The Tiki Rocket

Galleries - Exotica

The Tiki Rocket

Kustom Car Design

The Tiki Rocket


It was love at first site. The decrepit hull of a 1949 Styline, four door sedan.


For some reason, I decided I needed a new and expensive hobby. Maybe that wasn't the actual thought in my head, but it's what the reality turned out to be. I decided that of all the things I had created in my life, I wanted to design a HOT ROD.


 I found a little body shop in East LA that had a few new acquired cars to chose from, and went with the 49'. The intention was to have this built from the ground up, customizing as much of the car as possible. This was also to be my daily driver, so it had to run tip-top as well.


The concept of the design was to make it a plush, warm place to hang out. One of the reason I love big old cars is the bench seating that makes it feel like you're riding on a couch. Like you're riding in a living room, only I wanted it to be more stylish. More elegant. More outrageous. I wanted to ride in a rolling, exotic, Tiki Room.


But first the car had to be built.


First off, we made it a full clip. The car was built around the frame of a 1977 Camero, with four disc breaks and automatic transmission. In time, the engine was replaced with a 305 out of a 1986 Iroc, and so the car became fuel injected. Shaving the chrome off the body, a custom gas tank was built for the fuel injection and the cap was put inside of the trunk so no door seam would be seen on the quarter panel. Since the chrome was shaved, there were no more door handles, and solenoids were put in the doors, which could only be opened by remote entry -- magically popping open as you neared the car.


This is essentially the source of all the problems. It had become Frankenstein's monster. All these things that weren't necessarily supposed to go together were forced together and they didn't like living happily ever after. For three years this was the only car I drove around LA, the city of driving. There were constantly problems, which were constant reasons for it to be in the shop and not ever ready to have the fine design work done that I had planned.


The interior did turn out really nice. A bright red, warm upholstery with two-tone seats. The gauges were all replaced with custom bezels and all the interior lights were tinted warm orange, giving a subtle fiery feel at night. It was quite the driving experience.


Eventually I just couldn't take it anymore. It was the only source of stress in my life! Finally running perfectly, but no real place to keep it at my new apartment, I drove it to Las Vegas on our last journey together. There it found a new owner, and I returned to stress free driving in LA in a new 2006 Scion Xb. Probably the greatest purchase I've ever made in my life!


But I still think of all the grandiose plans I had for the Tiki Rocket: Pinstriping. Metallic orange paint. Billet aluminum tiki idols set as grill posts. Modern sound system with a custom iPod dock built into the dashboard (inside the oddly similar shaped 1949 radio space). Flame throwers on the exhaust. One day I may be able to make it a reality. Until then I will only have the memory.