By ROBYN BRISTOW
A Formula-1 style supercar for the super rich – FZed – is about to be released in North Canterbury.
Its release by Rodin Cars, based in the foothills near Waiau on the Inland Road, is a milestone for the company and signals the start of what will be a huge boost to the local economy.
More product will follow shortly from the state-of-the-art headquarters and test facility, opening up job opportunities, providing international exposure, and offering a timely boost to a region recovering from the 2016 earthquake.
The roll-out of FZed, which will bring many international journalists to the 586-hectare property, signals the start of growing demand for accommodation, servicing and catering.
General manager Dara Johnston, who has a super yacht background, including building marinas, says Rodin Cars’ vision is to become a leading track-car manufacturer, producing 50 to 100 high-performance cars a year for those with a desire to drive a Formula 1-type car, but not the ability to compete on the Formula 1 circuit.
“In this day and age, if someone wanted to have a Formula 1 experience, the race car would either be old or they would never succeed in getting a drive.
“Rodin Cars gives the individual an opportunity to buy a car for a reasonable price of 600,000 euros – just shy of $NZ1 million – which is quite reasonable and we will support them with driver training and spare parts which can be dispatched from the Waiau base to anywhere in the world.
“It will be a game-changer for the local area,” he says. “If we make it big in the world, this is where it will all happen – here at home-base.”
Local clubs are already on board with catering in a fundraising capacity for car clubs and visitors who arrive at Rodin to see the hi-tech engineering plant, which boasts one of the most diverse collections of 3D printers in the southern hemisphere. It also has a tar-sealed, world-class 6km training track, in two configurations. Every part is made on site, apart from the engines, but there are plans afoot to make them too.
Dara has always seen the potential to recruit locally, investing in the engineering department at the University of Canterbury and taking on university graduates well versed in Rodin Cars.
That has also extended to the local Amuri Area School at Culverden, where student Luke Roberts, who is in his last year at school, works at Rodin Cars on a Wednesday.
Luke says he hopes to take engineering at Canterbury University and says he may well be back at Rodin Cars in the future. Meanwhile, he is working on a 3D printer that works with nylon used for making seats for the cars.
Sophia Annan has shifted from Mt Maunganui to join the team, travelling each day from Christchurch, and “loving every minute”.
She works on a Physical Vapour Deposition machine, coating componentry with gold. The machine is believed to be the only one of its kind in New Zealand, with the one Sophia used to work on further north shut down.
“Gold is a theme at Rodin Cars, but it is functional as well,” Dara says.
He says it is now time to bring in locals looking for part-time work, who don’t need to be skilled in any particular area of the venture.
Advertisements will soon be placed for anyone looking for work at the facility, which includes the large workshops brimming with cutting-edge machinery, a pit garage with a hospitality and training centre, a range of driver training track cars, and everything needed to ensure self-sufficiency.
Dara says the “do it ourselves” attitude allows control of every aspect of the business, from design and testing through to manufacture, construction and sales, but also ensures high levels of build quality.