I met Ron Griffith earlier this year while I was doing a personal Mad Max photo series in the Mojave desert (aka stuff for my own photography portfolio). He was nice enough to open up his garage in California City, California (Phoenix Auto) as a home base to setup my shoot. Little did I know, I had stumbled into an incredible secret society of people that built their own functional vehicles of the post-apocalypse for an epic Burning Man turned Mad Max event called Wasteland Weekend.
Now I wanted to take the time to tell you Ron's story because, as I've discovered, he is not only an incredibly kind and generous person that everyone loves to hang around, but also a true man genius when it comes to building vehicles that will transport you beyond the thunderdome (that is, when he's not building or restoring hotrods and doing his normal body shop business).
I started my love of vehicles in 1967. The rule was when you turned 8 years old you were allowed the to work at dads shop, Bellwood Automotive in Bellwood Illinois. I worked (played) at the shop dumping trash barrels and mopping floors. Every once in while the mechanics would let me help them do repairs and so I began my career in auto mechanics.
I joined the U.S. Air Force in 1978 and worked in Vehicle Maintenance as an Auto Body Mechanic. I found my true calling doing Auto Body repairs and restorations. I left the military in 1991 and worked at several different jobs and body shops until 2008 when my wife Debbie and I decided to open our own shop, Phoenix Auto in California City, CA. I was tired of seeing bad body repairs and high prices from the shops I worked at. Later on my son Joe moved out here from AZ. to be my painter. We give the customer good prices and quality repairs.
My love for "Post Apocalypse" vehicles really started back in 1979 when I took my girlfriend to the drive-in to see the movie "Mad Max".
I always wanted to build a "Raider" like they had in the movie but never really had a use for it. That all changed in 2012 when a customer was telling me about an event in the desert close to my home called, "Wasteland Weekend". It's a Post Apoc, Mad Max themed event out in the desert! MY DESERT! I only had a few months before the event so I had to hurry and build that raider I always wanted.
I started out with an old rusted out 1972 Chevy Monti Carlo (The MONSTR Carlo!). I got the engine and drive train running great and set about building my raider. I put myself in a mindset of, "What would I need if I survived the apocalypse?" I figured since ammo would be scarce if not at all I would build my raider from the hardware store instead of the gun store. I made a slingshot from angle iron and heavy garage door springs and designed it to fire 7 inch saw blades. I removed the doors and replaced them with runway repair panels, (P.S.P.) I added a large battery to power a 750 watt inverter so I had 110 volt power and also 12 volt power stations and a cig. lighter (I smoke.) In the truck area I added two large round tanks, one for 25 gal. of spare gasoline, and the other to hold 250 lb. of air pressure for air tools or flats. I removed the original front seat and used seats from a 4 door vehicle so I could fold them back for a place to sleep. I removed the back seat for extra space for food and weapons. The monstr is 100% street legal!
Since last years event, I've been hired by director Paul C. Miller to build three vehicles for a movie he is in the process of making called "Road Furies". One, a transport I call "The ApocaBus, an air cannon car called The "Puta" Pinto, and a Mazda Technical Truck which sports on of Paul's "MaDuece" M2 machine guns. As a plus, these vehicles are intended to survive the film and will be donated back to me to use as rental vehicles in the future!
Looking forward to this years event at Wasteland Weekend, and who knows, you may see one of my creations in the next post apoc. movie you see!
My buddy and I had a chance to drive Ron's "Monstr Carlo" (aka. do donuts in the desert) as you can see in the photo above. Coming from a guy that has owned modern european vehicles in his adult life, I immediately fell in love with this thing. Maybe it was the "blat" from the smoke stacks as you mashed on the throttle, or the seemingly indestructible construction, or the gunner seat on top of the car with the roof mounted and fully-functional saw blade launcher. It also happened to drive pretty well in that "sugar sand" with those meaty tires. It got my pulse going and made me feel like a true road warrior. Because of this surprisingly awesome test drive, I actually will be having Ron build me my own "Monstr" to tear around in. He even is letting me come to the garage and help with the build as well. Thankfully it won't even cost me that much!
Ron is a great guy that opens his doors to all and does his best to help those in need (from car troubles to rescue dogs). He is doing something really special in the Mojave. Do me a favor and spread the word. We want to keep Ron nice and busy so he can build some special post-apocalypse vehicles we've never seen before.
Some other vehicles Ron has helped paint/build/customize/restore. He really is a mad genius and I think that makes him pretty awesome:
"Apocobus" before and after:
His personal build and love "Penny":
From my photoshoot with Ron and some of the Wasteland Weekend crew: