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Motor Mashup Master

By William Abernathy

Photo by Randy Grubb

Randy Grubb has one sweet job: working from his Grants Pass, Ore., garage, he builds hot rods. His rides, however, are far from ordinary. No small-block Chevy engines or deuce coupe chassis litter his yard. He builds from supersized truck, jet, and tank parts.

The son and grandson of dentists, Grubb seemed destined to continue the family trade until a glassblowing demo in college led him astray. Using French “lamp work” techniques, he built brightly colored glass sculpture paperweights, which earned him a good living for 20 years. For fun, he built cars.

At age 40, Grubb decided to take a year off to work on a giant car. The next month, 9/11 occurred, cratering the high-end collectible market. “There was no career left to go back to,” he says. He poured his life savings and a year of work into the Blastolene Special, a 9,500-pound roadster built around a 29-liter, 910hp M47 Patton tank engine. Flush with new owner Jay Leno’s cash, he found a new career: extreme cars, built on spec.

With the success and acclaim that the Blastolene Special brought him, Grubb continues to work long hours on new rolling sculptures, winning awards and (he hopes) a place in the pantheon of great coachbuilders. His latest creation, the Decoliner, mashes up a 1973 GMC motorhome and a 1955 White Motor Company cabover truck with Buck Rogers styling cues. With its polished aluminum finish, nautical portholes, and rooftop fly bridge for land-yachting, the Decoliner is a truly unique ride.

“I consider myself really lucky,” Grubb says. “I can spend 3,000 to 6,000 hours on a single project in a culture where you can hardly get a three-second sound bite in. That’s what it takes to make something special.”

From the pages of MAKE Volume 31:

MAKE Volume 31The maker movement is making science exciting again. Forget the lame baking soda “volcanoes” and the zillion-dollar supercolliders — just as punk rock took music back from the supergroups and big studios, “punk scientists” are making inexpensive new tools to conduct real experiments in garages, schools, and hackerspaces. In MAKE Volume 31, you’ll learn how to make DIY laboratory equipment (even a scanning electron microscope!), create high-voltage sparks from falling water, control a cockroach electronically, get started in biotech, and see how individuals and schools are networking their data for real scientific discoveries. Plus: Get started with multicopters or servo controllers, and build an automatic dog ball launcher, great-sounding speakers with flashing LEDs, a classic folding-wing Rocket Glider (a new MAKE kit), an iPad music desk, a levitating solar Mendocino Motor, and much more.


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