Conversations with Big Rich

Making Shifting Great Again, Rory DesJardin on Episode 38

December 24, 2020 Guest Rory DesJardin Season 1 Episode 38
Making Shifting Great Again, Rory DesJardin on Episode 38
Conversations with Big Rich
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Conversations with Big Rich
Making Shifting Great Again, Rory DesJardin on Episode 38
Dec 24, 2020 Season 1 Episode 38
Guest Rory DesJardin

Making shifting great again, Rory DesJardin, from RADesigns joins us to share info on his products and business and the path he has been on to make it a success.  Get to know Rory as we have these last couple of seasons.

1:47 – getting started with motorcycles

4:23 – gotta have the right tires

11:22 – first-generation shifter for my Toyota

13:36 – The Shifter Guy

17:14 – my career before Shifters

20:32 – that’s me, that’s me!

25:12 – the environment at WE Rock

36:05 – everybody wants to be like the racers

40:32 – making the last big change

53:40 – the size of the industry

Reach out to Rory at  New phone #509-624-1607


We want to thank our sponsors Maxxis Tires and 4Low Magazine. 

Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.

Support the Show.

Show Notes Transcript

Making shifting great again, Rory DesJardin, from RADesigns joins us to share info on his products and business and the path he has been on to make it a success.  Get to know Rory as we have these last couple of seasons.

1:47 – getting started with motorcycles

4:23 – gotta have the right tires

11:22 – first-generation shifter for my Toyota

13:36 – The Shifter Guy

17:14 – my career before Shifters

20:32 – that’s me, that’s me!

25:12 – the environment at WE Rock

36:05 – everybody wants to be like the racers

40:32 – making the last big change

53:40 – the size of the industry

Reach out to Rory at  New phone #509-624-1607


We want to thank our sponsors Maxxis Tires and 4Low Magazine. 

Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.

Support the Show.


Welcome to the Big Rich show, this podcast will focus on conversations with friends and acquaintances within the four wheel drive industry. Many of the people that I will be interviewing, you may know the name, you may know some of the history, but let's get in depth with these people and find out what truly makes them a four wheel drive enthusiast. So now's the time to sit back, grab a cold one and enjoy our conversation.


Whether you're crawling the Red Rocks of MOAB or hauling your toys to the trail, Maxxis has the tires you can trust for performance and durability, four wheels or two, Maxxis tires are the choice of champions because they know that whether for work or play, for fun or competition, Maxxis tires, delivers. Choose Maxxis, tread victoriously.


Why should you read 4Low magazine? Because 4Low magazine is about your lifestyle, the Four-Wheel Drive adventure lifestyle that we all enjoy, rock crawling, trail riding, event coverage, vehicle builds, and do it yourself tech all in a beautifully presented package. You won't find 4Low on a newsstand rack. So subscribe today and have it delivered to you.

[00:01:20.310] - Big Rich Klein

Today's guest on Conversations with Big Rich is Rory DesJardin. Rory is the owner of RADesigns, which is a company that specializes in shift management systems.



Rory. Thank you for coming on board with this interview today and conversations with Big Rich and discussing your background and history related to off-road. And how did you get started? First of all, again, thank you.


[00:01:47.500] - Rory DesJardin

Great to be here, Rich. I got started, I was raised on a wheat farm in southeastern Washington, so I was lived in the country. It was all about the dirt. I started riding Motorcycle's. When I was maybe nine years old, it was a Honda 90 and I couldn't touch the ground, so I started on the center stand, then rock it off and go right around.



And hopefully I could not wreck and be able to get up and get going again if I did that kind of progressed into. Where I lived, my dad worked for this farmer that own the property. He didn't have horses. He had motorcycles to round up the cows. So it was kind of a motorized thing that influenced that way. My first set of wheels was a motorcycle. I bought a Enduro, you know, a dual sport. So that was what I had when I turned 16 to drive around in.



And I was always out. Like I said, we had quite a bit of acres and a lot of cattle. So I'd always be out on the cow trails riding around and doing the dirt that way. That lasted for two years riding that. And I was in high school and I bought a seventy challenger, so kind of like hot, hot rod type car. But, you know, on the farm we had a the owner had a nineteen forty six CJ2A that he's the original owner of.



It's still in his family. He's passed away now but it's still in his family. So I just drove that. I mean we use that for fixing fences and spraying weeds. So I spent a lot of seat time in that old Willys driving around and realizing they didn't have enough power to spin out and get stuck. So it just went up on those hills because it was just amazing the places we could go.



And we had a Scout 800 too that was wasn't nearly as fun, but that was kind of the two utility vehicles along with the fifty one power wagon. So with the PTO winch. So we're always out. You spent a lot of time outdoors driving four wheel drives around on a ranch. So that was kind of the influence I had there. I went to college, had the car. Soon as I started working full time, I moved to Pasco Richland, the tri cities there in Washington, and I met some guys that were in a four wheel drive club.



Jeep Club is what everybody called it back then. And I had just bought a brand new nineteen eighty two Dodge D50. And they said, you have four wheel drive. Oh, yeah, we have, you know, these guys, Broncos', Jeeps, you know, I've got an eighty two Dodge  D50 and you can see just kind of like the smirk on their faces going, yeah, OK, sure. You know. Well you can come along and see how you do.



Well I went out a couple of times with them and they came off like Fx70x14s or something like that on their, you know, little little tiny tires. A couple trips out and it was sand, a lot of sand dunes, you know, they're little small areas of sand dunes. We'd go play and I found a set of 31x10x50s, but they didn't quite fit until I took the dye grinder to the Fender Wells to make everything fit.



And this is like six months after I'd boughten this pickup know there are these guys were like, man, I can't believe you're doing that for your new truck. Well, I bought it to go wheel. Let's go wheel. That made all the difference in the world. Then I could run around with everybody. So that evolved into the what they called the Jeep rodeo that they had in the Northwest at the time. And they were into that.



So I went to a few of those events and started racing the D50 doing that. And that led to more modifications where there was a shop in Kennewick, Washington, called Sunland off Road. And I had Jim Chesley was the head fabricator there, dual shocked the front end so that it didn't bounce so bad going through the bumps. And we had a roll bar in it, window nets, the racing seats and full harnesses and everything for racing and just started racing that.



And that was kind of really I really got into it that way until I broke it one time. And that was still my daily driver. So I would drive it to races, race it and drive it home. I even drove it to Olympia, which is like four hours away, race the big PNW all everybody summer convention race and then drove it home. You know, just I always had really good luck until I was the closest race I ever raced. I broke the transfer case in it.



So then I had to get towed home.



I realize that wasn't a good idea anymore, and so I decided to build a race Jeep. One of the guys that I was living back in Pomoroy at that time. One of the guys that I knew from the tri cities, dad was selling a frame had and a tub and it had the nose on it, it was a fiberglass nose and it had the full cage in it, but there was nothing else there. So I went and bought that for, you know, a couple of hundred bucks or whatever.



Hauled it home on the trailer with a couple of friends. Go help me hold it home on the trailer. Started building my first race jeep. Well, I have been around it enough to know that the stuck width CJ5 axle's are just too narrow for the obstacle course type racing they were doing you do one time lap type thing or you would do they had it set up in figure eights where there'd be a long side and a short side. So you'd, you'd start at the same time in opposite directions, but you both had to complete the same amount of track and you come back to the finish line, first guy their wins and my truck just handled awesome.



I mean, it was just. And it was just enough wider so that it would handle good. So I decide when to build the race jeep I'm going to do wider running gear, so I went with Scout2 width gear because that was a Dana 44 rear with a locker and it was actually an old Wagoneer front, Dana 27. closed knuckle. So I'm running thirty one desert dog x-treads on it. Leaf spring front and I made a trailing arm with a 4 link rear on coil springs.



So this was like about nineteen eighty five or eighty six, I built this and that thing just handled like a dream. Oh man. And then so it started out with the Wagoneer. I had bought for parts. So with the 360 Turbo 400, Dana 20, got tired of the 360 and found somebody to buy it and bought, got an old three fifty Chevy out of one of my grandpa's old junk cars rebuilt that with spare parts from, you know, I'm like, you know, making minimum wage almost, you know, working on the farm with my dad and didn't have a lot of money.



So I got used ten and a half to one pistons and I got to use Cam from somebody else to put all in this three fifty Chevy so I could go race, you know, so we got that all put in and I raced it quite a bit. It seems like I hardly ever broken the fifty, but I always find something that broke in, in that jeep every time I'm even though there was nothing Jeep about it really. But I always seem to break something.



And that lasted for just a few years. And then I just had kids and we started getting into motorcycles. So we kind of faded away there. Did the dirt bike thing for quite a few years and I never really got back into it till my kids were teenagers, you know, always had a four wheel drive pickup or something. Well, I guess in between there, between the race and I traded that  D50 straight across for a sixty seven Bronco to a friend of mine, really close friend.



Well the sixty seven Bronco was the 302 three speed and it was rolling on forties. Wow. So this but this was the era, this was the, the late eighties, you know, and lifted trucks were the thing and it looked like a Stomper, they were like, you know, monster motor bloggers or whatever rolling down the road. It was a handful to drive. It was actually terrible. Well, I blew up the transmission in it.



Go figure. First, I blew up the front end, so we built a high pinion, forty four narrowed a half ton to put in it, then the transmission went out of it and I decided it was time to do something different. So I traded the forties to a friend, another friend for a 429 and a C6 out of a Thunderbird. So I put that into that Bronco because I had to lower it down to get drivelines work because everything's longer and driveline angles.



Right. And everything. And I step down to like a thirty five or something like that you know. And they were the still were still in the bias belted era. So it was the buckshot muddders that were on it. Thirty five inch buckshot mudders. So that was still what was going on then. So I and I had that actually for quite a while and it was just it was fun to drive, but it wasn't much for four wheel. And it just honestly I think it had too much horsepower too.



You just didn't seem to want to. Maybe it would have. I have lockers, you know, that was in the era. Nobody was running the lockers at the time. Even when we go Snow wheeling, and everybody's running open diffs, you know, we'd be on three feet of snow pack snow and 11x15 true tracks with open diffs and just thinking we can go anywhere. It was just a blast back then, so.



Oh, so then we. Jumping back ahead to my kids are teenagers and one of them, he was a more a little bit more of the outdoor kid wanted a pick up. So I bought this. Nineteen eighty three Toyota pickup, and it had quite a few miles on it and needed some work, so I pulled the motor and transmission out of it and the transmission was actually the housing was broken. It motor needed rebuilt because we're going to build this for the kid.



We figured we just go through everything, got a new engine for it and I decided I wanted an automatic transmission. In this Toyota pickup. So I went to this local shop where these guys were kind of Toyota guys, but they did all sorts of repair and said, hey, can you guys find me an automatic transmission to fit my 22r? OK. It was like three days later they called me up here. We've got one.



All right, cool. So I get all that bolted in and then I realize. You know, like I was saying, it's been a few years because I was like the Turbo400 C6 transmissions and everything, and here's this electronic shift, four speed automatic, you know, well, what am I going to do with this? And now, literally, I put locker's front and rear. You know, I mean, I've just gone through this whole pick up to find that the transmission isn't going to want to shift because there's no computer.



So then I set about on the Internet doing some searching, and I did never really I found answers where people had done things, but there wasn't really a solution. So that's kind of got me started. Well, I'm going to build something to make it work. Well, I found out the On-Off sequence, so I set up some two rocker switches so I could flip on and off. Yes, I could drive the thing around. Then that turned into a different setup with rocker switches, toggle switches that I made work.



And then finally I decided, well, I need something that's going to be more than trying to flip switches. This is just kind of ridiculous that evolved into designing the rail shift controller, which is what you've got in your Jeep. Right. So that's the first generation that came about. So I put that in there. Well, then, you know, I'm showing my build on all the Toyota forums and everything, you know, on Pirate and nobody with Toyota runs automatics.



I mean, that's just stupid because you've got this little four cylinder that can't pull itself down the road with big tires and an automatic, you know, so but I found out that the XJ's have that same transmission. It's made by the same company and they make a version, they made versions for several different companies, but they made a version for the Jeeps and they have one for Toyotas. So that was all said. And I'm like, I can start selling Shifter's.



And that's when I started being the Shifter guy, you know, before anything else, you know, I mean, I was the Toyota. I still have that Toyota. I still drive it around out and about all the time, you know? I mean, it's still running, going. It's done. Upgraded with a different engine. It's been through a couple of different shifter setups because I, I try to run what I sell. You know, I just so you know, one is I know what's good and what's bad and, you know, weak points or whatever.



And then it's like if you don't use your own product, it doesn't seem like you're a very good spokesman that way. So I tried to do that. So but yeah, I still have that. And then I oh, I build an XJ, I like the way they drive, you know, I like the visibility out of one. I mean they're just I think they're really a comfortable vehicle, four liter has tons of power with the automatic transmission. So I built one of those up kind of for snow wheelin and ended up selling it to my son in law.



And that wasn't too big of a deal. I mean, he's a great guy, so I didn't have a problem doing that at all. But it was the build was probably the most fun. And he's he still has it. He snow wheels the heck out of it. He's running thirty five on it with the stock Axle's. And it's snow wheeling, you know, if you don't get the wear and tear you do in the desert or the rocks or anything, so you can run run those little axles and as many times as we've been out together in, like the last 10 years, he's never broken anything but a distributor cap.



Well, so it's been been a lot of fun doing all that.


[00:15:07.550] - Big Rich Klein

So let's go back a little ways when you were growing up on the farm. Yeah, that's an environment where you typically have to figure things out, meaning, you know, if you need something or you you have to change something. You typically figure out a way to make it yourself. Is is that what happened on that is definitely yep.


[00:15:34.090] - Rory DesJardin

We had a 50 by one hundred Quonset hut. That was the shop, OK, and the owner of the farm, because I was I had to go cart between motorcycles in there as a little kid with a five horse brigs on it. And it was a go cart made for pavement. Well, out in the country, I mean, we're like, you know, five or six miles from paved road, so it's all gravel then. Well, you tried to drive it down like I drive it up our driveway, which is a half mile long, and try to take it down the county road with that little mound of gravel that's in the center between the two tire tracks.



The frame did hit that in the gravel spray in your face. So I went back to the shop and started cutting in weld and stuff. And how that kind of came about, that experience was the owner, again, the great guy that had the CJ2A. He tells me one day goes, anything in the shop you can use? He goes, if you want to learn to weld, that fifty five gallon barrel full of scrap, pull parts out of there and you can burn all the rod you want.



That's fine. And the cutting torch, whatever in here you want to use, just make sure you put everything away when you're done so that, he had a lathe also, you know, so I kind of cut my teeth machining some stuff on the lathe, you know, things that didn't quite fit, like, you know, a young teenager just kind of hacking stuff together. But that was kind of the building something all the time. So it was the go cart I built and then a few other things after that.



But yeah, it was definitely an environment of building, repairing your own equipment and having to weld and cut and everything else. OK.


[00:17:14.360] - Big Rich Klein

You ended up teaching. How did you how did you get into the education and about when did that happen?


[00:17:22.340] - Rory DesJardin

Kind of goes back to I was working on the farm. And I've just gotten married, had one kid and decided that I wanted a job with, like a retirement and stuff like that. I had some long talks with my dad because my dad ended up working for the guy for like 30 years. I don't think he regretted it. But he also told me some of the downfalls of working for somebody in.



My dad and I get along great worked, we were a team, he was one of the best people I've ever worked with. So I get a call from a fellow four wheeler that's assistant manager of a machine shop at a factory that makes ammunition. Hey, you want a job in the shop? Yeah, send me your resume so I get this job in this machine shop. And I started doing tool and die, you know, learning all that job, get my apprenticeship and go through apprenticeship program to be a journeyman machinist.



From there, I was offered a job just kind of out of the blue to go to engineering, to work, to design bullets. Because I had a two year engineering degree, I have a two year engineering degree also, so I said, yeah, that sounds like a great opportunity. So I spent an entire year doing that whole R&D thing on a new hunting bullet. I got done and I was just on loan from the machine shop at the time.



And then they said, well, we want him to come back for another year to design the machine. So then I headed that all up. So we got that done. Well, that those part time, you know, a year here, a year there, then the next year was, well, we need to refine the process when we're in production, well that ended up being ended up getting hired full time in to engineering. Just doing product development, you know what it was like, and I was good about what if?



And what if we try this, what if we try that and develop them things that way so that my personality helped a lot that way? So that gave me the machine experience, engineering experience. And I worked there 20 some years and I felt like I was getting dumber every day. I was there just wasn't I wasn't feeling inspired anymore.



So I found by that time I'm building Shifter's, you know, afternoons and weekends. I had a couple of CNC, a small CNC mill and this company from Wisconsin who makes them. They had a job opening for an R&D engineer, so I said, I'm going to send them my resume and see what happens. So I sent in my resume, the owner of the company, it's a small company like 20 people, calls me the next day and says, well, we're going to fly you out here for an interview.



So I fly out to Wisconsin and do the interview, get the job offer that day, move to Wisconsin. So while I'm at Wisconsin, besides designing new products, helping with technical support on the existing products, we have monthly classes that teach machining. So I was part of that. Well, I was there two and a half years and there were some family things we never sold our house that we had in Washington, my daughter lived there, some friends lived there.



And then finally it was becoming vacant and we decided it was time to move back. So we moved back there. I got a job being a machinist back at the bullet factory again and did that for one more year and the teaching job came up. And it was like Sunday and I mean, I hated it when I left there the first time, I hated it more being at that place this time. And I saw I picked up the paper.



Sunday paper, because I'm working weekends because I lost all my seniority, I had all my vacation retroactive, but plant seniority, I had zero. So I'm on a weekend night shift, I think, at the time. And I'm looking at the paper and I'm like, read the ad for this. Assistant professor to teach engineering, design and machining, intro to machining, and I go, that's me, that's me, that's exactly me. So I sent in my resume and yeah, I got hired for that job there and it was just, bam, thank you.



And, you know, and so I started teaching at the Lewis Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. I taught the SolidWorks. That was an entire year, the second year of the drafting design using SolidWorks, I taught that to the second year engineering technology students and I also taught. An intro to machining, basically for the first year, CNC Machinists', so I just taught the manual machine stuff, just kind of the concepts of. You know what you have to do to to make a cut and, you know, and I had cool just some goofy little parts that I'd give the kids, you know, drawings of and have them machining these parts out so that that worked out real well until a year ago when I decided to just move out on my own here and not just work for myself, basically.



So that's where we're at now. Moved to another another house, bigger shops and building more parts than ever.


[00:22:32.460] - Big Rich Klein

Excellent. So, yes, the Toyota thing led with the automatic lead into building parts, parts of the XJ, the rail shifter's and all that, that stuff, what other products do you offer and how did some of those come about?


[00:22:50.050] - Rory DesJardin

Well, I'll go back to that, yeah, the. So I had to Toyota, so I'm out with some friends and I'd already had the rail out, we're running the rail, or maybe the Baja, which is a bigger version of the rail that I built, and somebody somebody that was racing Jeep Speed wanted to know if that would work in his Jeep Speed.



So I said it's small, it's going to fill up with dust. It's probably not the best suited for that environment. Could you build me something? I said, yeah, let me see what I can do. So I came up with what was the Baja, which I'm in the third version of that right now. And I think the guy that has the original one is still running it, which is just phenomenal to hear. Last I heard from him, he still was still out playing in the desert and everything with it.



But so I had that in my Toyota, one of those.



And we're out snow wheeleing. And I'm with a friend that's got a pretty much stock XJ and he gets stuck and he's trying to rock back and forth and he's like, not get it in the right gear and, you know, put it in park or neutral. And he looked at me and asked me, why don't you build a floor shifter for one of these? I'm like, well, that's a cool idea. I could you know, I could see it right there, what was going on with him.



So I created the rock floor Shifter. And that's a big, huge thing. So that kind of evolved into, you know, more just more shifting components because I had the Toyota, I end up putting dual cases in it because that's what you do with the Toyota. And I wanted the triple sticks, like I sell now, the rear levers to the front case, all three levers are together. So there was one spot where the levers are. So I created that product, the triple sticks.



That was 2011. After that, there wasn't really too much new until  I really came out with the VX shifter, which is out now, which is a floor shifter that fits just about every American popular American made transmission. I have it also set up to be able to run some switches, micro switches in it so you can run the electric shift four speeds. Like what my Toyota has, your Cherokee, so it's all in one shifter instead of having maybe two like a shifter with a little shift controller in it type of setup.



So that's kind of where that and then there's just another little odds and ends. I got, what is it been three, three or four years now? I've been going to WE  Rocks. I think I've been really involved the last three and, you know, meeting a lot of new people. And we'd be there and I go, what is that all about?



And give to have your transmission tube plugged so you don't spill oil if you roll over. And it was like a bowl with tape wrapped around it and wrapped around the dipstick. And I go, well, that's just tacky.



So like I did a design and machine have plugs machined with o-rings on them to replace the dipstick for that. So little things like that in the WE Rock. I've had a lot of feedback from competitors, you know, showed me broken parts and well, I think I could do something better and add something new to the product line that way to try to help everybody in the off road thing that way. So. That's been a great it's been a great partnership with all the competitors, and it's like a family, you know, everybody's kind of like there to help everybody else out.



So let's it's a neat environment.


[00:26:19.880] - Big Rich Klein

So a lot of your products or it sounds like some of the products at least have come about because of racing, whether it was back in the D50 and then what you learned there and then racing the Jeep, those things transfer over into the real life trail wheeling. Do you find that to be the case?


[00:26:42.770] - Rory DesJardin

With with a background like growing up on the farm? Then when I've got the Bronco, I started doing more exploring in the race Jeep. I mean, you'd race it, but I had it on this farm.



So I was out going into these canyons and draws, trying to pick lines to get up. And if I get from here to here or I use it to herd the cattle up in the fall, you know, so it was always about where can I go pushing the limit. It's kind of like any kind of the competition. I've always been around the competition. And the rockcrawling was something new that intrigued me and I always look at that stuff and didn't really know there was.



You know, growing up, we had these rocky bluffs and you think about, oh, if I could drive through that thinking now, there's no way they could go to a WE Rock event and see, oh, my gosh, this is incredible.



You know, so all of all of it, I think, flows together that, you know, of my background in everything I've done to to be where I'm at about doing what I am now. So.


[00:27:39.580] - Rory DesJardin

It was more about product development came about from just trail wheeling in with friends and stuff.


[00:27:46.300] - Rory DesJardin

It's probably most of it has come from trail wheeling, you know, hanging out with friends, you know, with in conversations, you know, from the beginning of why don't you build one of these or what if we had one of those and I still get phone calls asking things like that that I you know, sometimes it's like, well, yeah, you and one other person the next 13 years is going to want that or hey, that's a great idea.



Let me see what I can do. But it's weekend stuff the people I'm around. They. Talk, it's just hanging out, you're talking to people and, you know, things come up in conversation, so and I like a challenge. So I'll look at to see what. If it's possible, if I think if it fits what I want to do, I don't usually if somebody says, hey, well, why don't you build a twin stick for an atlas, but there's like two or three other companies already do.



So I really don't have an interest in doing that. You know, that's not really what my business model is. You know, I try to try to be innovative within the realms of what I do and kind of specific for that, like the VX shifter, the floor shifter I have now that I'm selling. It's really not like what anybody else has so that I don't think I'm trying to take market share away from anybody else. Totally. I mean, of course, there's other shifter's out there that people are using, but I think I've done something better and more unique.



So I don't feel like I'm, you know, impeding on somebody else's business that way at all. It's just I saw a need for something that I thought could be improved. So I decided to jump in it that way and see what will happen. So that's kind of been it all along. Like you said, friends, you know, just even customers. You know that will call and ask, hey, I heard about you. Could you do this, do you think?



Or whatever?


[00:29:35.220] - Big Rich Klein

So when I visited your shop at the old house, you had one of the one of the products that you showed me that I really liked was the they were like a hold down clamping system type thing that, you know, for like, well, just about anything to put into your your vehicle that you wanted to clamp down. And it I don't remember if they were if they were all stuff that attaches to a tube or if you could use it like anywhere.



Do you know what I'm talking about?


[00:30:07.530] - Rory DesJardin

Yeah, that's the AMS mounts that I have. They can attach the tube or they can attach a flat plate. It's not you're not limited to tube only the way they're designed. Fire extinguisher mounts are probably the most popular thing. Guys are using them for quite a few little guys like that. I've met in WE Rock are running them now and they've survived some pretty good bashing and stuff. And still they're still usable, guys who use them for their Bluetooth speakers. So you can take them in and out.



They're locked in securely when they're out wheeling, listening to their music that they can pull a pin to be able to take them out. Yeah, it's pretty versatile that way with whatever you really want. I locked up one to put a first aid kit on it because that seems to be the thing that's always buried somewhere inside the vehicle. And that's probably the thing you want on top.



The most, right, right behind the fire extinguisher is it's little things like that. That's just like I didn't like what was out there at the time where we live in the northwest. You know, I live on the dry side of the state, but still a lot more rain and humidity that you get in the southwest. So there's these bare steel mounts that guys make that are 100 percent functional, but one trip out in the snow Wheelin. You know, they just surface rusting, you've got to spray them down with WD40 or whatever, you know.



So I decided something that would be all aluminum. They're anodised black, kind of a neutral color. And, yeah, that's what's in the back of my truck now for my fire extinguisher. So and it's there all the time out in the weather all the time. You can still stainless hardware, so you can just always be ready to use no matter what the weather is. Right.


[00:31:57.490] - Big Rich Klein

What other products do you have besides the VX Shifter, the rail, the triple triple stick set up for the Toyoda's and those mounts, are there any other products that we should we should know about?


[00:32:13.290] - Rory DesJardin

One of the things that's actually kind of halfway caught on is just some different shift lever components for the Atlas Transfer cases, OK? That kind of came about the same way I was approached about, hey, look, this broke when I was out wheelin, what do you think?



And I looked at the parts and I go, well, that's interesting. Well, I think I could come up with something better. And I did. And ever so far, everybody's really had give me really positive feedback on that, on how that works. And it's I called a heavy duty kit for the Atlas shift kit, and it's some rods and heims and different pivot bolts that seems to take some of the some of the spongy. The feedback I get, it takes the sponginess out of the shift feel right.



I don't have an atlas, so I can't really say, you know, how it works. But, you know, I have great people that I supplied test parts to that give me some great feedback. And it's actually worked out real well. Excellent.


[00:33:13.580] - Big Rich Klein

That's that's important for sure. You're up in up in Washington, you're up in the. The area you're at now is Spokane area,


[00:33:24.620] - Rory DesJardin

so we're about 30 miles from the Idaho border. I would kind of call it truly eastern Washington. You know, we're really not the north and we're really not the south eastern part, but. It's like I said, a little drier here we were, I live at the end of the dead end county road, it's all timbered pine trees, so it's nice to have a rural location, but still be 15 minutes from anything I need in a big city, you know, 10 acres, five acres oh five acres, five acres, OK?



Yup, yup. And then so I've got since I have since bought another XJ just to kind of like a daily driver around. So I'm not driving my one ton pickup anywhere or anything.



And then we my daughter gave. Her niece, you know, our other grand daughter, her old XJ, and she drives that around through the trees. I mean, she'll go for hours just driving around through the trees. And I mean, it's and it's the trees here aren't 20 feet apart. They're like six feet apart or seven feet apart. So there's places where if you don't pick the line, you're going to smash into something. But she'll spend hours weaving her way through those trees and, you know, wheeling and having fun out here.



So it's a great location to be at now.


[00:34:47.980] - Big Rich Klein

And that's that's Heaven, correct? Yes, that's Heaven. So what's on the future? Are there any products that you have? Well, you probably don't want to talk about future products because you don't want anybody to jump the gun on you.


[00:35:02.470] - Rory DesJardin

You know, that's I think that's kind of unique. No, nothing huge. The VX probably to expand that more, you know, and I'm working on getting that promoted to everybody. And I you know, it is catching on. It's tough to come out with something. That isn't like the rail shifter, you know, there was no competition when I started that, so there wasn't really too big of a deal. Well, step it up into floor shifter's.



There is competition. So you have to, you know, work your way into that market and talk to the right people. And, you know, that'll help you through whatever goes on. You know, like I'm a marketing partner with the WE Rock events. So that's that's great for getting it out to those guys. And then a couple of people that are competitors have really helped promote my products, too. So that's been a great asset that way.



You know, it's people like that that you have to hook up with, I think, in organizations and, you know, to help, you know, see who you are and what you're doing


[00:36:05.820] - Big Rich Klein

And through the competition scene the guys that are competing are also trail wheelers and their friends and people that they end up wheeling with see what they're using. And everybody wants, you know, truly, people want to be racers. You know, they may they may be closet racers, but they don't really want to go out and compete.


[00:36:26.520] - Rory DesJardin

But they want their stuff to be as good as. Oh, definitely, yeah, I think that's that's definitely to the tee, is that, you know, I grew up when I first started, so I had that D50 and, you know, I mean, IFS it like handled in the whoops and stuff better than anything, you know, better than a Jeep. Ever thought of it longer wheelbase and everything, you know. And, you know, it's like Walker Evans, you know, I want to grow up to be like Walker Evans, you know, Rod Hall, you know.


[00:36:54.310] - Big Rich Klein

So let's let's discuss your working relationship with other companies to produce the products you're doing.



And then where I want to go after that is I'd like to go into stepping away from what is normal, what most people in society see as normal, you know, a job, you know, working for a company, working as an employee, working as a teacher and then going into business for yourself that that life change. Let's touch on that first. Those life change events, had a guy that I was talking to today over social that has just changed jobs after he retired after twenty four twenty five years, he feels that he's kind of lost, you know, he's kind of lost his identity of what he's done for so many years and he's not sure, you know, where to go, what to do, who he is.



And you know, 20 years ago I walked away from a normal job and became an off road event promoter and has have loved every minute of it. To me, it was nothing because I never stayed in a job long enough to ever feel like I truly belonged in that profession or with that company. So going to work for myself a number of times that I had done in different job venues was easy. What was that like for you walking away from I know that you you said at the bullet company you were you were just kind of tired of it.



And then you went into machining with a totally changing states. Let's talk about that. What was what was that like?


[00:38:45.360] - Rory DesJardin

Went to Wisconsin. That it was. I've never worked anywhere, but within 30 miles of where I grew up, you know, pretty much I guess I shouldn't say that because Tri-cities further away, but still never really get out of the area. So I moved to Wisconsin. Totally different culture and not bad. It's just.



You did. I've never been anywhere up and traveled to know anything about that. I wondered what the heck I was doing.I honestly got to tell you, I packed up New Year's Day driving out to Wisconsin. Eighteen hundred miles. And I'm just thinking, is this the right thing to do? This is absolutely insane. You just left the job you've had for twenty two years to drive eighteen hundred miles and hope this is something you're going to want to do.



So I'm definitely. Emotional feelings that way and then moving back, it was the same thing. You sure I want to leave this job and these people are fantastic. I love this, you know, coming back to, you know, work where I didn't want to be. But it was a good job with pay and benefits. So but it all came back to when I applied for that job at the college, every bit of that experience mattered.



And then going out there, that job, totally different culture. Again, you know, I went to a two year community college for my degree. So being in a four year school and the culture that are so totally different, the way it's ran and I was surprised, it's a lot like a big corporation. There wasn't really a lot of changes that way except the people I worked with were fun. But I had really a great you know, the people I worked with in our area was just a lot of fun people.



So it was it was a great, great job. So then the next big job change is like to not teach and to build shifters, so. I started in two thousand eight, I started my company, so now come twenty nineteen and I decide to. Quit teaching, which I absolutely loved, moved to Spokane and just go out on my own to do this full time, you know, something I've been doing nights and weekends and now it's, you know, eight to five for me because I'm usually out here by seven o'clock.



But, you know, like, I can get my hours in every day anyway. So it was kind of scary. I got to admit, it was like kind of you know, I was more stressed about watching sales figures every week instead of worrying about what the month before was, because you start watching every week, think, oh, this is terrible. This was a stupid idea. Why am I even doing this? You know, I'm going to get a real job.



This isn't going to work. But no, actually.



This year's been the best year we've ever had in sales, so I just, my wife, a lovely wife, we've been married since nineteen eighty eight. She keeps reminding me it'll be all right. You just need to, like, relax, we'll be fine. Don't worry about it. And she's right. I just need to chill out, you know, look at the big picture instead of, you know, one day. Oh no, nobody buys anything today we're going bankrupt, you know.



So it's not really bankrupt because I don't owe people any money for any of my equipment or anything. So it's just a matter of, you know, don't don't go to McDonald's that day may be or something like that.


[00:42:17.560] - Big Rich Klein

You know, I would suggest not going to McDonald's anyway. So let's talk about some of the companies that you've work that you work with to get your products done. Are they local? Are they outside of the area? How did you meet them? That kind of thing. There's most of the. Things I have, I build internally, except for laser cut parts, there's a local shop that I have laser cut things that don't need bent and I've also had Lasernut cut parts for me also.



And honestly, the price is the same, but Lasernut can bend them. They can have a CNC press brake to be able to bend parts. I need bent. So they've been a great asset that way. You know, of course, Cody Waggoner and Lasernut are part of the WE Rock thing and that's how I met him. I found out about who his company was. The company that does my laser in town is who I buy all my material from also.



So I've had a relationship with them since I started my company, you know, in two thousand eight. So 12 years I've been buying the raw materials from them. And then I find out that they have some other manufacturing capabilities with lasers, waterjet, CNC lathes and mill. When I moved to Wisconsin, I decided. I was tired of outsourcing parts, so that's when I redesigned the rail and the Baja because I was I didn't have a CNC lathe.



You know, having somebody else build these round parts for me just didn't make sense. So I tried. So then since that time, I've kind of tried to design things like I can build in-house and pretty much self-sufficient, except for the laser cut parts and the laser cut parts. It's just because that's cost effective, right. To have have great people like that behind that. Probably the other single biggest supplier that I work with. I've been with a long time is JD Custom 



 Aumsville, Oregon, OK, I buy all my shift boots from him, him and Rhonda from from them, from Jon and Rhonda.



So they've been a great partner to have for supplying the shift boots. I sell with my triple sticks and people call me and say, hey, I need a new boot. And I set up just go to JB Custom Fabs website. You can order one right there. And that's kind of my payback from them. Just I don't I include them with everything. But if there's anybody who wants a new one or tore theirs, I send them right to the manufacturer and they can buy them direct from him.



So I kind of keep the business going that way. And we've always had Jon and I, Rhona and I have always had a great working relationship that way with our products really don't compete. So we get along really well that way. I am one of the few vendors. I've actually been to their shop, you know, and hung out a while. A couple of years ago. We stopped by there when we were on vacation or on the Oregon coast.



So great people, of course, I see Cody Waggoner at the events and stuff and he's like, he's really great. I'm always asking about how his company, the products that his company supplies for me. How are they? What's the quality like? So he's very self-conscious about that, too. So another great guy to have on your side to build you. Parts that they have capabilities to help me out.


[00:45:34.560] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah, I agree. Let's discuss the future.



Are you going to keep about the same? You know, one of the things that that I see is people have a dilemma. They get to a certain size and they say, OK, I'm happy where I'm at or I need to grow. So that means they need to invest in either machinery or employees or, you know, a newer, bigger shop. Are you happy with where you're at? Do you want to grow? Do you have room for growth or do you need to or does growth mean that you need to change how you do things now?


[00:46:15.730] - Rory DesJardin

No, I've actually grown every year, but two doing this and it's been, you know, but, you know, starting out at zero, you know, it's kind of like a bank account. It's the last few years when you see that percentage, it's a big jump, bigger jumps. You know, we have had huge growth just every year. But two like I said and even the two years that I didn't it wasn't off that far.



I mean, it's like slight dips, you know, going down. It wasn't like, you know, went from huge sales to zero sales. It was just a little bit less. That makes it noticeable. The goal is to grow more to you know, I'm far from being at capacity right now. So that's right. Now, I've got a lot of room for growth without having to worry about equipment to buy. Especially if you look at the costs.



Of. The lasers or CNC press break. Yes, I'd love to have my own, but I'd have to have them both run all day, every day to make them pay for themselves. And I'm not even near that, you know, as I put them in order, like every few months I put in an order for laser cut parts, get enough that lasts. And, you know, so it's not definitely not a necessity that way. As far as equipment goes, my wife Bonnie and I have always talked about it'd be really great to get to the point where my son, who's a business manager, and my son in law, who's has helped me out in the shop and everything could come run the company type of thing and carry on with there being younger.



And I have to kind of look at that. Just had my sixtieth birthday. So you got to think, well, how much longer can a person really do be doing this at the shop? Every day. All day. You know, I mean, I've got quite a few years left. I've come from a pretty healthy family that has good longevity. But still. But I want to be doing this at seventy? Do I want to be doing it seventy five at some point there in the near future.



I've got to kind of think where we want to go now. You know, with close to five hundred customers a year, you really don't want to just shut the doors right. And growing, you know, type of thing.


[00:48:19.570] - Big Rich Klein

So well hopefully they have an interest in perpetuating what you've what you've built. And I think they both did that.


[00:48:27.010] - Rory DesJardin

My son in law, who's the one that has the XJ that I built up and, you know, and he's helped me out in the shop a lot. He's an off road guy and he's a shop guy. He's got a really good mind for being efficient at what he does. My son's the same way as far as efficiency goes. He's worked in management jobs and understands efficiencies and being streamlining and things like that. As far as, you know, bottom line money and time spent building things so they would they would be a good team.



If we ever get to the point where I need need help living in the country, I have plenty of room to expand. If I need to expand the building, I could go for a small company like I have now. It'd be cheaper to add on another 30 feet of building or 40 feet of building. Then it would be to move into a bigger building and rent it. You know, why would I want to rent someone? I could invest in it with a bigger building?



Absolutely no problem at all. And it's nice to have a place where I can drive around, you know, just on our property. There's I've been blessed this last summer stacking rocks, trying to make a mini version of Cody Waggoner's RockPile that he's got going on. But, you know, I've got a pretty good one started. I'm going to have to get some bigger equipment than my skin steer to be able to move any much bigger rocks. Because the last couple, I couldn't pick them up, but I could slide them along the ground to get them up to the rockpile.



So but it's you know, it's neat to have that because, you know, I'm working on building a buggy for a guy right now. So that'll be something that will be out there, you know, flex and out and crawl across rocks and everything with to see how it all works and performs and stuff. So it's it's going good right now. So we're just going to ride the wave and see what happens, you know. Kind of like you, you start a company when you're not a kid and you don't think about what it's going to be in 20 years, you know, but now we're getting to that point.


[00:50:21.440] - Big Rich Klein

When I when I started CalRocs, you know, which morphed into WE Rock, I had never I never imagined wanting to retire. I was just going to work until somebody threw dirt on me. And now that I'm, you know, 20 years into this, those thoughts are not quite the same. I'd like to spend more time enjoying the people that I'm that I'm around, meaning even, you know, the competitors and the other business people that that we deal with, but in a different capacity.



You know, do I want to work as hard physically to do. To do what we do or what I'd rather, you know, taper off on the physical part of it and produce events where, you know, it's more like people show up and then we we cater to them like in a social atmosphere instead of a competitive atmosphere. So that's those are the things that are going through my mind. And I would imagine that's most people that get to, you know, after 20 years or whatever, or at least get to that age where they start looking around and going, wow, do I really want to do this until the last day I'm alive or do I want to, you know, want to do something different?



So I get it, you know? That's right. You get to a certain age and you start thinking about that. Is there is there anything that you want to ask me, Fred Williams? In the interview that I did with him, turned it around and just said, hey, I'm going to ask you a few questions. It was actually pretty interesting. So I'm going to try to incorporate incorporate that now with some of the interviews. Is there anything that since you've heard most of everything that you know or the interviews that I've done so far, is there something in there that you want me to expand on or anything that you any questions you want to ask me?


[00:52:22.780] - Rory DesJardin

Well, not not as much of a question, Rich, but I've enjoyed listening to that because so many of the people either you interviewed or talk about like the word events or people I interact with that have never met in person until maybe like Bob Roggy's one of them, I have actually got to meet him at one of the WE Rock events, but he was one of the first guys I ever like gave a shifter to for his Jeep Speed. And then there's there's just been numerous other people that are customers of mine hooked up in the industry at some point that I like.



Oh, yeah, I remember talking to them, John Bunderant, you know. I mean, he was. Five hours away when he was up here in Montana and buying stuff from me, then, I mean, I didn't really know his whole story, but I knew that he moved to Montana and stuff there and then he moved back to California. So it's just amazing how small this world really is when these people that they're all interconnected at some somehow, you know, even though I've never really met most of these people, that we've all had something going on, you know, in the in the industry at some point in the last 12 years that I've been doing this.


[00:53:40.650] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah, I noticed that with our travel. What I see is that our industry four wheel drive industry. When we're in it and we're around everybody, it seems huge, but when you step outside of it and look back into it, it really is a niche market or a niche industry within automotive. As an industry, which is niche as far as industrialization and everything else goes, so it's interesting that that we can interconnect and cross paths with people that you never knew you would, or you get to hear the stories about people like you said that you've interacted with.


[00:54:25.160]  - Rory DesJardin

You know, through the business, but never personally met, and that happens to me a lot. You know, it's like one of the other ones there, several of them that come to mind that, you know, I met through supplying Shifter's through and then, you know, they've gone on John Balducci's, one of them. Right. You know, he's he's from the New England kind of area up there. And he was racing a little Suzuki powered buggy.



And then I was one of the first guy, another one of the first guys. I sent a ship for you to get on that. Well, now he works for Erik Miller, you know? I mean, it's just, you know, I mean, it's just it all changes around, I don't know, you know, Mat Adair. Oh, yes. OK, so same thing with him.



He calls me up and hey, I'm we're building this jeep to do this. Twenty four hours of Lemons with and we need a shifter. And so I'm building this crazy one off funky shifter for that race. And he raced the heck out of that thing. Know, I mean, there's just people like that. I've never met Matt, Tim Lund, you know, I know you know him, never met him. But we've had a lot of phone conversations and emails.



And when you guys bought 4Low and I'd already subscribed and Tim messaged me, you've got to get this magazine. This thing is awesome. I mean, it was you know, it was hilarious. Like Tim too late. Already did it already on. Well, we appreciate that. That's for sure. Andrew McLaughlin was another one. He called me up from Let's Roll right when he first started that company. Know, we started about the same time, called me up about Shifter's.



And he he's he's ran one in his red buggy. I think he still has. I don't know if he gets it out much anymore, but since, you know, just about since I started my company.



So, you know, there's you know, the other one that I'm probably the most proud of right now is Josh Atteberry, the Kracker fab guys. Well, yes.



You know, they race the Your Dirt Riot series for years, but he's been running my shift products in his vehicle for the last two years. He's podium to the Hammer's he's won the Ultra4 forty six hundred class the last two years. And the West Coast and Nationals, I believe both. Yeah. So that's that's really you know, people ask the durability like a well, these guys look at this vehicle, you know, it's proved itself in reliability.



And, you know, I got to give him big kudos for, you know, let me be part of that team, you know, helping them with their shifting. So that's pretty cool.


[00:56:58.810] - Big Rich Klein

Excellent. Well, Rory, I want to say thank you so very much for coming on board, sharing your life, your business with our listeners. We hope to continue the relationship that we've we've built over the years with you. We hope for your continued success not only in business, but in life and your relationship.



Thank you again for coming on board.


[00:57:24.280] - Rory DesJardin

That was great to be here. Yeah, likewise, I really, you know, being part of your WE Rock group, you know, being a marketing partner that has really brought a lot to new friends and business wise. It's definitely been a great asset to be part of that program. Thanks again.



OK, we appreciate it. And you have a great day. You too, Rich. If you enjoy these podcasts, please give us a rating, share some feedback with us via Facebook or Instagram and share our link among your friends who might be like minded. Well, that brings this episode to an end. Hope you enjoyed it. We'll catch you next week with conversations with Big Rich. Thank you very much.