What is it about a life that defines a person? I have come to believe that the world around us mimics how we define ourselves. While at a large regional classic car and hot rod event, I encountered a man showing a stunning 1912 C-Cab Ford truck hot rod. Knowledgeable, affable and friendly to all, he offered me a look at a gallery of photographs displaying vehicles he had designed and built as well as others he had modified after purchasing them for his collection. He possessed a visionary flair for bringing all types of mobile machinery to life. Clearly from his interactions and conversations with others that I observed, the world viewed him for the respected and gifted hot road visionary and fabricator that he is. Oh yeah and he was in a wheelchair. No big deal, certainly not for him. Meet Rory Sevajian.
A hot rod life defined by abundance not lack
When Rory Sevajian flashes his ready and welcoming smile, you find yourself drawn in and comfortable in his engaging company. The fact that regardless of the event, he has brought some stunningly unique thundering eye candy that he designed makes him and his creations a magnet for interested observers and show trophies.
His passion for building unique performance and special interest vehicles came to life in Rory’s early teen years.
Rory says, “As a little kid, I was always interested in all these things. I hung around with all the older kids that had cool cars and learned from them.” Also, Rory’s father used to take him to the New York Auto Show at the New York Coliseum in the early 196os. Rory recalls saying, “I was really young. The cars there were nothing like you’d ever seen before. Even to this day, today when you go to auto shows, there’s no comparison to what was done in the 50s and 60s.”
As a young guy without a lot of money, Rory developed a philosophy that continues to guide his efforts today. Quote: “Start out with junk and make it into something special.” Almost as a design principle, even Rory’s most striking creations humbly start out as “junk. Then, benefitting from the magic of his transformative vision he brings to life something very special.
So for almost 30 years Rory had transformed “junk” into spectacular vehicles and motorcycles. Then “it“ happened, the accident.
Rory had, and still has, a tree service business. While on the job, one of his workers, the “saw man,” positioned himself to cut a limb leaning against a second tree. The saw man believed that the second tree was strong enough to hold the limb. It was not. The base of the second and very large tree gave way. Rory says, “The large tree got me from behind. It crushed me on top of a rock garden and exploded my body.” At the hospital doctors told him he was lucky to be alive, but that he would never walk again. As others have related the story, Rory responded saying, “That’s fine with me”. He would not dwell on his loss. It would not stop Rory from building spectacular vehicles and having cool toys.
To continue in the pursuit of his lifetime pleasure of building eye popping vehicles, Rory did have to adapt.
Rory says, “The only thing where I really have a problem is with the body work and paint.” In the old days he would do all of that himself, however with the limitations of the chair, he now sends it out to be done. He concedes that his only other limitation is faced when trying to get things down from the high shelves. As before his accident, anything he does not know how to do, he has friends who do.
When it comes to fabrication and building, Rory designs, creates and assembles most of the pieces that give his creations their unique character. Rory says, “The visual magic resides in the details and the execution.” He will spend months refining an idea to enhance a creation and then seamlessly integrate it into the design. Emblematic of Rory’s creativity and attention to detail evidences itself in his 1912 Ford C-Cab hot rod.
“I always wanted a C-Cab. I love the way they look, “Says Rory. Over the years Rory always had his eye out for a steel body not a fiber glass repro. Then about six-years ago, one surfaced in upstate New York. He could not resist the siren’s song of an available steel body C-Cab. He drove upstate. Taking one look, love filled his heart and a vision stirred his soul. Rory says, It was rough and the suspension was falling out of it.” Undaunted he negotiated a deal and trailered the truck home. Rory smiles as he repeats his mantra, “Remember, start with junk end up with something very special.” He certainly did.
Job one had Rory totally dismantle the vintage truck. With the truck apart, his vision took hold. With a chassis rebuild that included a totally new suspension completed, his attention turned to the power train.
The big block 460 cu. in. V8 that came with the truck had side pipes. “Rory says, “I chopped them off because I couldn’t get in and out of the truck with my wheelchair.” Historically Rory always liked the gasser look with headers sporting a big bell on the end. Why not on the C-Cab he thought. He had the stripped down pipes, the flanges and the bell. Rory says, “It took me five hours to heat up and bend the contour and complete welding the pipes to the Bell, but it came out perfect. I sent it out for chroming. Once back I put some motorcycle baffles in it. And that was it.”
For carburetion the name of Drivin’ News fave “Carburetor Steve” plays a significant role. Rory took off the old four-barrel and installed a rare one-of-a-kind tunnel ram designed by a NASA engineer with a manifold that accepted three Holly 550 two-barrel carburetors. Carburetor Steve played a significant role in fine tuning the system.
Throughout the completed execution, Rory’s signature jeweler’s eye for detail and visual impact is in evidence from the unique wheels to the paint and pin striping.
Looking at his creation Rory says, “I love that truck. I love the truck. It’s more of a driver than something for really racing. However, see it coming down the road, it’s spectacular. It snaps necks.” He continues, “It has that, you know. Sex appeal.” He just smiles. But for generating bystander smiles nothing outdoes Rory’s “Train.”
The Train story begins with Rory’s custom motorcycle that he transformed from a two–wheel bike to a three-wheel “trike” after his accident. The story concludes years later with a custom articulated train of four trailered vehicles and a custom tow car that Rory drives to hot rod shows.
After his accident, Rory, a died-in-the-wool motorcyclist, looked at his custom personally designed two-wheel creation and knew he must transform it into an even more outrageous three-wheel “trike.”
Rory admits his final creation is more about looks than ridability, but oh how it looks!
Rory does acknowledge that a lot of money has been spent in places no one can see. Rory says, “All the real money hides inside the engine on this trike – S&S flywheel and rods, S&S oversized barrels, a really nasty Leineweber cam, Manley tulip valves and Manley triple valve springs.” Then he decided that he wanted more juice. So he went with 80-inch heads and drilled them for four spark plugs and put a Dyna III Electronic Ignition in it. Rory says, “I’m running dual coils to deal with the four plugs. The trike also has an open belt drive and high performance clutches.
When it came time to make it a trike, Rory simply pulled out a Sawzall and cut the back off. Rory’s first attempt grafted on a servi-car rear end. Police trikes and ice cream trikes used them. However, they did not suit Rory’s three-wheeled beast. Rory says, “When I let the clutch out it was idling at 50 mph. It was not a good thing.” Rory found a good solution in mixing and matching rear axle parts and tire sizes. Now, he can cruise down the highway at 60 mph without the motor screaming. Above and beyond traditional upgrades Rory has innovated some very special adaptations so that he would be able to ride the trike since he was paralyzed from the ribs down.
Rory says, “When I got hurt, I had to figure a way to ride since I couldn’t put my foot down.” Rory‘s solution provided for a handbrake on the handlebars and his own custom made shifter and clutch on the shifter. To do this he needed to incorporate a big bore master cylinder to compensate because the hand does not have the power of the foot necessary to squeeze the dual piston brake caliper on the rear wheel. Other than that the only other adaptation required was floorboards because he has to strap his feet down. Rory says, “When you’re paralyzed like me, you have to strap your feet because if your foot falls off, you don’t know it. You then can run over it like I did with my trike. I shattered my ankle. I learned the need for that adaptation the hard way.”
Which brings the story back around to the Train. Some years back Rory brought his trike to the Waldwick New Jersey Car Show. He says, “It all started when I took the trike to the show. I didn’t even enter and they handed me a trophy. I thought that’s pretty cool.” Rory really liked the people at the show. Since he was building a hot rod that would be done next year he thought maybe he would do something special for next year’s Waldwick Show. The following year he brought his custom 1931 Ford sedan towing the trike. After winning at that show he realized that he wanted to bring something new each year. Thus, the idea of the Train came to life. Now, for seven years he has brought something different every single year. He just keeps adding on. All vehicles share an eye grabbing red metal flake, black and chrome theme enhanced with tasteful pin striping and bold graphics.
1931 Ford sedan hot rod tow car
Rory says, “Some years back a friend of mine says, you need a four-door car so you can put your wheelchair behind the seat.” The search began. Soon another friend found a suitable sedan in California. It was in rough condition. Perfect! Start with junk. Rory says, “ It was a little bit twisted, a little banged up, could use a floor. Sold! It turned out to be an unusual 1931½ Murray bodied Ford sedan made in Canada. Rory especially liked some of the more refined details on the Murray body. He says, “I just loved it. I thought I gotta have this.”
An enormous amount of time and hand crafting proved well worth the effort with the end result being a unique red metal flake hand crafted sedan with sunroof, custom stitched interior and a Chevy small block with a radical cam, Sanderson headers and three deuces set up by “Carburetor Steve.”
For the rear, Rory hand shaped a custom tow hitch for the trike’s front wheel.
All elements of the TRAIN started as discards in a state of disrepair better known as “junk”. Each vehicle’s exquisitely finished form shares a red metal flake, black and chrome color scheme with pin stripe accents, bold graphics and a name.
1931 ½ Ford sedan hot rod tow car – (DRAGIN’)
Custom trike – Assembled from pieces collected over the 45 years (MOVING VIOLATION)
1964 Chaparral go-kart – Resurrected from North Carolina junk yard (OUTCAST)
1981 Mini Bike – Rusty castoff (JUVENILE DELINQUENT)
1965 Speed boat – Battered hull found in Mays Landing, NJ (MISS BEHAVIN)
The greatest surprise for most people comes when hearing Rory explain how easy the Train is to maneuver. Rory says, “It is the most comfortable thing to drive. I could turn around in a 20-foot area.” Unlike a tractor trailer, all trailers in the train are short trailers. Each individual axle simply follows. Rory says, “You can make unbelievable, tight turns, as tight as you could turn the car.
Even more unbelievable? Rory can set up the whole train by himself. His sedan with a back seat for his wheelchair makes him totally self-sufficient. He can hook up all these trailers himself and with no problem because they’re all lightweight trailers. He can pick up the trailer tongue by himself and use his wheelchair like a yard tug to maneuver each trailer. Rory says, “I put it on the footrest between my legs, right? And I can actually maneuver around and roll them around. They go where I want them to go.”
In reflecting on his life as a hot rod designer and fabricator Rory says, “You got to love what you do. You got to be able to sit there and make your own parts and be resourceful. You have to seek solutions that look cool that you can transfer to enhance the vehicle that you are making.”
When it is pointed out that some people, maybe most people, would not have such a great attitude as he, Rory says, “I hear that all the time. You know, I was always a crazy kid, always doing something wild and having fun and enjoying myself. You know, okay. I got hurt. I’m still alive. I’m still breathing. I’m just going to keep having fun till I die.
At the large regional Hot Rod Show that Rory can be seen driving to in the above photo he returned with trophies for:
1st PLACE PRE-39 MODIFIED
BEST IN SHOW
Congratulations Rory you are a inspiration for everyone
Burton , An amazing story of an even more amazing fellow Armenian. Talk about a ” Can Do ” spirit . You know, I needed to look twice at the spelling of Rory’s last name. A few years ago, I returned to the sacred soil of Watkins Glen for the historic vintage race weekend . Roaming the pits , I came across the Duntov Lightweight race team. This team builds, races, and provides trackside support for Corvettes and most specifically the 1963 Grand Sport which they are the exclusive GM licensee for the manufacture and distribution of the 1963 Grand Sport. The company president is fellow Armenian Edward Sevadjian .Alan Sevadjian who befriended me was behind the wheel that weekend. Meeting Ed Iskenderian will have to wait for another lifetime .
Back to Rory , WOW ! Wonder On Wheels .
He is amazing indeed. Thanks for sharing the Corvette fun fact.
Amazing! Kudos to Rory for his clever craftsmanship. Another great story told beautifully, Burton.
Thank you Mark. Rory’s great story and attitude made the telling easy.
Rory and his skills never cease to amaze me. He has some of the most badass creations on wheels. Just goes to show how anyone with motivation can make a strong lemonade cocktail out of lemons. Way to go Rory
Absolutely correct. Very tasty lemonade indeed.
Wow! What an awesome story about such a great man!! Good work Burton!
He is a great talent and fun to be with.
This time receiving ‘Drivin’ News’, I had a moment to breeze through the newsletter. Reading about Rory and coming from the same tribe was heartwarming. I was recently at the Boys/Girls Club of Clifton and certain I came across his work. More of us should have his sprit, drive and attitude. Carry on Rory.