and we were a couple miles from the town [Vendalia, IL]. On the Power Tour, we were touring with the other two Rodsters and so with one of them, we went into town. We didn't expect the NAPA store to be open on a Sunday in this small town, but it was. We were able to get the part and went back and fixed it on the road and off we went. So, from a parts standpoint, it's great, too, because you can always find the parts for it. (Check out the HOT ROD magazine Power Tour 2000 story at:

How's the ride for all those miles?

Oh, great. I hate to say it's like driving in a boat, that's not what I mean, or a tank, but you feel very secure, let's put it that way. No, I like it. The only thing I like to do, driving all those miles, if I'm a passenger, is to have a pillow behind my back for support. That's something I'm going to consider when we need to refurbish or get new seats, get them with a little bit better back support. And that could just be our model, or the wear on our particular car.

How many major events do you take it to per year?

We go to the Knott's Berry Farm show, which is the biggest. Last year, we didn't take it to Carlisle, but we are going to this year. The Run 'N Gun in Oklahoma, Pike's Peak event... Club Sandwich Drive, that was in Nevada... I'll say five or six.

That's a lot of miles. What attracted you to the Rodster Street Rod?

It's a long story. I had seen the Rodster when we were out in California. And also, having known Henry, that he is very detailed and very precise and fussy about his product. So, when I heard of the build-up story, that was one thing that I thought, "This is great because of Henry and his business." Then, we were going to do this project in one week, which I liked because it was possible to put this car together in a short period of time rather than... we have one project in our garage that has been there for a long time. All of our other projects have taken my husband ages to do.

So, it was one week for the Rodster as opposed to how long for the other kit cars?

Years. (laughs) It depends on which project you pick. And also -- this won't apply to everybody else -- but Henry was going to be involved the first few days of the project, so I thought, okay, he's going to oversee this and help us do things right. The reason I got into doing the project was my husband loves kit cars and building and doing stuff himself and we were moving into a house with a big garage, and I did not want to become a car widow, like the football widows, how they complain about that. We went to car shows and I didn't get it. I didn't understand it. And I thought, "Okay, I need to get involved and see what it's like and try to understand this." I don't fully understand it like a guy (laughs) about what gets them so excited. But I do understand, once you've built something and worked on it -- whether you do it 100% yourself or have somebody do it 100% -- you're involved in the creation of it, therefore, you're very excited about it. And I do understand going to shows and chatting with people about your car, and just around your car, it's fun.

What do people say when you tell them that you built that car?

They don't believe it. I have to say, I had a lot of help, I didn't do everything myself. I also had one of those removable casts at the time we built it, on my while foot and up to my kneecap. So, I was hobbling around and I couldn't get down underneath the car for that kind of stuff. And the welding or some of the heavier pieces of equipment, I couldn't exactly do. But I did do some of the cutting out of the rear wheel to put on the rear fender. I did a lot of stuff, but I certainly didn't do it by myself.

Did you enjoy building it?

Yeah, we had a great time. I did enjoy it. I had a very good time.

So that made you understand the satisfaction...

A lot more about the car, a lot more about doing stuff like that. I guess one of the things that I really gained an appreciation for is having the right tools. I joke a lot, but my husband, when there's a Craftsman sale, there's nothing that he can go buy, because he already has it. He's got all the tools. He always says, oh, if a project requires another tool, he's all game for it, because then he can go buy another tool. So I always say he's got so much. But, with this project, we all laid out our tools, and we would borrow from each other. If somebody had borrowed a tool from you and you needed it, it was frustrating, so I gained an appreciation through this of having the tools to do the job and not having to stop. In our case, it was go hunt out your tool. If you're at home you might have to go down to the hardware store and buy the tool.

What were your days like building the Rodsters? What time did you start?

Well, we had long days, but we had an hour drive to get there and an hour drive back. We probably started at nine in the morning, usually, and we would go till seven or eight at night and we took time off for lunch, an hour, probably. So we had long days, eight, ten hours.

What kind of deadline did you work under?

We finished the car, I guess it was the last week of January, so gosh, it was three years ago, the year 2000. The Power Tour was some time in May, the last week of April, first week of May. It wasn't painted at that time, so there was still more work to be done, but largely it was done. We sent it to a painter, Levy Racing, down in Tempe, Arizona. For my car, we also brought the rear panel and he put it on. He shaved out the door handles, so he did some bodywork and then painted it and flamed it. I have ghost flames on the front of mine.

Do you have any prior mechanical experience?

No, not to speak of. Most of my career, I worked for ARCO Oil Company and my first job with them in the mid 70's was sales; [I was a] marketing rep, for calling on gas stations. So as part of my training, I worked a week in a gas station. I had to do lube jobs and rotate tires and things, but... I never did it since then. So essentially, I'd say, no, I wouldn't know how to do any of that again.

Does this make you want to do more kit cars, or is this enough?

This is enough for me. I got out of it what I wanted to get out of it. For Jim to do it, sure, that's fine, and I would probably help him with a project in some way. But I plan to keep my car.

It's a trademark for you guys.

Yeah. It's our company car now.

Do you have a logo on it?

Yep, we have the National Kit Car Club on the front window and on the back, a little sticker, which is our logo. We don't have the logo real big. We don't have a logo on the side of the car; it's on the window.

What are some of the comments you get on the car?

Everybody wants to know what is it. Or people will say, "Is that on an S-10 Blazer?" It's recognized from the back; even though we've changed ours, they recognize it. It's pretty much, "How cool is that?" So it's all positive. Some will say, "Is that a PT Cruiser?" And we'll go, "No, this was put out before the PT Cruiser."

Did you always like cars? Do you like driving?

No. I really could care less about cars. Which is kind of weird because my husband is a real car nut. That's part of the reason why I wanted to do the project. To understand his love for cars. So, no, I've not been a car buff at all, but I certainly gained a much better appreciation for them, I'll say, throughout the project.

I'm sure he appreciates your efforts.

Oh, yeah. We have a good time with it.

What is the National Kit Car Club?

Jim was the editor of KIT CAR Magazine. There was KIT CAR Magazine and KIT CAR Illustrated and they consolidated and Jim left. And so we started the National Kit Car Club and a main benefit of it is a bi-monthly magazine, Kit Car Builder. We produce it; Jim writes it with freelancers. Our objective is to support the Kit Car industry, to help expand it and be a resource for people. The benefits include the magazine. We have a lot of companies that sponsor us -- we call it a sponsor program -- that offer discounts to members and Caroselli Design is part of that.

I saw that on your website...

And we have books that we sell, also. There's a technical forum on the website where you can get technical questions answered. Also now, there's a weekly update. Every Friday, Jim puts an update on the website about what's happening in the industry. It's a resource for people interested in the industry to promote the kit car.

Do you do the magazine at home?

We do it all at home. Our printer is in Phoenix, but all the design, all the layout, the writing, everything, is done at home.

What do you do for the magazine?

I'm the publisher. That's my title. I handle all the business stuff, and the marketing things, and we've done some mailers of brochures out to people to try to build up the membership. I give Jim his deadlines and make sure we meet our deadlines at the printer. I'm on the business side, the marketing side. He's the technical side, he's the creative side, he's the writer, he does all the layout. Our daughter helps us with lot of the ads. She's done a great job with that. She's a junior in college, a journalism major. Our son also knows how to do the graphics and stuff, so he's helped out, too. And Jim's mother and father help out. They live not too far from us. He's 82 and I guess she's 78, but they do proofreading for us. Jim's father is a journalism person as well, a writer. So it's kind of cute, they help us out.

So it's a family thing. I wanted to hear about the ease of building your Rodster. Did you have any problems?

No, I don't think so. The instruction book that Henry has is very good. Ours was a little bit of a different situation because, first off, Henry was there at the beginning. Of course, it was more complex because there were three projects at the same time. But he kind of went around to make sure we were all doing the right thing, and answer questions. There were some parts that had to be made and we were in a fabricating shop. They made some parts here and there that were certainly helpful. What it would have been like without those, I don't know.

When you were doing the build-up, were you all working on the same area at the same time?

The other two had to cut the rear end off, so ours went much faster. If I remember, we started on Saturday and we finished ours on a Friday. We drove out midday on Friday. The others stayed through the weekend and I think they might have had a little bit more to go as well; they still weren't finished to the point that we were. Finished for us at that point was having the kit together. We still had to put on the side view mirrors and in our case, we changed out the rear -- which was bodywork we had done -- filled in the lights, and that kind of thing. So we had the kit car parts on. The weirdest thing was driving home because we had the original paintjob on the car and then we had these white fiberglass parts. You know, the front end was white fiberglass and then the flares on the rear wheels were white. Driving down the road, it looked kind of silly.

How did that first ride feel knowing that you'd built this yourself?

Oh, it was great, especially after it got painted. When you have a finished car that you put together, it feels great. You love all the looks and everything and then all the questions and the wows and the attention that it gets, knowing that you did it. I think the only problem after we put it together was the way we put on the lock on the front. It kept coming loose and Henry then told us how to correct that.

So Henry was still available for questions?

Oh, yeah. He's always available. He's always willing to help out. Give you leads or whatever if you have questions.

What did you think of the kit itself? The finish of the fiberglass, etc.

Oh, it was great. It's the typical Henry Caroselli good quality. He has it all together and all the basic parts you need. And he gives a list of all the parts that you need to buy, so for our project, all the parts you needed to buy, they were all purchased, all ready to go. So anybody can take his book and have everything ready. If I'm not mistaken he even lists what kind of tools you'll need, so you can lay it all out and get started. The fiberglass was good, it fit together like it's supposed to.

I've talked to other guys about other kit cars and pieces don't fit.

Yeah, doors don't close right... You know, [with the Rodster Sedan delivery] it's not the whole body, it's the front end. I guess if you get the coupe or the convertible, then there are some more parts, but mine was really the front end and rear wheel flares. There were some modifications in the motor to do. But it went very smoothly.

You think you got enough bang for your buck?

Oh, yeah. I don't know where you can buy a kit for under $5,000.

What do you think is the best thing about the Rodster Street Rod?

I like the campy style -- the design of it, I should say. The look. That's number one, probably, how a car looks. And then, probably, with the kit, that it's easy to do. And easy -- that's interpreted differently by different people, but.

So you think the average person can put one together?

For me, if I had done this totally on my own, with no background, no, it would have been hard because I wouldn't know what I was doing. Or how to really use the tools. But I think if somebody's done some garage work, mechanical work, yeah, it would be easy.

Would you recommend the Rodster Street Rod to other people?

Oh, I do all the time. I hand out cards. Whenever we go to a show, I have Henry's cards on the windshield and I'm more than glad to recommend it and tell people about it.

Have you entered the car in shows or are you just there to represent National Kit Car Club?

No, we enter. In fact, I've gotten awards for the paint job. Yes, we've gotten several awards on it.

Do people tend to flock around your car as opposed to some of the other well known kit cars?

Oh, yeah. We get a lot of people hanging around our car, which is fun, too, because it is unusual. Then when they realize it's on an S-10 Blazer, they all say, "How practical!" I mean, it's a great look, but at the same time, it's practical. A lot of people talk about being able to have a daily driver. Otherwise, if you're spending $50,000 on a car or $100,000, or whatever, most people don't want to use that as a daily driver. That's probably one of the great features of it, too, that it can be a daily driver, whether you use it for business or just getting yourself around.

Check out the "Tri-Rodster" build-up and the three Rodster Street Rods going cross-country on the HOT ROD Magazine Power Tour 2001.