owners saying about the Rodster® Street Rod?
A Few Words With BOB VENEZIA
Godeffroy, New York
So Henry tells me you've
been building exotic cars for Mr. Druker for a while?
Yes, this is my third car
What else have you
built for him?
The first car I built for
him... he wanted a car to go to the beach with and he found a Mini Mog
on the island of Jamaica. I tried to search for a car like that. That
was a car that was made in the Sixties by British Leland. I found a
couple; they had used them on the island of Catalina. But they were
all rotted and I convinced him that rather than spend our money on something
that was thirty years old and restore it -- and it didn't work good
thirty years ago -- we should get a Japanese car and I should make it
into a beach car. So, after checking several chassis, I found that the
Geo Metro or Suzuki was the type of body that I needed. I cut the roof
off, I cut the doors down and made it into a car like on "Fantasy
Island." We welded the bottom of the doors into the chassis and
I remade the chassis for the car, and we reupholstered it; made a convertible
top for it. That car was painted White Pearl with magenta accents. That
was the first car I built for him, probably ten years ago. The next
car I built for him... he had a SAAB that was a 900 Turbo convertible
and he decided to hotrod it somewhat. So, we lowered the suspension,
we had special wheels and tires, we got the best shocks we could get.
I got springs from England, I got a stainless steel exhaust from somebody
else. We put a new chip in it for the computer and rebuilt the entire
drivetrain in the car. Lowered the trans, lowered it and that was the
end of that project.
So is the Rodster your
first kit car?
No, I've done several kit
cars over my twenty-five years of fooling around. My first kit car I
did was a car called a Valkyrie, a car based on a Volkswagen floor plan.
I did a couple Cobras, and then I did a car called the Gatsby. A car
that they originally sold as a Sceptre, I believe. The guy sold about
fifteen of them and went out of business. And a guy in California, his
name was Sky Clausen he bought the molds. He produced them for
a while and I liked the way the car looked and I bought a body. We put
it on a -- I think at the time it was a '77 Thunderbird chassis. When
the car was finished, I eventually brought it down to Florida and eventually
the car was sold to a guy in Belgium.
How does the Rodster
compare with the other kit cars that you've done as far as ease of assembly?
For ease of assembly, the
Rodster is by far the easiest to put together. Once you understand the
drawings and stuff, it's very straightforward. There's not much fitting,
which is where most people go... you know, fitting the doors, fitting
this, fitting that. The trunk pretty much falls into place by itself.
The doors -- because they're steel doors -- if you have to move them
or do whatever you have to do, you can. The nose of the car is the only
place where you have to do a little hand-fitting. So it's pretty straightforward.
How many hours do you
think you spent on the conversion?
Well, you can't go by me
because this particular car had a lot of things done to it that a regular
Rodster doesn't get. My car was made into a four-seater because this
guy has two children. All the rest of the Rodsters are only two-seaters.
You know how he has a tonneau cover that covers what would be normally
the backseat of a Blazer, it has those two humps in it? Okay.
What I did was cut those two humps out, I made a mold to put fiberglass
in, and I remolded the one edge that I cut out. And then I got a Jeep
Wrangler seat and I made some brackets for it and I moved some of the
stuff around so I could have it be the way I wanted and have enough
room for someone to go in and out. On his car, he uses a cross-brace
to hold the left and right, the B pillars of the car, the doorjambs,
the part where the lock is. He uses a cross-brace to hold those two
sides of the car at the right distance apart once you cut the roof off.
I couldn't use the cross-brace because that's where you step through
to get to the backseat. So I incorporated a B pillar reinforcement
in the rollbar on both sides, and I made it so it was adjustable, so
that if you didn't get it in exactly the right spot, you could bend
the piece in and out by turning a screw to line the doors up properly.
So, my car has a lot of other things. Also, the guy wanted his car to
be stick. But I couldn't find a stick car that was everything I wanted.
So I found this one. It had air, it had power this, power that, so I
ended up buying it and taking it apart to convert it into a stick. So
I can't really tell you in hours. My car is so much different from the
rest of them.
Suppose someone didn't
do all these extra things to it. Judging from the manual and the basic
stuff that you have to do to build a Rodster, do you think that it's
within the realm of a non-professional car guy?
Absolutely. Absolutely. It's
just got to be a guy who has a smidgen of common sense. You know, he
can be a guy who works with wood. It has to be a guy who's relatively
handy. You couldn't take somebody who has no mechanical skills. It's
not that they couldn't do it, but it would take them forever. As a matter
of fact, I've just seen a guy in Pennsylvania who built one last year
and he's not a body guy by any means. He did all the mechanical work
himself. His car is as good as any. And the car was very straightforward,
he did a real nice job, and like he said, "You know, I'm not a
Would that have been
We've got a lot of
pictures of his car on the website. He's really enjoying it a lot.
Yeah, he is. I went to a
car show Sunday, and the car was there, but I couldn't find him. I waited
a couple of hours, did the rest of the show, I came back and he still
wasn't there. And then I had to leave, so I never really got to speak
to him personally. I just talked to him once on the phone because he
had made a convertible top for the Rodsters. I'm making one for Druker's
car and I wanted to look at what he did. He did a pretty nice job. I'm
going to start, I guess, Druker's car in two weeks. I'll be taking his
car back to put a convertible top on it.
Did you do everything
Pretty much everything, except
for the upholstery. I have a guy that I've worked with for twenty years
on various projects. Had him do the beach car for me. I pretty much
send him whatever I do, being that we're on the same wavelength with
regards to what something should be when it's finished. He sews excellent,
all his seams are straight, always does a nice job, and he and I get
along relatively well, you know. I can say, "Hey, I want it like
this" or "No, that's not good." You know what I'm saying?
I give him enough work. I generally come in with a sketch of what I
want it to be and we take it from there. My car also has a full interior.
It has two front seats, back seats. But what I did was... all these
people, 90% of them, are using the Blazer or Jimmy interior, okay? Because
that interior has -- in the gray version, anyway, which is the one I
was working with -- about four different shades of gray in there. They
wanted to take this car to Florida; they wanted a white interior. I
couldn't do a white interior because there were too many shades of gray.
So what I ended up doing was, I took a dark gray, what they call a porpoise
gray, and to the outside of the seat and the center where your back
and your butt would touch, made a much lighter gray. And those grays
are on the dashboard and on the door panels. I also reupholstered --
on most of the Blazer door panels, depending on year, there's a little
spot of interior where your elbow would rest. I took that off. I made
that into an arrow pattern, which is what the whole interior of this
car is. It's like two inch pleats going towards a point. And we did
the whole interior like that, so everything matched.
Sounds great. Is Mr.
Druker going to be showing this car?
This guy is not into... he's
a car guy. He's a driver, you know what I mean? He's not into going
to the car show and sitting there for five hours. He's into driving
the car. His only complaint about the car is that he can't go anywhere
with it, because wherever it is, there's like a hundred people on him!
We painted the car candy apple red. I have to say -- and not because
I did it -- the paint came out really good. I mean, you can't look at
the thing in the sunlight -- it just glows. It came out very nice all
around. The gray interior, the candy apple red exterior. I put small
nerf bars on the back to give him a little bumper protection. And also,
he wanted sidepipes, so we put sidepipes on the car, exactly like the
ones that guy bought in Pennsylvania and put on. Both of these cars
are kind of the same. Mine has the other nose on it; mine has the old
Ford-looking nose and his has the Cobra-type nose, the mouth-type nose.
But actually, the colors -- I think he painted his Cayenne Red, a SAAB
color. It's slightly orangeyer than Candy Apple Red, but it's a two-stage
paint, as well. So the cars look very similar.
Let me ask you about
the process. Did you enjoy putting it together?
I'm kind of beyond that.
That's more for the
Yeah. That's for a guy who's
doing this for the first time. Henry was a very nice guy; I had a couple
of problems. Everybody has a different train of thought for things,
you know. I had a couple of problems, a couple of questions. Henry was
cool. You call him up, say, "Henry, this is what's going on..."
"Okay, do this, do that," you know. So that was very nice.
He was always helpful; he was always knowledgeable. Which a lot of times
when you buy a kit car, you can't get that.
I've heard that.
Did you get the kit on time?
Yeah. Not only that, but
I don't think you'll find -- like I said, I've been doing this a long
time -- I don't think you'll find anybody who packs the thing like he
did. Which is really important, because there's nothing worse than having
your stuff get halfway -- you know, 3,000 miles over here -- to find
out something's broken. So, that is something to be considered. It was
shipped in a timely fashion. There was one piece -- the lowering blocks
were supposed to be a certain size. It was supposed to be 3 inch ones.
I got 4 inch ones and I didn't want them. I called him up and Henry
was like, "Hey, go out and buy another set, send me the bill and
I'll pay you." To me, Henry's a pretty straight-up kind of guy.
I like him.
That's great. As far
as the kit, what did you think of the fiberglass parts?
The 'glass itself was pretty
good. We had a couple of gel pops. That's on an individual basis. As
they're making the mold, the first thing the guy does is he sprays gel
coat in the mold. And then he starts to put the fiberglass in on top
of that. If they don't roll the fiberglass good into the gel coat, there's
a little air pocket, and when you go to sand it, that breaks through,
and now you have a big hole and you have to fill it. So, there were
a couple of gel pops on the car, but for my two cents, nothing bad.
I've done kits where the right and left side are completely different.
What did you think
of the fit of the Rodster parts to the donor car?
They fit well. They absolutely
did fit well. Personally, I would have liked maybe bigger pictures in
his assembly manual. Maybe some of the stuff was copied too many times
and wasn't so clear. You know, I'm fifty-something years old, I need
big pictures nowadays. But, like I said, I changed a couple of things,
simply because I've done this numerous times, okay? Not this particular
car, but I've done plenty of cars, so I changed things to suit what
I know is the correct way. But, as far as I'm concerned, Henry's stuff
is a quality item. Everything fit pretty nice. And the end product speaks
for itself. When you find out that a guy sold, say, 500 kits, and then
you find out there's only fifty of them together, right there you know
what the problem is. There's always a certain amount of kits that don't
get put together for one reason -- you know, divorce, the guy ran out
of money, whatever the story might be. But when you find the guy sold
like 300 kits and only fifty of them got put together, you know there's
a reason why. And I'm sure if you go and call everybody that Henry sold
the car to, I'm sure all of his cars are done. And that, you won't find
It's okay to sell them and
a guy buys them, but that doesn't mean... you know what I'm saying?
As a matter of fact, Druker called me earlier today and left a message.
He thinks he has somebody that's seen the car that wants one. With the
beach car, I can't tell you how many people called me up for the beach
car. If I had three customers like him, I would stay home. I would have
so much work, I couldn't do it all. He's one of those kinds of guys.
Other than the photos
in the manual, were the instructions clear?
Yeah. Like I said, everyone
has a different train of thought. I think I called him only two or three
times to clarify certain things. You could write a technical manual
and some people never get it. You know what I'm saying? But I thought
his manual was very straightforward. If you followed it step-by-step
as he suggested, the process went along relatively smoothly.
I wanted to ask you
about the donor car. What year was it, what kind of motor, all that
The donor car... I wouldn't
let anybody buy one unless it had a 4.3 motor in it. That didn't start
till '88, I believe. So you had to have one that's '88 or later. I found
a 1990 which had 107,000 miles on it. It was automatic, air conditioned,
two-wheel drive, and I paid $3,000 for it.
How much total is invested?
In Jim's car, I put about,
I believe, $20,000 in parts. That was just in parts. That included paint
and included materials. That includes the donor car and the kit. That
includes everything except my labor.
That includes the conversion
to stick and jump seat, too?
Jump seat, stick, making
it into a four-seater, making the convertible top for it. I went over
the whole car. I replaced the water pump, alternator, all the ball joints,
all the brake rotors, axle seals, driveshaft u-joints. When I go through
a car, I go through it. And that's why the amount is so much money.
But, if you drive his car, it feels like a new car now.
How does driving it
feel to you?
It's very cool. As much as
I thought it would just be nice to look at and it would drive poorly,
the thing drives excellent. It drives excellent! I've owned Corvettes
my whole life. I've had all kinds of cars. I drive a lot of cars, everything
from Jaguars, Porsches, you name it, I've driven them. This car goes
around a corner real nice. With the stick, and once you lower the suspension,
it goes around the corner really good. And Druker is a very fast driver.
His normal cruising speed is about 75, this guy. He'll even tell you,
it's like, wow this thing is really nice.
How does it feel inside?
Is it comfortable?
Like I said, my interior
is a little different. I redid the seats. As far as vision over the
hood and turning around and seeing, yeah, it's pretty good. I have no
problem with that.
So, would you recommend
the Rodster to other people?
Oh, absolutely! Absolutely!
What do you think is
the best thing about it?
I guess for a guy to do this
with his son, or something like that -- I think the fact that you can
do it in a one-car garage with a minimum amount of tools, I think that
says something for it. You don't have to have a machine shop full of
junk to do this.
Is there anything else
you want to say about the car?
I think, like I said, the
few customers that I've talked to, everybody's happy with their car.
That, to me, says more than anything that Henry says in his brochure.
These are the guys who are actually using them. You know what I'm saying?
So, like my guy, if you talk to Jim Druker, I think he'll tell you the
same thing. He'll tell you, "Wow, the car is really cool. I'm having
the best time of my life with it!"