As consumers go, some people forge their automotive identity with tinted windows, six-disc changers, headrest-mounted TVs and incredible, idiotic, sheer size. Some graft Pabst Blue Ribbon cases, punk rock symbols and go-karts onto 46-year-old cars. Which is considered way, way aftermarket.
RVA Rodz co-founder Bert Kolesar, 23, owns one of the most hardcore rides in town, a '63 black Mercury Meteor that he'd painted eight or nine times over the years, so that when he sanded it down, those colors all came back to haunt him. So he went with a leopard spot thing to complement the car's other unique mods. “The rear panels on the interior and speaker box in my '63 are PBR boxes,” he says. Like any good custom, it's currently sitting in his garage, sans engine.
Kolesar started working on cars as soon as he got his hands on one — when he was 14. Because his father collected old cars that were never really popular, Kolesar's appreciation for the off-color developed with his sense of humor.
“When I first started building my car when I was 14, I thought to myself, ‘How can I scare and completely disgust people?’ because I lived in the West End and I don't know,” he says — “I wanted to see how many people I could piss off.”
Since then, Kolesar's found others who share his unconventional taste in self-expression through automobiles. But it was only in the last three years that he and fellow car aficionado Chris Bruno joined two others to form RVA Rodz, a group of drivers who share tastes in cars, lifestyle and love for the horror-punk band the Misfits. Bruno's Meteor is the black one you see driving around, the one with green wheels and Misfits skulls painted on the side and hood.
“I actually got into it a couple years ago when I bought a car off Bert's dad,” Bruno says. “Ever since, we've been buying up all these old cars and painting them up all sorts of weird ways.”
The offbeat fleet includes two Chevy Suburbans, three Mercury Meteors, a Honda Accord, a Kia and a '66 Ford pick-up truck.
Perhaps the weirdest idea yet does not only involve just a car, but also a kart. RVA Rodz had an Accord, which members painted the color of rust and saddled with an old go-kart. On the trunk read the words, “Your Corvette Sucks.”
“We don't like Corvettes and Mustangs,” Bruno says.
While there's a huge difference in how RVA Rodz adorns its cars when compared with the loud thumping of shiny Chevrolet Caprices rolling on 22-inch rims, Bruno and Kolesar insist that respect for the tricked-out ride transcends racial and social boundaries.
“They always wave, give us the thumbs-up back,” Bruno says. “We appreciate each other.”
Not everyone has an appreciation, however, for the visual qualities of the vehicles. Ian Blassingill, 24, is a service adviser for West Broad Honda on Glenside Drive.
“It just looks stupid. Some people just want to make their cars look faster,” Blassingill says. “A lot of times what will happen is the parts won't exactly fit the car and they'll hit a bump, causing the piece of the body kit to fall right off.”
All dandy with Kolesar, who inadvertently discovered just how much a person's identity is tied to his or her vehicle. His dislikes Hondas but loves Mercurys, so in a moment of wish fulfillment he stenciled the preferred symbol onto his Accord. It fooled a police officer who had pulled him over.
“The cop said, ƒ?~So I ran the plates and this thing came up as a gold Accord but, uh, … I'm looking at a red Mercury.' I said, ‘Man, I’m going to need your badge number.'” Kolesar says. “This guy didn't have two brain cells to rub together.”