Sadly, we announce that Rodney (Rod) Burwell passed away of natural causes at his home in Idaho on August 7, 2013 at the age of 91. He was an attendee of the first Rendezvous at Cummington Farm in 1977 and a hydraulic guru at many a Rendezvous since.
Rod was born in West Haven, Connecticut on June 27, 1922, where he spent his childhood. Rod moved to Los Angeles where he met his wife of 63 years, Florence. He got acquainted with Florence when, as a member of the Los Angeles Wheelmen, he asked her if she would be interested in riding as his partner on a tandem bicycle. Bicycling was one of Rod’s many passions. He rode his bike to work daily when he worked as an engineer for Lockheed and later Walt Disney. He helped engineer and create the animatronic Abraham Lincoln exhibit at Disneyland. While in L.A. he had a sailboat on which he and his family sailed the California coast. They especially enjoyed sailing trips on La Boheme to Catalina Island.
After retiring, he and Florence moved back to Connecticut where they built a house on ancestral property and they lived off the land growing their own food, and heating their home with wood he split. His grandkids will always treasure the memories of going back to Connecticut to visit. At Burwell Hill they got to sleep in the tree house he built, zip line through the trees, drive the Jeep through the fields before they were old enough to be licensed, race each other around the dirt track oval in the go-karts he made them, and flew kites from the top of the hill. Everyone relished fresh picked blueberries in the morning and drank the cider made from the apples Rod grew, picked, and pressed. When the pastoral life got to be too much, Rod and Florence moved to Boise, Idaho to be near his daughter and grand children.
Rod was always active. He played tennis as a kid, and later, took up roller skating and ice dancing, and nobody could beat him at croquet. But riding his bike was a favorite activity. While in their eighties, he and Florence would ride the tandem to WinCo to shop for groceries, having to ride especially fast if there was ice cream in the shopping bags. Rod even rode the Tour de Fat at age 89 on the three wheel bike that he designed and built himself. Rod was a kid at heart, and some might say somewhat of an eccentric because of his love affair with the Citroën automobiles that he drove most of his life. He was an honored member of the Citroën Car Club, and was well known across the U.S. for being the go to guy to get a Citroën ID, or DS fixed.
During the course of his life Rod made many friends and acquaintances, and he will be missed by all, but he will be especially missed by his wife Florence Burwell, his son, Douglas Burwell, his daughter Barbara Parham and her husband George, and the two grand kids, Jamie Parham and William Parham.
Farewell Rod Burwell – posted by Kenneth Nelson
My father met Rod before I did, as Dad started going to the Citroën Rendezvous before I did. Rod inspired both of us a great deal – I’ve always thought of Rod as the ultimate Connecticut Yankee – capable of anything car-related along with lots of other great skills. My favorite visit to Rod was to see “Rod’s Rotisseri”, aptly named as I do believe he was the first Citroën man to create such a marvelous contraption. Those of you who never saw it missed quite a sight! During one of my visits to Rod’s home, he showed me his DS, upside down, mounted in two huge barrel hoops he’d welded up!
Each hoop was made in two halves – top & bottom – and each half was bolted to the door pillars and then to each other, with both hoops mounted on rollers attached to ground-based rails. I still have several photos of the rig, which due to his having left the whole engine/gearbox still in the car – sans all body panels – was propped up at the nose by a broomstick to keep it from nosing into the ground – Amazing! Rod had to be one of the first to rebuild the entire DS chassis in a most convenient fashion!
I think Rod also rebuilt a hydraulic pump for Dad and many others, along with steering racks and about everything else on the car. And Rod was the first in the Nation – maybe the world – to make a mold to try to reproduce the diaphragms for the spheres (I think that nice bit of tooling made its way to Europe – ?) As I came along a bit after that, I don’t know how that worked out, but usually Rod got it right. I learned how to rebuild pumps from him, and still have his handmade tools for doing the same as he gave them to me during one visit. Rod was a real inventor of whatever was necessary to accomplish a task most people wouldn’t even attempt. When I decided that the only way to salvage my ’67 DS21 convertible was to put the body panels on a good chassis, I talked with Rod and bought a stripped ’71 DS21 Pallas that he’d found somewhere abandoned with a dead engine. Of California origin, the chassis was in excellent shape, and as Rod had salvaged the body panels and didn’t have need for the rest of it for a project, he sold it to me. With Rod’s help, I rigged a substitute suspension for the skeleton by splicing in a brake hose from my D Special towcar’s rear suspension pressure line straight to the pressure regulator output line of the Toad. Fortunately for me, the dead car’s suspension cylinder seals were quite tight. Although I added a bit of fluid initially to feed the rear car, I never had to add fluid during the trip even though any fluid being lost to the towed car never got recirculated to my D Special – it just ended up in the dead car’s reservoir. Then, using a homemade A-frame tow bar I built at Rod’s suggestion, I made it all the way from Rod’s to Detroit with the Toad riding so smoothly that other than during accelerating or braking, I couldn’t even feel the car behind me. Towing the rig at 70 mph was smooth as glass thanks to the most perfectly comfortable suspension in the world on both cars.
Along with his brilliant ingenuity, Rod was one of the nicest and most self-effacing people I’ve ever met. He’d give you the shirt off his back, and he was a mainstay of the Northfield Mountain Rendezvous along with Michael and Cherise Cox, the founders. If you had a problem, Rod usually had a solution or gave excellent advice. Rod was the King of his Burwell Hill, and King of Citroëns to many of us.