Olympic champion Kim Rhode shoots for medalsMon, 30 Jul 2012
Kim Rhode is an Olympic champion, which by itself would be impressive enough. But Rhode is not just a one-time Olympic champion. The Summer Games in London will be the fifth Olympics for this 33-year-old trap and skeet specialist.
Starting with the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta--where she was the youngest member of the U.S. team and where she won her first gold medal--she has won medals in all five Olympics in which she has participated, including two golds. [Editor's note: Rhode won the gold medal for women's skeet shooting in London on July 29, tying the world record by hitting 99 of 100 shots.]
Suffice it to say, if you are a round disc of clay flying through the air, pray you're not anywhere near Kim Rhode.
But there's more to her than that. Rhode has a pretty impressive collection of cars. She works on and restores all of the cars. She even built one by herself.
"The cars kind of came after I made the Olympic team," she said. "When [my first] Olympics was over, I was looking for something to keep me busy and also looking for something to invest in. I wanted to learn about my dad's machine shop, too. My dad had this amazing machine shop, and I didn't know how to use but maybe a screwdriver."
Her dad, a deep-sea diver by trade, has an impressive and extensive machine shop in his backyard in which just about anything made of metal can be lathed, crimped, bent, turned-tapered or shaved into life. His drawer of pliers alone will make grown men weep. It is that extensive.
"I started out with this 427 side-oiler engine and built it from the ground up," Rhode explained, as if building a 427 side-oiler as your first project is something everyone does every day. Don't they? Such must be the attitude of Olympic gold medalists.
"So I had this gorgeous engine sitting on a machine stand, and I said, 'Well, what does this go to?' "
"Thus the quest began with the cars. Well, it goes to a Shelby Cobra. So I got a Cobra kit and built it from the ground up."
Not just "built" as in screwing together bolts in the sequence listed in the directions. Some stuff had to be machined from raw aluminum, like the entire firewall, which sits nicely polished just aft of the 427 and forward of the transmission. Other parts were created out of whole cloth, too, or whole aluminum, steel or magnesium.
But soon enough the Cobra project was done (and done beautifully, we might add). So then . . .
"Then I slowly started accumulating another car, then another . . ."
Soon it was turning into a real collection.
"I have Fords and Chevys; I'm not particular to any specific brand," Rhode said.
What draws her to a particular car?
"I think it has to do with the history or the story or the speed that's behind them. I really like the old muscle cars. The '56 four-bolt T-Bird, the Cobra and the [Ford Model T] Spy Glass Speedster all were raced back in the day."
But it's not just race cars that fill the big warehouse/ garage behind her parents' house.
"Then I got into the rare cars, or rarer. The [Model T] Cabriolet is one of the rarer cars, and also the touring cars that carry more than one person around town. Race cars tend to only have two seats, so you kind of have to have a balance or a mix of both."
It didn't take long to have a collection, just like the Schlumpf Brothers or Harrah's, sort of.
"Now I'm up to 11 or 13 cars," she said.
Rhode has plans for all of the cars. Some she'll restore, some, like the T-Bird, she plans to drag-race. Others are just for cruising.
"I build cars. I restore them, fix them and I drive them. Some people who collect cars don't drive them. I get a lot of joy out of going down to the supermarket and having everybody say, 'Oh I remember this back when I was a kid,' and going to the car shows as well."
But these cars are no trailer queens.
"Mine are very much drivers. There's a big difference between show cars and drivers. You're going to get nicks and dings, and you're going to have a lot more fun in them rather than towing them, I think."
We think, too.
The collecting has outpaced the restoring and continues to do so. So in addition to the Cobra and all of the Model Ts and As, Rhode has plans.
"I really love . . ."--she pauses, as if adding more cars might be illegal or something--". . . there's actually two. One is a Model T limousine. There really is such a thing. The other is a Hupmobile, the Grand Touring Hupmobile. Either one of those would be a really fantastic addition."
"What kid doesn't dream of the Ferraris, the exotic cars? I would love to have an old two-seater Ferrari. You can always dream. Maybe one day."
And there's even a more-or-less-practical car on the dream list. "I'm also looking at the Mini Cooper Countryman. It gets up and goes. It's a great little car. Four doors, lots of room, it's hard to beat that."
By Mark Vaughn