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Simi Valley Hot Rods Restores Classic Dragsters with Miller's Diversion 165 TIG Welder

Executive Summary

Simi Valley Hot Rods added Miller’s Diversion™ 165 AC/DC TIG welder to provide greater TIG welding performance and control over the aluminum, stainless steel and chrome-moly components that make up much of a car’s chassis. The Diversion 165's easy setup and simple controls makes it the most advanced, user-friendly TIG machine available to motorsports welders and DIY'ers.   

Dave Rifkin began wrenching on hot rods at 13. By the time he could legally drive, he worked at an Austin-Healey repair shop and bought his first welder, a Millermatic® 35. Three years later he purchased a Miller Dialarc® Stick/TIG welder. That machine is still in use at his shop 30 years later.

Dave Rifkin and Ryan Dave Rifkin, owner, and Ryan “Junior” Shostle, shop manager, Simi Valley Hot Rods, stand in front of a 1934 Ford pickup being converted into a hot rod for Rifkin’s father.                                                                            

Rifkin, owner of DS Racing and Simi Valley Hot Rods (Simi Valley, California), is comfortable with the vintage feel of his shop. Much of the work that he and Ryan “Junior” Shostle, shop manager, undertake involves restoring vintage hot rods to modern National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) standards. They’ve worked on everything from a 1931 Ford dry lakes racing roadster originally built by Sandy Belond and Sam Hanks in 1937 to state-of-the-art drag racing chassis for nitro burning top fuel race cars.

Rifkin’s shop uses a variety of welding processes – even oxy- acetylene welding hemes/advanced/langs/en.js" type="text/javascript"> to achieve NHRA-accepted welding standards. They also specialize in welding aesthetics, a characteristic required to restore very high-end, period-correct hot rods to their former glory. TIG, however, gives Rifkin and Shotstle the greatest control over the aluminum, stainless steel and chrome-moly components that make up much of a car’s chassis. Earlier this summer they added Miller’s Diversion™ 165, an AC/DC TIG machine designed specifically for motorsports and do-it-yourself (DIY) users looking to simplify their TIG performance while still laying expert-level TIG beads. Rifkin couldn’t be happier:

“This machine makes TIG welding a lot easier than older machines. They’ve taken all of the guesswork out of it. It’s pretty much ‘set it and go’.”

Rifkin Relies on DIY to Break into Drag Racing

Rifkin, like many others, got his start in racing by learning how to do his own fabrication, maintenance and repair. He started out racing street stock and modified cars at Saugus Speedway in Santa Clarita, California. While racing, he continued to build cars for others, including a man by the name of Van Heskett who wanted him to build a tube chassis for a funny car. Six weeks later he asked Rifkin if he was interested in drag racing.

“Not in my wildest dreams,” he says. “I was always a circle track guy.”

Rifkin did get behind the wheel, however, and has been enamored with hot rods ever since. His first two passes were in an alcohol-injected funny car. Then two passes in a blown-alcohol dragster, and then into a top fuel funny car.

“Everyone tells you that you can’t do that,” he recalls. “They say you have to have years of practice. I drove for eight-and-a-half years, twice a month along the west coast. I ran a 6.01 in the quarter-mile at 248 miles-per-hour (mph) on a car I built on the garage floor. People told me you can never build a chassis like that, it will never work. After that, people started bringing race cars to me, so we started DS Racing. That progressed into the restoration business, which is why we started Simi Valley Hot Rods.”


Junior Shostle welds in the Simi Valley Shop  Ryan "Junior" Shostle welds a .090 wall mild steel bracket using the Diversion 165.                                                                   


Diversion 165 offers Simplified TIG Performance, NHRA-Quality Welds

Rifkin’s garage is a motorsports DIY’ers paradise filled with everything needed to build a hot rod from the ground up, including a mill, lathe, bead rollers for aluminum interiors and welders. The only work that Rifkin farms out are the engine and transmission (although he fabricates many of those components), and any advanced CNC’d parts. As his business card once read, “from mild to wild,” Simi Valley Hot Rods can build just about anything.

All welds performed in the shop on race cars must pass through the NHRA’s stringent technical inspections. For their customers involved in Pebble Beach-worthy restorations, they must be able to lay welds that are period-correct for the equipment that was available when the car was originally built. Those welds must look exactly like the original welds did. In some cases that means oxy-acetylene but a lot of those old racers were built with stick welders and that is a big reason why Rifkin has kept his Dialarc Stick/TIG welder around for so long.

“It’s just bullet-proof” says Rifkin “Junior is a month older than that machine and it has never let us down, not once.”

Rifkin relies heavily on the TIG process to achieve the required fit-up and penetration, as well as a clean, good-looking weld. Always looking to improve his welding operation, it was these requirements that led Rifkin to look at the Diversion 165.

Miller’s Diversion 165 is an AC/DC TIG welder specifically designed for the motorsports market and is the easiest-to-use, most affordable TIG welder in the industry. Whereas industrial machines feature numerous, independently-tuned controls and a wide range of options, the Diversion 165 offers only an on/off switch and two controls: one to choose between AC and DC polarity based on the type of material, and another to select amperage (based on material thickness). These two controls automatically dial the machine to the appropriate settings.

“The Diversion 165 has made it so easy,” says Rifkin. “The switches are clearly marked. We switch it to AC for aluminum, DC for steel, stainless and chrome-moly. You can go from the very thinnest material (around 24 gauge) up to 3/16-in. It’s simple because everything is laid out for you. The novice can get on it, and with just a little bit of practice, get it down.”

The range of components TIG welded at Simi Valley Hot Rods are as diverse as a 3/16-in. chrome-moly gusset plate to a section of .065-in. chrome-moly tubing. There are even times that the aluminum they weld exceeds a 0.180-in. Rifkin still relies on his 30 year-old Dialarc for anything over that. The Diversion 165, however, handles everything else with an amperage range of 10 to 165 amps in both AC and DC. The machine’s Advanced Squarewave AC welding technology provides a fast freezing weld puddle and deeper penetration for improved aluminum performance. The machine comes standard with both the pedal control that most welders have grown accustomed to and a Weldcraft® LS17 TIG torch that features hand-controlled amperage adjustment built right into the handle of the torch.     

“The part I like the most is the ability to get into these roll cages with the finger control,” says Rifkin. “When you’re inside the roll cage, you can’t get into a good spot with the foot pedal. Over the years we’ve done it with knees, hanging your foot out, one guy pushing the pedal while the other guy is inside welding. The fingertip control brings it all in house where one guy can do it himself. You push to start and roll it up and back down when you need. It has increased our quality and productivity immensely. ”     

The machine’s portability is also a big plus for any shop. At 50 lb., the machine can be lifted or carted anywhere (including the race track) and plugged into any 230 volt input power. A 12.5 ft. torch and 12 ft. work cable gives welders added space to get into hard-to-reach areas.

“The lightweight machine is an added benefit,” says Rifkin, comparing it to his older, 360-lb. Dialarc. “I’ve got mine on a cart (with the gas cylinder) because it makes life easier, but in a small shop you don’t even need it. You can just pick it up with the two handles on top. You can even set it in the vehicle. 12 ft. of hose should get you anywhere you need. And if someone has a bigger project, such as a boat, you can take it right inside.” 

Miller's Diversion 165  The simplicity in setting the Diversion 165 is what makes it such a beneficial TIG machine to motorsports and DIY users. Welders only need to select the polarity/material (right) and the material thickness (center). The machine is ready to weld within moments.                                                     

Simplified Welding Helps Growing Shop

While Rifkin is busy building a successful hot rod restoration business, he is also eyeing a return to the track and has already begun work on his next car.

“I just dropped off 300 ft. of chrome-moly tubing and we’ll be building a chassis for a Nostalgia Fuel Altered,” says Rifkin. “We’ll run that about once a month and I’ll be the pilot.”

Between runs on the track, though, Rifkin and Shostle will continue restoring old hot rods to their former power and appearance, and build new models to challenge the limits of speed and creativity. Current projects include updating a 1970 Plymouth ‘Cuda with a tube chassis to meet one of the NHRA’s highest standards: the SFI 25.5. They are also in the final stages of reassembling one of the top ten muscle cars of all time, a 1970 SS 396 Chevelle. Later this month they will get back to work on a special project for Rifkin’s father, a 1934 Ford hot rod pickup truck, that features a Lincoln Navigator drive train along with a custom frame and hand-made suspension. Rifkin is eyeing expansion to a larger commercial building to house his growing business and projects. It goes without saying that the Diversion 165 will be a cornerstone of his welding operations.

“I would say that this machine was easier to get to know than my previous machines,” concludes Rifkin. “It took 15 minutes to set the machine up before we fired it up. The plug-in pedal is nice. The finger controls are great for guys that get into tight spots. It allows us to weld small gauge materials and is basically fool-proof with its settings. It just makes life easier.”


welding in the shop Ryan “Junior” Shostle welds on a piece of .065 wall chrome-moly tubing. The simplicity and portability of the Diversion 165 (left) has made it the preferred choice over the much older – yet still reliable – Dialarc Stick/TIG welder (right).


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