Lego Masters star David Rodman’s Holden VP Commodore SS

Lego Masters star David Rodman doesn't just build cool stuff out of little plastic bricks

Photographers: Jordan Leist, Nine Network

IT WAS pretty obvious to everyone watching Lego Masters earlier this year that the bloke with the cracking beard was clearly a car guy with an intimate knowledge of all things automotive, a lot of mechanical ingenuity and a really awesome T-shirt collection. Perth-based David Rodman made it all the way to the final, so we had a chat to him about that journey and his awesome LS-powered VP SS.

This article was first published in the August 2019 issue of Street Machine

You’re a car guy and a Lego Master – which came first?

I started Lego as a child and remember building all the sets as a kid, as you do, and I did do some of my own little cars when I was younger. As you grow older you kind of get out of Lego a little bit, but I did have a couple of the Technic car sets over the years. I really got back into it about five years ago pretty heavily. I bought a bulk-buy of Lego off Facebook and thought I’d tinker around and build a drill rig out of it just for a bit of a laugh. It got put up at work and was what I entered in Bricktober, the big Lego show here in Perth.

Holden VP Commodore SS

Is that how you ended up on Lego Masters?

Yeah, I used it to show them what I could do. I did a bit of a video audition about myself with all my stuff in the background; then we had to do an audition in the city in front of all the producers. They gave you 4000 bricks and three hours and you had to build something that told a story.

No, they’re not FR Simmons rims. The VP rolls on a set of Billet Specialties Gran Sports, measuring up at 19×8 and 19×10 with 245/35 and 295/35 rubber

Is your partner a work colleague?

G was my partner, his name is Gerhard, but he just calls himself G. We work in a workshop where we build exploration drill rigs for mining, so they’re truck-based drill rigs. I’m the workshop mechanical supervisor for Austex, and G works in the machine shop as a fitter/assembler/machinist and does the hydraulic cylinders mainly. It’s a different business under the same roof, but we work together very closely. He’s been into Lego since he was a kid and he just loves collecting old toys as well; that’s what he’s really into.

David’s latest project is a one-eighth scale model of his VP SS. He has recreated all of the details of the real car, including the OTR intake, nitrous bottle and LS3

You were spotted wearing a few WA Hot Rod & Street Machine Spectacular and Cruise For Charity shirts during the show and repping the car scene.

I put some photos of my drill rig on a Lego forum and thought nothing of it and never went on there again. I entered my SS in the Hot Rod & Street Machine Spectacular a few years ago and the Lego guys had a display there, so I went over there and chatted to them and told them about the drill rig I built. They said: “Was that you? You’ve got to enter it in Bricktober!” So, from the hot rod show I got into Bricktober, and from Bricktober I got into Lego Masters, so it all kind of tied back to the car scene.

The Lego Masters

I’m quite fascinated by how you construct things with no instructions, like the Lego version of your SS. How do you do that?

You’re basically building an exact car out of Lego. You’ve got to make your own chassis, your own suspension and detail it to replicate the real thing.

Does your experience with Lego Technic stuff help with that?

Absolutely. I like doing stuff that works and moves and looks real, so I’m definitely a big Technic fan. When I went on the show, there was only me and one other guy that really did Technic and we were worried that there wasn’t going to be any Technic in the brick pit. I definitely used as much Technic as I could. My drill rig uses all the pneumatic parts, so it has the ability to raise and dump the mast, the feed system works with a travelling sheave with a 2:1 ratio with ropes and the head spins and everything.

The engine bay in David’s VP is as neat as a pin and one of the first to receive an LS. Pacemaker used David’s car to prototype the headers for VN-VS Commodore LS conversions

How old are your kids? Can you leave your Lego builds lying around?

They’re seven and five. My eldest is really good at reading instructions and building kits way out of his league, but my youngest is just all imagination and builds stuff out of his head and comes up with some of the weirdest stuff and some really clever stuff. They know the Technic stuff is Dad’s.

You made it all the way to the final and built an amazing theme park.

It was a fully working amusement park called Lego Masters Land, with a jungle theme. It was a green forest with a rollercoaster, ferris wheel, swinging pirate ship, seat drop, haunted house and go-kart track.

Movement was a big part of many of your builds, too.

We saved a lot of the movement stuff for the last build because it hadn’t really been done on the show that much. I did the remote-controlled DeLorean because no one had attempted anything remote-controlled, and we did some moving planes in the Cut In Half episode.

There’s a 150-shot of nitrous, but David hasn’t tried it out yet. No real need with 420hp at the tyres and 11.8 quarter-mile times, but he’s hoping a 10sec timeslip is achievable

And you build it all out of thin air with no plans or instructions?

Yeah, that’s right. Every show, every episode, we’d never done anything like it before. Yeah, I’d built Lego, but I’d never built anything like what we did on the show, we were just winging it, using your gut. The best part for us was that we were used to the long hours, being on your feet all day, and we know how things go together and how they work, so it’s just a matter of figuring out how to do it out of Lego.

You ended up finishing second in Lego Masters. How did you keep it a secret from friends and family?

It was filmed between October and December last year, so I spent two months living in Melbourne away from the wife and kids. It was good because I got to go to the Melbourne Cup, and now Street Machine, so that’s two items ticked off the bucket list. I’ve had to keep my mouth shut for a long time; I could only tell people about a week before it came out. People at work and close family knew, but I did have to lie through my teeth sometimes. I could tell people were a bit suss, and a few of the dads down at the footy club were joking that I’d been in prison [laughs].

So you got to watch it with your family, even though you knew how it ended?

The saddest part was seeing my eldest son cry because we didn’t win.

This is probably not how you expected to get into SM.

I’ve always been reading car mags since I was a kid. I won a Street Commodores magazine when I was a kid doing a fun run, so that got me into it. I never thought I’d get in the magazine this way, especially with the SS not having something poking out of the bonnet looking obscene.

It’s a pretty tidy rig. Tell us a bit about it.

It’s a genuine SS with an LS3, FAST intake, Active custom cam, OTR, exhaust. A fun fact is that Pacemaker developed the headers for the VN-VS LS conversion on my car. It’s got a 4L80E with a Dominator converter tweaked by Allfast, Harrop Truetrac with 3.73s and Harrop cover. I haven’t run the nitrous yet, but it’s a 150-shot.

Any horsepower or quarter-mile times?

It’s made 420hp at the wheels and ran 11.8@118mph in full street trim as it sits. I need to get a bigger stall, run mid-11s and then turn on the nitrous and go 10s, just once and then get kicked out.

David Rodman


Paint: Pearl Black

Type: LS3
Cam: Custom Active Automotive
Radiator: PWR
Exhaust: Pacemaker

’Box: 4L80E
Diff: Harrop Truetrac

Rims: Billet Specialties Gran Sport; 19×8 (f), 19×10 (r)
Rubber: Continental ContiSportContact 245/35/19 (f), Michelin Pilot Super Sport 295/35/19 (r)