Even without a commercial location for a year, Larry Roark's customers were calling from as far as out-of-state looking for expertise in auto metal fabrication.
The Rod Shop opened in California last month, but Roark is still in the process of moving his specialized tools and equipment in, with the help of his sons Tim and Brandon.
He has been building hot rods from the ground up for more than 50 years. But most of that time, it has been a side hobby. He started out with the Eldon Auto and Truck Service.
Things changed about four years ago, when he met Allen Mims, who had the same enthusiasm for hot rods. But, Mims had one more thing — a large, empty building in Jefferson City.
There the two opened the original The Rod Shop. Then, Roark's partner died unexpectedly in January 2018, since then he had been trying to work from his home.
Now, with his shop open at 302 Buchanan St., Roark's regular customers will be coming to California. And, he hopes to draw new business from the area, especially when the Double X Speedway opens for the season.
Most of his business to this point has been by word-of-mouth, he said, because he does a good job and treats customers right.
Instead of buying replacement or improvement pieces for these hobby vehicles from online sources, Roark has the tools and skills to create anything someone would want to put on their hot rod or vintage car.
"I can make anything they want," he said. "I'm 68 and I haven't found anything I couldn't do yet."
In particular, Roark specializes in suspension and frame work. He can take a vehicle down to its frame and change out the stock features for custom or after-market improvements.
He's worked on hot rods, rat rods, gassers, antiques and more.
"I worked on a Model A coupe; that was pretty awesome," Roark said. "And a Chevy II I built as a gasser."
Roark started with the skills, taking a simple acetylene torch to cut the piece and then smoothing it. As he was able to acquire the right technology, what used to take a day might only take one minute with his plasma cutter, he said.
A customer can bring in an idea of what he wants, then Roark can take measurements and then build a template to the proper scale to fit.
Roark's interest in metal fabrications began in childhood, when his father kept a scrapyard, he said.
And his fondness for the work still remains.
"I can't get away from it; I can't wait to get back up here every morning," Roark said.
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