One day Randy Grubb stopped by
West Coast Choppers and showed Jesse a picture of the car he'd built
and subsequently sold to Jay Leno: a 22.5-foot-long, 8,500-pound,
open-wheeled roadster called the Blastolene Special.
Who would have
guessed that Monster Garage would have a Peterbilt build
in mind at the time? But it was only months later that Randy was
flying out to Long Beach to shoot Semi-Truck Chopper.
Now he tells
us about the experience.
Q: How did you get on Monster Garage?
A: I built a very large car, the Blastolene Special, which
created quite a stir because of its scale and uniqueness, including
its 1,800-cubic-inch engine. When I happened to come down to West
Coast Choppers, I showed Jesse a poster of the car and introduced
myself. At that point, he said that they were thinking of doing
a Peterbilt build, and that I'd be perfect for it.
A few months
later the phone rang with a producer asking me if I'd like to participate
in a Monster Garage episode. And that's when I basically
proposed the whole Blastolene Brothers build team. Because the brotherhood
is about creativity and having fun.
Q: What have you thought of past Monster challenges?
A: They've ranged from what's appeared to be technically
very challenging to what's appeared to be pretty silly.
the Cop Car/Doughnut Shop was definitely good for a laugh, but that
wasn't really something I would have been interested in building
myself. I like the Zamboni — I didn't know how they were going to
pull off that Zamboni. It really made me think when I heard the
introduction to that show, and I liked that.
Q: What was your initial reaction when you heard about
A: I was really excited, and I guess it was a little unusual
because I was on both the design team and the build team. Most of
the time a build-team member doesn't know what he's building until
he shows up. But I knew in advance.
After my very
first conversation with the producers about the show, the wheels
really started turning in my head about what we could build and
how we could build it. This was both an advantage and a disadvantage,
because I expended a lot of mental energy toward designs that we
It was very interesting
and the challenge was obvious. And it was a unique challenge, which
is what I love.
Q: Did you know any of your teammates before the show?
A: Yes, two. I got Michael Leeds, the other Blastolene
Brother, involved. And I had met Bernard, who is Jay Leno's mechanic,
when I sold the Blastolene Special to Jay. I was amazed at Bernard's
broad knowledge of mechanics and his willingness to apply them.
Jay obviously has a lot of unique vehicles, and Bernard's the one
who handles all that. So when Bernard was confirmed for the show,
I breathed a sigh of relief because I knew the project would go
I had also requested
a diesel mechanic and machinist for the team, and recommended two
people. The producers didn't want a group who had done too much
together before, though, so they supplied them. Both were great
guys. Bob brought a great Texas flavor to him, and Danno, a machinist
from Hollywood, definitely earned his keep. We kept him busy.
Q: What was the biggest technical challenge during the
transition? Were you ever worried your team would fail its mission?
A: The front end — the steering and mounting of the front
wheel. There were a lot of design changes and a lot of thoughts
about the design. A lot of mental effort was expended on that front
end. And the final solution was great because it really utilized
the truck parts, including a piece of the front axle and the steering
Failure is an
impossibility to a Blastolene Brother. It was merely what design
would be executed — that was the only challenge. We had three or
four different options for the front end; we just had to choose
Q: Anything else remarkable about the shoot?
A: Just how fun it was and how smoothly it went. The team
was a cohesive team; we had no dissension among the troops. Everyone
got along very well and worked effectively together, which is generally
not the case in a Monster Garage build from what I've seen.
Generally there seems to be conflict or someone not pulling their
weight, which puts a strain on the group as a whole.
For us, on Monday
we had a big mountain to climb. But by Friday it seemed like we
were over the top pretty easily.
Q: What was your biggest frustration during the build?
A: The biggest frustration was getting parts from Alex
and dealing with some of the supply issues. If it hadn't been for
Michael stepping up and taking the reins as far as supply goes,
we would have been in trouble. Michael got on the phone and got
the wheels and tires, the most exciting crucial elements.
Alex was little
to no help. Sorry, Alex.
Q: What was your biggest triumph during the build?
A: I would say the biggest triumph was probably getting
Jesse on the same page that it had to be a three-wheeler. He was
originally wanting a two-wheeler, and the weight of the motor and
transmission really made that an impracticality.
Q: Did you drive the monster?
A: Yeah, Jesse let me drive it! It was a lot funner than
I ever thought. In fact, the Blastolene Brothers were deeply influenced
by this whole experience — diesel trucks are in the workshop as
Q: What are the Blastolene Brothers?
A: Michael and I, the Blastolene Brothers, are individual
artists who historically have worked with glass
and more recently have applied our art to the automobile. The result
are V-12-powered monster hot rods featuring 1,000-cubic-inch-plus
V-12 motors and semi-truck parts as drive train. The Blastolene
Special and Michael's Big Bertha have created a new category of
both dyed-in-the-wool motorheads. For example, my dad brought home
a Model A when I was 8, and taught me to weld when I was 10. I started
building my own car when I was 12.
And so I've built
many hot rods in the past. What I'm doing now is building super
hot rods, with bodies that are totally coach-built. We're not chopping
anything up — we take a blank piece of paper, design what we want,
then build it from scratch. We take an artistic approach to creative
is that Michael and I are both artists, so we bring an artist's
sensitivity to hot-rod building. What we build we view as rolling
sculpture — pieces of art. And that's what we tried to do for Jesse:
create a rolling sculpture.
Q: Tell us about the Blastolene Special.
A: It's a 22.5-foot-long, 8,500-pound, open-wheeled roadster,
very reminiscent of the Bonneville cars that ran the dry lakes in
the mid-1930s. It features a 1,800-cubic-inch, gas-burning V-12
out of an M-47 Patton tank. It rides on a 190-inch wheel base and
features a hand-formed aluminum body.
I designed and
virtually hand-built the Blastolene Special in 365 days. Blastolene
II is currently under construction, and I have aspirations to build
about 10 very unique cars over the next 20 years.
I did sell the
car to Jay Leno. He had come
knocking on my door — nothing like it had ever been built or seen
before. Jay likes really powerful cars, and this has one of the
most powerful engines (7 feet, 2,500 pounds) ever in a car. The
idea of putting it in an automobile seemed to most people to be
Blastolene Special won the Chip
Foose excellence-in-design award at the 2003
Grand National Roadster Show. I thank Michael Leeds for helping
with the great design.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: In my free time I ride motorcycles through the hills
of Oregon. I like to water-ski, and I'm an avid hot rodder. I have
a beautiful '49 Cadillac sedanette (a two-door fastback) that has
seen many cross-country trips with hot-rod caravans like Ameri-Cruise.
And I have a beautifully supportive wife, Jeannette, who really
supports my creative lifestyle.
Q: What do you drive?
A: I have the '49 Cadillac and a flat-fendered Willy's
Pickup with a 671 blown small-block Chevy — approximately 500 horsepower
— sticking through the hood. My new car is a '72 two-wheel-drive
And then I have
a semi truck for hauling my hot rods, because Blastolene hot rods
are big and heavy.