Note: This article originally
appeared in Tach'n Opinion, the monthly newsletter for the Oregon
Handcrafted Automobile Association (OHAA).
I noticed that last month's
newsletter was a little thin. Al can't do everything by himself, so
I thought I might write a little about my recent car project. I've built
two cars in two years now so I guess that qualifies me as a kit car
enthusiast. Actually, I think the bug bit me pretty hard. Those of you
who have built your own cars understand the gratification that comes
from our hobby. It's been said that some people are builders and some
are drivers. I think I'm a builder. No sooner do I complete one project
than I feel I need to start another one. At any rate, here are some
of the details of my Rodster® project.
I've always loved 4x4's and
have owned several Jeeps, a Toyota pickup, and a Nissan Patrol. After
I built my '29 Mercedes replica, I began to wonder why not more kits
were offered on a 4x4 donor platform. I even considered how cool it
would be if someone designed an off-road kit resembling the Hummer.
Well, I guess I wasn't the only one with that idea. Anyway, I was just
about ready to plunk down some cash for a Jeep Wrangler when I saw the
Rodster® featured in one of the magazines. I noticed it was
designed for the S10 Blazer, specifically for the 2WD version. I thought,
'The Blazer is a four-wheel drive vehicle, isn't it? I wonder what
that kit would look like on a 4x4 with a lift kit and big tires?' Well,
the idea was born and it took hold in me with a vengeance.
There are five basic, if
oversimplified, steps to building a Rodster ®:
- Obtain donor.
- Cut it up.
- Obtain Kit
- Attach Kit Parts to donor.
However, if you figure in
a few mistakes along the way, and a few modifications to make the kit
work on a 4x4, I think the actual number of steps is somewhere around
Step 1: Obtain Donor.
I thought about the Rodster®
kit for months before I did anything about it. I told myself (actually,
my wife told me) that I didn't have the money or the time to start another
project. Not to mention that half of my garage was already occupied
by a newly finished car and my wife used the other half for parking
the minivan. Undaunted, I scoured the papers for a suitable Blazer donor
vehicle. After all, even if I didn't build a Rodster,® I
could still use a Blazer, right?
The Oregonian advertised
that a particular 1989 S10 Blazer 4x4 could be had for 3000 something
with a slipping transmission. I decided to check it out. The transmission
didn't seem bad at all. Maybe it just needed fluid. I offered $2700.
SOLD! The next day the puddles on the garage floor revealed that it
needed fluid all right. But no matter how much I put in, it still ended
up on the garage floor, and the transmission slipped regardless.
My Blazer had some redeeming
qualities. It was a 4.3L V6, which I would need to help turn the bigger
tires. It was also the Tahoe package, which included A/C, cruise, tilt,
power windows and locks, all of which were retained in the finished
vehicle. I didn't get to use the two-tone paint, roof rack, and rear
window wiper/washer/defroster. Bummer. One nice feature was little dome
lights built into the rear view mirror. That comes in handy in an open
top vehicle. It also had a cheap-o alarm system that didn't work, which
took me a couple of hours to cut out of there. The Pioneer detachable
face CD player is pretty nice, I imagine, but I don't know because it
came with the face detached. Some previous owner probably thought they'd
get back at the dealer for not giving them a good trade-in value. The
face costs 80 bucks to replace and it's a crapshoot because you still
don't know if the CD player works.
Anyway, the truck spent the
winter in the rain slowly losing air from all four of its bald, mismatched
Step 2: Cut it up.
This was the fun part. But
before you lay a blade to your nice Blazer donor vehicle, you better
make sure that you're getting a Rodster® kit. You may even
want to switch steps two and three. I didn't, but hey it might be a
good idea anyway. For clarification, your steps would be:
- Obtain donor.
- Obtain Kit.
- Cut it up (er, the donor
- Attach Kit Parts to donor.
My step 2 was cutting up
the donor vehicle. I ordered an assembly manual from Henry Caroselli,
who designs and sells the kits. But I wanted to get to know the company
more up close and personal, you see, so I planned a visit to his shop
in El Segundo, California.
Hmmm, how to justify a trip
to Southern California? Hey, isn't Disneyland down there? Aren't we
about due for a family vacation? Hey, kids let's go to Disneyland! Yea!!!!!
We drove all the way down in December right before Christmas. We saw
Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, Six Flags, the beach, and of course,
the Rodster® factory (which just happens to be pretty close
to the beach).
I was impressed with the
company, to say the least. It looked like he was cranking out kits at
a pretty good clip. Although the fiberglass work is done elsewhere,
I was able to see some completed cars, including the Power Tour car.
I asked lots of questions. Specifically, I took measurements of the
wheel wells on the Rodster®, because I needed to know exactly
how much tire I could scrunch under there with a reasonable amount of
I went home and stewed for
a couple more months before making the commitment (read coughing
up the cash for a down payment). If you have to justify everything
you do you're not going to be very happy. I bought it because I wanted
it. The whole project was financed by VISA and Home Equity Loan. (My
other kit car and my Mazda MX-6 are still for sale, by the way.)
It's time to start cutting.
Follow the instructions very carefully. Don't get too carried away.
That said, this was a blast. I got the manly tools for the job: sawsall,
grinder, hacksaw, pry bar, etc. Lifting the roof off with two hands
and tossing it off into the yard was quite a thrill. The pile of parts
I removed was as big as a car, and the Blazer really didn't look like
one anymore. I sold off a bunch of the extra parts, and I still have
a few. If you have questions about the exact location of a cut, wait
until you get the kit before you finish it off.
I did a few more things before
picking up the kit. I installed Rancho shocks, new spark plugs, wires,
fuel filter, K&N filter, and other miscellaneous parts. I installed
the 3" body lift, which wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would
be. The tricky part was rigging up the right jack the right way. Also,
since my Blazer has the collapsible steering column, I didn't have to
make any other major modifications. The shift linkage had to be modified,
and the driveshaft tunnel and shift boot needed mods for the floor-mounted
4x4 shifter. I also took the opportunity to drop the tranny and have
it rebuilt. The remainder of the 4x4 and performance goodies were on
their way from JC Whitney.
Well, I think
that's enough for the first installment. Next time you'll see how I
got another trip to California and why I had to sleep in the minivan
in the front seat that wouldn't recline. Also, we'll start building
the Rodster®. Seeya.
1989 Chevrolet S10 Blazer
4X4 Tahoe edition. 4.3L V6 with Automatic transmission, A/C,
Power Windows, Power Locks, cruise control, tilt wheel, digital gauges.
Car has 165K miles but the engine has been rebuilt.
Mechanical and Performance
3" body lift, 31x10.5R15LT
tires on 15" American Racing fully polished alloy wheels, Rancho
RS5000 shocks, SUPER chip, K&N filter, new exhaust including 2
1/2" catalytic converter and Flowmaster muffler with 3"
chrome tip, 3500lb receiver hitch, newly rebuilt transmission with
shift kit and clutch pack, new battery.
Custom 4-row radiator,
high capacity electric fan, new A/C condenser, custom front and rear
3" tube bumpers, 3" nerf bars, tilt front hood section
with exterior hood latches, front and rear fender flares, removable
fiberglass hard top with rear window, vinyl bikini top, custom carpet-covered
cockpit-to-trunk wall and speaker enclosure, detachable face CD player
with 4 speakers, amp and subwoofer, custom center seat with seatbelt
folds down for use as an armrest, Grant signature series steering
Very fun for cruising, gets
19 mpg. Built to be driven. Drove it to California over
1200 miles without any problems. Driven in city traffic in very
hot weather without any problems. Nice stereo, fully enclosed
securable trunk area. Performance chip and muffler give it a great
sound and tire squealing ability. Gets a lot of looks and comments.