Rodin & David Dicker

Deep in the picturesque rolling hills of North Canterbury, a carmaker with aspirations to take on the likes of Koenigsegg in the super exclusive hypercar market is quietly getting on with building some seriously quick weaponry.

For over a decade, David Dicker has been focused on building a road-legal race car that’ll go quicker than a current Formula One car. Meet the Rodin FZERO.

Dicker's delivery is matter of fact: he doesn't just plan to build a road-legal race car with the performance of a Formula One car; he is building it. 

David Dicker interview | 66 Magazine

Meet David Dicker and the Rodin FZERO.

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It's easy to spot the locals as they drive past David Dicker's 550Ha property in North Canterburythey’re the ones who appear unfazed by the black missile racing across the paddock at close to 300km/h.  

The neighbours at Waiau have seen and heard it all before, but not so the tourists in their campervans. Without fail, they pull over to watch with astonishment, as Dicker looks for those extra tenths of a second on his very own test track. 

State Highway 70 is both a back road and a back-up road. It provided a crucial link to Kaikōura following the devastating earthquake in 2016. The magnitude-7.8 quake also destroyed Dicker's original racetrack, ripping cracks in the tarmac big enough to lose a rugby ball in. 

Nearly four years on, the main coastal road is open again and Dicker's circuit is once more billiard table smooth. The 4.8-kilometre-long racetrack is an integral part of Dicker’s company, Rodin Cars. 

“You can't build cars without a test track, it's as simple as that,” he says.  

“Plenty of guys do it, or try to do it, but it's just crazy because you've got to be able to test and the only way you're going to be able to make something good is to test to see where it's not right. And you can't build cars near a built-up area because of noise issues, so you've got to move out of the city." 

Dicker’s race centre location in Waiau had nothing to do with the country air or the scenery, or even New Zealand's motorsport heritage. Sydney born and raised, Dicker believes his home country has fallen out of love with cars, meaning it is no longer the place to undertake this sort of project. 

“There's not really a car culture in Australia anymore. The concept of having fun in cars is not something the police nor the central government want in Australia, especially if you're a young kid. They don't want people to be interested in cars, so they make it difficult. But there is still a strong car culture in New Zealand, and it's just a better environment.” 

Named for French sculptor, Aguste Rodin, the company logo is based on one of his most famous works, “The Thinker”.  The founder of modern sculpture would have likely got on well with straight-shooting Dicker too; Rodin once describing sculpture as “the art of the hole and the lump”. 

Dicker's delivery is just as matter-of-fact: he doesn't just plan to build a road-legal race car with the performance of a Formula One car; he is building it. A mock-up of a single-seater body shell greets us as we walk into the factory. The engine and gearbox are being built offshore. At the same time, a young team of engineers are hard at work designing and refining components for both the FZERO road car and FZED open seater. 

For over a decade, Dicker – whose computer hardware distribution company Dicker Data has been valued at over a billion dollars – has been focused on building a road-legal race car that’ll go quicker than a current Formula One car.  

Starting with a car based on a Le Mans racer, Dicker has settled on the single-seat FZERO, complete with a fighter jet style cockpit. On the way, he acquired the failed Lotus T125 project, which has become the Rodin FZED. 

“Our main interest is really the FZERO. We only got into the FZED by accident; we want to build road versions of that car and we want to be a credible manufacturer like Pagani and Koenigsegg, that's our aim,” he explains. 

Alongside the FZED in the factory today is an all-black McLaren Senna GTR: the only one in New Zealand. Named for two of the greatest names in motorsport, it’s a fitting tribute to the motorsport and manufacturing company that Bruce McLaren started. Inspiration for the fledgling Rodin Cars operation too, perhaps? 

Not a chance. The Senna GTR is there solely on merit to set the standard for Dickers FZERO. 

“It has a huge benefit for us as a benchmark, it's the target to measure against. It's so easy to drive, and it went faster than the Ferrari Challenge car the first time I ever went out in it.” 

But overall sentiment, romance, and nostalgia are of little value here. 

“We've got to build the best cars we can, and we need the facilities; there's no way around it. Everyone loves these stories about building stuff in their garage, but it's not reality. You can't get a result there, especially with how the car industry is now.” 

Dicker may not seem too excited, but the sight of the Senna GTR at full speed is genuinely impressive. More so when you consider that while, smooth test track has zero run-off or catch fencing; a missed breaking point could be costly and painful. It's a tarmac version of Dicker himself: no compromise.  

He has invested in buying as much equipment as he can to control Rodin’s production process. There are multiple autoclaves to cure carbon fibre components, CNC machines, a diverse array of 3D-printers and even a Physical Vapor Deposition machine capable of coating the 3D printed titanium exhaust system with a super thin robust coating of titanium nitride, which leaves a matt gold finish on every bolt used. This allows his team of just 20 to create much of the car’s components in-house; from every vapour plated bolt to the FZED's 3D printed titanium steering wheel. 

Obsessive? Completely. The 67-year-old’s ten-pin bowling story is proof of that. 

“My ex-wife decided it would be a great team-building thing for the company to start bowling in a league on Thursday nights. I got so enthusiastic about it that I started practising every day. Eventually, we had our own lane built in the factory with the pinsetter and the whole thing. It was exactly like the commercial set-up, but just one lane. So yeah, I guess I can become obsessive about stuff pretty easily,” he laughs. 

This approach has made Dicker a hugely successful businessman with the means to invest millions in the Rodin project. The smile on his face as he climbs out of the FZED's tub after a high-speed run is evidence that he enjoys the process, but he refuses to call it a dream come true. 

“You've got to make it happen, and the problem with calling it a dream is that it seems like some kind of fantasy. But Rodin is a serious commercial enterprise; that's the thing that is important for people to understand.” 

Words by Shaun Summerfield  

Photos by Shaun Summerfield & Sian Lovelock 

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