Photography – Tara Hurlin
In the last decade, five odd rods have been brought to life in the Reaper’s Reject’s little shop of horrors: SkullRod, Frankenstein, Purgatory, Cyclops and Hellbound. All brain children of Jon and Amy Holbrook. Every one of them were painstakingly hand-fabricated in their home garage, and each car has exclusive, well thought-out details and its own personality.
The Holbrooks take the term “hot rod” to a new level. Jon has been building everything from 1932 coupes and sedans, to blown Camaros and street rods since he was a teenager. The couple always shared a love for fast cars and beautiful street rods, but it was Amy who convinced him to create their first monster build.
“It took around 5 years to convince him to build the SkullRod,” she said. Amy had no doubt that Jon could step up to the challenge. Once the first was completed, more followed, and they haven’t looked back. “It’s not that we couldn’t go back to building traditional hot rods,” Amy explained. “We love the challenge of building cars by hand, completely from scratch.” They also do it for the people who love them. “We have had such an overwhelming, positive experience with these cars.”
Amy helps with the main concept for the builds. She essentially comes up with the ideas that spark everything. Intense brainstorming is involved, and once Jon has a firm vision in his head, he starts to build. The builds are a family affair. Jon fabricates, bends, welds, and shepherds each build through to completion. Amy helps with cutting, tack welding, body work (so much sanding!) and general help in the garage.
Their son, Brodix, loves to be out in the garage and assists with tools and slinging bondo. Jon’s older brother, Jamie, often comes out to offer laughs, encouragement, and to offer a second opinion. To truly admire the craftsmanship put into these menacing monsters, you need to see them up close. They are incredible homespun budget builds, and it takes refined talent to form such basic materials into something so functional and complex.
The SkullRod is the build that started it all. It began as a 1929 Briggs and Stratton cowl which was cut up and shaped into the nose and upper jaw. Once the face started to take shape, the frame and cross members were built based on Ford Model A specs. This car is the longest and widest of the builds with an old-school dragster-like stance. The skull’s lower teeth are built into the front of the chassis, taking the place of a front grille.
The heart of the beast is a 283ci small-block engine out of a ’67 Chevy. Bolted on to the engine is a B&M Series Pro-street supercharger, which sucks air through a pair of four-barrel Edelbrock carbs. The completely custom driveshaft is mated to a two-speed Powerglide transmission.
A 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass rear-end was installed using a custom four-link suspension and coil-over shocks. Just like every build thereafter, the SkullRod’s body and accents were all hand-fabricated with fresh sheet metal, including the doors and the sinister eye sockets that hold the windshield. Once the body was roughed into shape, the Holbrooks added the cracked look to the skull, and then painted it bone white with black satin accents.
The SkullRod rocks the skull theme throughout. Skulls line the interior. A themed steering wheel, shifter, side-view mirrors, glove box, and even headlight and fuel pump switches tie everything together. “It turned out way more badass than I ever imagined!” Amy gushed. “Once the SkullRod was complete, we felt like we needed to continue building these themed rods.”
People were amazed with the SkullRod–they wanted to see more–and Jon and Amy have endless ideas. Their inspiration comes from looking online at monsters and demons, thinking of concepts and building around each idea. Most importantly, the Kings of Kustom cars such as Roth, Barris, Hines, Huff, and the Alexander brothers also inspire them. “We would love to go back to the time in Kustom Kulture when everything was new just to see the looks on people’s faces; the sparkle in their eyes, that awe, that wow factor,” Amy said. “That’s what we are after.”
Next up was the Frankenstein rod, built between 2011 and 2012. Frankenstein rolls with really big white walls. The rear rims were taken from a massive tractor trailer and set-off its wicked stance. Other notable features include a ghostly brake lever, hearse lantern rear lights, themed fluid dipsticks, spiked lug nut covers, and a top-hatch coffin door.
The electric green body was built around a ’32 Model A–based frame. Frankenstein was brought to life with the installation of its 350ci Chevy motor. A turbo 350 transmission puts the power to the rear tires. When the car started for the first time, the Holbrooks couldn’t resist shouting, “It’s alive!”
The third rod, Purgatory, built in 2014, gives the most sinister vibes with its dramatic chop, menacing brow, wincing eyes, wing-styled scissor doors and steeply raked pickup bed. The hand built frame was again based off a Model A and completely customized to accommodate this specific theme. It’s powered by a 327-cid Chevy engine that is mated to a Turbo 400 transmission. Skull and flame molded accents are found throughout the build, and the interior is expertly detailed to portray the lost souls theme. Even the smallest of details are taken into account in every monster rod. A chain steering wheel, and skull exhaust tips and valve covers adds to Purgatory’s feel.
Cyclops came next between 2015-2016. Again, every detail hand-molded and the frame custom-built and based off a Model A frame. Aside from its aesthetics and the obvious single headlight (hence the name), the biggest difference in this monster rod is the 276-cid Desoto Hemi engine, mated to a Turbo 400 transmission and fed by Edelbrock carbs. It exhales through Zoomie-style headers.
Hellbound is the Holbrooks’ most recently finished build, and it was the most challenging. It’s the most powerful of the bunch and has looks that could kill. “It took a lot more work to bring the 632-cid Dart engine to life,” Amy explained. This ultra lightweight car packs a punch: the tall-deck engine is equipped with 18-degree heads and a 1,000-cfm performance carburetor.
A sixth build was started around the same time project Hellbound began in 2016. Arkham is Hellbound’s evil twin, and its theme is “the devil’s entertainer.” Only the body is built and the rest remains to be finished.
“As far as favorites go, mine is Purgatory,” Amy said. “I mean I love them all, but that one just floors me! Brodix’s is SkullRod and rightly so, as I found out I was pregnant a little ways into that build. I know Jon loves Hellbound, but he loves them all. It’s not fair to ask him if he has a favorite because he did after all, create them!”
According to Amy, the three cars conjure up priceless reactions from onlookers. The first question typically asked is whether or not the cars can be driven. In fact, these monster rods run and drive just like an everyday car (sort of). The Reaper’s Rejects’ builds have even been compared to works from the legendary Ed Roth and George Barris. “It’s surreal for our name to even be said in conjunction with such extraordinary Kustom Kulture icons,” Amy said.
Recently, in August 2018, the Holbrooks’ were invited to attend the Hot Wheels Legends Tour in Detroit, Michigan for a chance to have Hellbound recreated as a Hot Wheels diecast collectible. Though they didn’t win, perhaps they should have. Crowds swarmed around the car during the short three-hour show and fans had their fingers crossed in hopes for an opportunity to purchase a mini Hellbound.
The Holbrooks’ would like to build monster rods to sell in the future, but for right now it’s just a hobby. The builds are started and completed in one bay of their two-car garage as money allows. Their goal moving forward is focusing on the fit and finish on each build. Each one will get a facelift until everything is perfect. These monster rods are taking on a new life of their own, and the family doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Rumor has it that they may build a monster rod in honor of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies.
The Reapers Rejects are most noted for their appearances at the annual PPG Syracuse Nationals. Moving forward, they will be branching out to more events. Fans of their work can follow them on their Facebook and Instagram pages.