Ron Thielen is a self-described Dodge man — has been since 1970.
His devotion to the brand still runs strong today. The proof: Just look in his garage and shop.
On a recent visit, Thielen’s Dodge pickup sat in his two-car garage. We walked past it and through a door into the connected shop where two vehicles, both quite a bit flashier than his truck, sat snuggly side by side.
Thielen specifically built the climate-controlled space for his Viper sports car, a 2001 Roadster, and a 1970 Dodge Dart, which he uses for drag racing. Both are painted a blazingly bright hue that Thielen says is “Viper Yellow.”
When Dodge unveiled the Viper in the early 1990s, Thielen had to have it. “I just like the design of them… and you don’t see them all over,” he says. “They’re kind of rare.”
After quite a bit of searching, Thielen finally found exactly what he was looking for in an ad in a Viper magazine, and bought the car in 2008.
“There’s only a handful of yellow (Vipers) made in 2001, and I wanted one with a hardtop and soft top,” Thielen says. “I finally found it in Illinois.”
The two-seater boasts a V10 engine, 500 horsepower and a top speed of about 180 mph, according to Thielen. He calls it his “summer toy,” putting about 1,000 miles a year on it.
It’s the way the Viper drives and handles that Thielen likes best about it.
“They just kind of stick to the road,” he says. “It’s a car that has its own nature. You get comfortable with it, because it ain’t going to change for you.”
Next to the Viper sits Thielen’s drag car, which he got three years ago. Thielen and his oldest son, Rick, who is also a drag racer, built it from scratch.
“We worked on it one night, every week through the fall and the winter, and it was ready in the spring,” he says. Some of their work includes a new rear end on the car, “racing slicks” (special racing tires) on the rear and a new paint job.
Thielen, who got into drag racing as a teen, now races on weekends in Humboldt, Cedar Falls, Earlville and Eddyville.
“It’s a good pastime,” he says. “It’s a lot of fun.”Contact Darren at 953-4822 ext. 304 or firstname.lastname@example.org to recommend someone for an upcoming issue of “What’s In Your Garage?”