Michael Rodarte does it right the first time.
My name is Michael Rodarte. I’m the owner of Empire Pool Company out of Scottsdale, Arizona. I am married with two boys and two dogs. I started my business six years ago with zero customers and have been able to steadily grow to the point where I can have a project vehicle again.
During the time I was growing my company I was lucky enough to work at Precision Chassis Works. We built hardcore race cars specializing in BMW and Porsche. We also did a lot of oddball engine swaps. Working there was by far the most amazing time of my life.
I got started in cars because of my grandfather and one of my uncles. My whole family is very DIY. My grandfather bought a small house and, in a few separate construction builds—with some family and friends to help—he doubled the size of the house.
Naturally when it came to cars he would take the time to change his own oil, flush the coolant, or replace a blown head gasket. His biggest influence on me is the way he does things. No matter if it was construction, vehicle repairs, or making dinner—he always made sure that things were clean and that he did the job really well.
The go-fast bug
My go fast bug I got from my uncle Michael. He liked trucks and things that were fast. His first truck (he still has it, albeit in boxes of parts) was a sweet ‘55 Chevy truck. He also had a quad that was heavily modified and was super fast. When we would go out riding everyone would be putzing along and my uncle Michael would come flying past us.
The thing I really remember was his “side project.” He was a mechanic at a Chrysler dealership. Over the years he bought and traded a bunch of parts to build a super cool 392 Hemi engine. He didn’t have a car to put it in so he made a little trailer with an engine stand, battery, and small cooling tank. It was part mobile run stand, part engine chariot.
Every so often he would come over and fire it up. I remember it was always perfectly clean, started right away every time, and was way too loud. He ended up selling his beloved “side project” to buy an engagement ring. A bit of a bummer, but worth it, since they are still married and have two kids and five grandkids.
I love the 90s
I have always had a thing for 90’s cars, probably because I got my license in 1996. That time frame was when I was really getting into cars as a hobby as well so the 90’s hold a special place. I did the Japanese car thing and wanted to try something different. After working on a lot of BMWs at the shop, I decided I wanted a 90’s 5-series that was cool—but more importantly—it had to be reliable and comfortable.
I found a 1995 540i 6-speed in California and had to have it. A RWD V8 sedan with a manual gearbox—it couldn’t get any better—or so I thought. My wife and I made a trip to California to buy the car and drive it home. After a full weekend of driving the car around California and then home to Arizona, I had instant buyer’s remorse.
The car was cool and rare but was also in rough shape and not daily driver material at all. The car sat for a year while I tried to figure out what to do with it. I finally decided it was worth fixing up and making it the car I really wanted. This will be my journey to making my 540 a nice, very drive able street car with that beautiful V8 rumble.
Limited budget. Limited time.
I have to be smart with this project as I have a limited budget and limited time. I’m gonna break the entire car down into sections and tackle each one until I reach my goal of daily driver. I can do all the work pretty easily, but after building a lot of cars I know there will be setbacks and screw ups. Those will all get documented as well as all the cool stuff like shiny new aftermarket parts and hand built exhaust.
I will also be sharing my reasons for choosing particular parts and modifications. It seems that a majority of builds these days have to be way over the top and tend to have poor craftsmanship. I wanna show that a car doesn’t have to be over the top to get noticed—and if you spend a little more time (not more money)—you can let the quality of work speak for itself.