Storey County’s Rod Hall Products developing parts for newest Army vehicle
STOREY COUNTY, Nev. — A few miles off Interstate 80 East, tucked on Wild Horse Canyon Drive in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, is a 5,000-square-foot building with open desert spread around it.
Inside sits a handful of eye-catching vehicles, including three off-road racing trucks.
This is the workspace of Chad Hall, owner of Rod Hall Products, which designs, tests, manufactures and distributes custom off-road suspension systems. Chad Hall is the son of the late Rod Hall, a legendary off-road racer from Reno who died in June 2019 at the age of 81.
“We are installing a new set of shock absorbers on this thing,” says Chad Hall, pointing to a red Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 on jack stands, with the hood popped. “(When it’s ready) I can hop in it and drive to Fernley and back for testing, tuning, whatever. It’s a pretty good location for what we’re doing.”
It’s a truck Hall has been off-road racing for Chevy for the past four years.
But racing trucks are not all that occupy Hall’s shop floor.
“This vehicle, I can’t say who it belongs to or what it’s for,” said Hall, motioning to a tan U.S. military ground mobility vehicle (GMV) sitting 10 feet away. “But, it’s going to be delivered today to the NATC (Nevada Automotive Test Center) for testing. It’s a pretty good truck, but it doesn’t meet all the requirements of some of the things they’re trying to do with it.
“So, we were asked to redesign the suspension on it to make it better.”
Being a suspension supplier to the U.S. government has been a piece of Rod Hall Products’ business since the company launched in 2003. Chad and Rod Hall founded the company with Mike Winkel, a friend who became a business partner with Rod in a Hummer dealership in Reno.
“I was the only one that worked in the company, that was part of the deal,” Hall said. “My dad gave the name, Mike Winkel provided the money, and I provided the labor, that was how it worked.”
The Halls bought out Winkel around 2009 and Chad Hall later bought out his dad around 2017.
Rod Hall Products specializes in designing and supplying suspension systems for armored and unarmored civilian and military-type vehicles.
The company is currently working on the infantry squad vehicle (ISV), an air-transportable, high-speed, light utility vehicle selected by the U.S. Army in 2020. GM Defense won the $214.3 million contract to manufacture and maintain the vehicles.
The ISV is based on one of the trucks Hall races, the aforementioned Chevy ZR2. The vehicles — built for 9 passengers and a payload of 3,200 pounds — rely heavily on motorsport technology. As such, they incorporate off-road suspension parts developed by Rod Hall Products.
Hall will be racing the ZR2 at the annual Best in the Desert (Jan. 13-16), a 425-mile off-road race in Parker, Arizona. After the race, Hall said, the shocks will be taken off and sent to GM Defense to examine how they performed during the lengthy off-road race.
In other words: Hall’s run at Best in the Desert doubles as a thorough test session for the suspension systems he’s developing for the new ISV.
“This is a really cost-effective way to expedite the development of products,” Hall explained. “We get really good tests in a short period of time. It’s very interesting, rewarding and satisfying work.”
That line of work started years ago when the company began supplying Humvee suspension upgrades to the U.s. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
“We got entered into a suspension upgrade ‘competition’ for the government, and we ended up winning,” Hall said.
However, Hall said he doesn’t rely heavily on the income brought in through government work, adding: “If this is what you did for a living, you’d starve to death, because it’s feast or famine.”
It’s a lesson he learned when Rod Hall Products’ business venture to supply Humvee suspension upgrades screeched to a halt in 2010.
“We were busy, busy, busy and weren’t looking for more business, we were just trying to fulfill that business we had,” Hall said. “And then everything stopped. So, it was pretty sketchy there for a while with no business.
“Being involved in the military work, you’re thinking, how can I stay in business without any work, but then be prepared to do something when something happens?”
Having a racing contract with Chevy helps. What’s more, Hall owns his 5,000-square-foot facility and is the company’s only employee. He hires from a pool of reliable independent contractors when needed.
“I don’t have to earn a lot of money to pay for my overhead,” Hall said.
Since launching, Hall said Rod Hall Products has consistently generated between $1 million and $2 million in annual revenue. Some years, much more. When the company did Humvee suspensions for the government, the business was pulling in as much as $1 million per month, he noted.
Even in 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Hall said Rod Hall Products’ revenue was about $1.5 million.
“We haven’t been impacted by anything, going back to when the company started,” Hall said. “We could be busier right now, but I don’t want it. I don’t want to be showing up here at 7 o’clock (in the morning).
“I’m at a point in my life where revenue’s not important. I don’t want to lose money, but I don’t really need to make a lot of money to stay in business.”
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