"The Rodster® is a superbly designed and engineered kit that is probably the most practical and economical specialty car around.
I put the kit together in just 2 months, working evenings and weekends. Everything went together and fit perfectly. The quality of the fiberglass was excellent. The S-10 Blazer is a perfect donor vehicle: I used an '89 with a fuel-injected 4.3L V6, A/C, power everything, tilt wheel and cruise control. I added a 3' lift kit, 31X10.5R15LT tires, fender flares, exterior hood latches, tube bumpers and nerf bars, and a tow hitch, which makes it the ultimate cruising SUV.
With the hard top, I can drive it every day and I do. Why wouldn't I?
Doing business with Rodster®, Inc. was a pleasure. They worked with me on special requests and I got all my parts on time. I was also able to call when I had specific questions about the buildup.
My 4X4 Rodster® is great! Pardon my enthusiasm, but it's hard to not be excited when all I have to do is drive it or park it or whatever and I get tons of positive comments and questions."
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 ®:
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 4,383.
- Obtain donor.
- Cut it up.
- Obtain Kit
- Attach Kit Parts to donor.
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 tires.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 that is).
- Attach Kit Parts to donor.
- Paint.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 lift.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.
Mechanical and Performance1989 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.
Kit Details3" 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 wheel.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.