Q&A: Rodger Lee of Ironworks Speed and Kustom
Rodger Lee and the crew at Ironworks Speed and Kustom are leaders in high-end automotive fabrication. What began in a 900 square foot shop now encompasses a 10,000 sq. foot operating facility in Bakersfield, CA. Hard work, creativity, attention to detail and raw talent have set Ironworks head and shoulders above the rest and garnered the attention of automotive enthusiasts on the aftermarket’s biggest stage. Last year, Rodger’s team produced a twin turbo ’62 Bubbletop that was showcased in the Meguiar’s booth and a Whipple supercharged ’57 Chevy that we had the pleasure of featuring in our booth at the SEMA Show. One can only imagine how busy a shop capable of this kind of work can be, but were able to steal Rodger away from one of the many projects that he is focused on at the moment to ask him a few questions. Here’s what he had to say:
In general, what do you set out to accomplish with your builds?
I enjoy trying to improve what was there from the factory. Some cars don’t take much work at all to look killer like ‘67 C-10 trucks, ‘67-‘69 Camaros, 1932 Fords, 1940 Fords, 1955 Chevys, all the popular cars. I think any car can be made to look good. It just might require a ton of work to bring that ugly duckling around to get everyone’s attention like a standard popular car.
Is there a specific modification that you enjoy performing the most?
I’m a huge fan of performing a wedge section on a car. That is where you section the car in the shape of a wedge and take more out of the front than the rear. It makes the car look faster and sleeker. We did that on the Fairway ‘55 we completed a few years ago. I personally think we made the great looking ‘55 Chevy look even better with really only one modification to the exterior body.
What was the first hot rod you fell in love with?
I really like ‘67 C-10 trucks. I also have a soft spot for 1936 Ford 3-window coupes. I also like anything that is well executed and performs well for speed. Motorsports are always an interest for me.
How do you remain creative and innovative in a market where the talent pool is constantly rising?
Seems like there is a new shop popping up every day and that makes the level of competition higher and higher. You have to always be striving for more. You can never settle or say, “Oh that’s enough I suppose.” In this game, it’s never good enough. We finish a major car that wins awards and gets cover spots on magazines and I’m still working to make things better. It’s never good enough and can always be done better.
Where do you see this industry going in the next 10 years?
I see the bar continuing to get raised, people trying to do things better and better. But, I also see technology coming more and more into play. CNC machines are getting cheaper and cheaper, technology is getting easier to come by. Builders are going to get more creative at what they can do with these modern tools to achieve higher and higher results. Plus, the next generation is more and more used to the use of technology so it will come to them much easier as they have never had to make a transition from not having it.
What would you recommend to young builders or even students?
Don’t be scared. Get out there and try some stuff. You have to mess some things up to learn how to do something. You will never be a fast motorcross guy if you don’t fall down and get back up a few times. In car building it’s just metal, it can all be fixed. I probably wouldn’t start with a NOS condition pebble beach car in your drive way to learn on. That was one thing I liked about a rat rod style car, as long as you were just trying to build something nice and not just cobble old junk together for shock value. Take pride in your work and constantly try to do things better.
Why do you choose Flowmaster, B & M and Hurst products for your builds?
Flowmaster mufflers help give the car the hot rod sound, which is a crucial element of any custom car. We use B&M shifters for their style and simplicity. They just work. We also use Hurst shifters in a lot of cars for that classic style and look you need in a classic car.
10 Things You May Not Have Known about B&M Racing’s History
1. B&M is named for its founders, Bob Spar (the “B”) and Mort Schuman (the “M”).
2. B&M began as a general automotive repair shop in 1953. Although they started out wrenching on a little bit of everything, high school friends Bob Spar and and Mort Schuman found their niche strengthening transmissions and high performance engines.
3. In 1961, the B&M Hydro Stick became the only patented four-speed automatic racing transmission in history. Based on the popular GM Hydramatic, the B&M Hydro Stick allowed racers to manually shift their automatic transmissions. In a time when manuals ruled the track, B&M’s Hydro Stick changed the game by making it possible to keep an automatic transmission in low gear until the driver decided to upshift.
4. B&M was one of the original 13 founding companies of SEMA when it started in 1963.
5. In 1965 Frank Cannon made the first 200 MPH Top Fuel run in history using a B&M TorkMaster transmission.
6. Legend of the track, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme’s first solo effort was in the B&M owned and sponsored TorkMaster car.
7. Working in conjunction with a major oil company in the 1960’s, B&M introduced, Trick Shift, the first performance ATF.
8. When automatics started gaining momentum in the mid-60’s, B&M began modifying converters to increase stall speeds. B&M was the first company to create what is known today as the high stall racing torque converter.
9. In 1969, B&M teamed up with Andy Granatelli and Plymouth on a program to develop the only automatic transmission for Indy/USAC racing.
10. In the 1970s, B&M introduced shift and transmission improving kits to the market. These kits allowed customers to improve shift firmness and transmission durability in their driveways using basic hand tools.
As time marches on, the automobile as we know it has evolved greatly. Some may have memories of rebuilding and tuning carburetors on their classic muscle car, perhaps replacing heads, or maybe swapping out the intake manifold. Today however, things are quite a bit different underneath the hood. When peeking into the engine bay of a new vehicle, one will generally see a complex and perhaps intimidating environment covered in plastic. While appearances may suggest that the addition of computers and sensors paired with smaller displacement forced-induction engines are a step back for fun, the truth is horsepower per dollar ratios may be looking better than ever. Instead of spending hours taking an engine apart, or struggling to tune a carb, significant and reliable power can be generated in as little as ten minutes. Enter Steve and the Flowmaster Delta Boost Performance Tuner.
Björn Morhin’s 1970 Chevrolet Nova “Yenko” Tribute
Photos: Patrick Meinhold
When one thinks of the high-horsepower cars you would expect to see on the streets of Berlin, Germany, BMWs, Mercedes, and perhaps Porsches come to mind. However, Björn Morhin drives something special, a 1970 Chevrolet Nova “Yenko” tribute.
Björn acquired his Nova after an exhausting online search. After coming across an ad for a Nova residing in the Netherlands, Björn instantly jumped on the phone and contacted the seller to arrange a showing. He was drawn to the car by what he feels is an understated body, one that is simple yet proper, with just the right lines. Shortly after speaking with the owner, Björn jumped into a car with a few friends and drove from Berlin to the Netherlands. Upon arrival, a Björn thoroughly inspected the classic Chevy, a deal was struck and Björn became the proud new owner of a ’70 Nova.
Eventually Björn decided it was time to restore the car. He spent a great deal of time conceptualizing what he wanted, searching for the right color and stance to give his Nova. While looking for inspiration, Björn came across classic photos of the Yenko dealership and some of the awesome options offered during the hay-day of classic muscle cars. It was from there that he decided to build his Yenko tribute. For the exterior, a sleek and subtle GM “Shadow Grey” was chosen, with discreet “Yenko” strips along the rear quarter panels accentuating the vehicle’s body lines. Inside, the Nova was treated to a completely new interior with faint vintage racecar touches. Classic RCI racing seats, Autometer Phantom gauges and a Hurst Competition/Plus shifter add custom touches to the freshly updated cabin. Additionally, no restoration is complete without a revised drivetrain. In just over a year’s time, Björn took the 454ci V8 that came in the car and had it bored out to 468ci, refreshed the Muncie gearbox, and hooked up a Currie Enterprises 9” rearend.
Today, the Nova is a car that Björn loves to drive on a regular basis; often stomping on the gas, dumping the clutch, and allowing that big block torque to make use of the rear rubber. However, as is the case with most builds, things aren’t over for this Chevy. Björn plans to swap out the 468ci engine for a built 496ci big block in addition to overhauling the entire suspension system this summer. We wish him the best of luck in his endeavors as he continues to build up this awesome machine, which you can follow on his Instagram page: a_one57.
Answering the Hard Questions with Hurst Driveline Conversions
In a time of all pro-touring everything, it has become common knowledge that driveability and fuel economy can be improved upon via the installation of a modern overdrive transmission. That said, many seasoned vets are still apprehensive about taking on the swap. Tremec gear-rowers themselves, our friends at Lateral-G.net understand the benefits and have heard the fears, hesitations and victories of owners on their forum for years. When they decided that it was time to dispel the myths and mysteries of TKO and T-56 swap black magic, Tim King reached out to us to clear the air and dig into some of the most frequently asked questions that Hurst Driveline Conversions receives from customers. Here’s some info that’ll help you know what you’re in fo’: Lateral-G Featured Article: Answering the Hard Questions with Hurst Driveline Conversions
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