owners saying about the Rodster® Street Rod?
A Few Words With Carolyn
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"
"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.
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.
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.
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
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: http://www.rodster.com/powertour2001.htm).
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
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
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
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
I'm sure he appreciates
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
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
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
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,
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
Have you entered
the car in shows or are you just there to represent National Kit Car
No, we enter. In fact, I've
gotten awards for the paint job. Yes, we've gotten several awards on
Do people tend
to flock around your car as opposed to some of the other well known
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.