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If You Can't Buy One, Build One
June 10, 2013 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Ken Imhoff wanted a Lamborghini Countach, but didn't have the money to buy one. So, over the next 17 years, he built one in his basement.
posted by reenum (73 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Now how's he gonna get it out?
posted by jonmc at 10:05 AM on June 10, 2013


scrolling down please tell me he painted it yellow please tell me he painted it yellow please tell me he painted it yellow ARRRRGH
posted by nathancaswell at 10:05 AM on June 10, 2013


These pictures are from 2008, btw. Jalopnik has much better coverage.

From this past January - he's selling it.
posted by mrbill at 10:06 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


well that's just crazy. If it's in his basement, how is he going to... oh. Oh. Oh wow.
posted by boo_radley at 10:06 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's he building in there?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 10:09 AM on June 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Spoiler alert: the answer to the question that has been asked twice in this thread is well worth seeing in pictures before the answer gets discussed here.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:09 AM on June 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


That's a lot of time and effort to invest in what is essentially counterfeiting and trademark infringement. Also how do you insure a homebrew super-luxury sports car?
posted by srboisvert at 10:10 AM on June 10, 2013


And here I thought Instructables was getting out of hand lately...
posted by samsara at 10:10 AM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


The question of how he got it out of the basement is answered near the bottom of the linked article.
posted by tommasz at 10:10 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


So could a scratch-built car ever be street legal? Can he actually drive it?
posted by smoothvirus at 10:10 AM on June 10, 2013


tommasz: "The question of how he got it out of the basement is answered near the bottom of the linked article."

Yes, hence the "oh wow" portion of the comment. Ok thanks.
posted by boo_radley at 10:11 AM on June 10, 2013


How does he get it back into his basement, once he gets it out?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:12 AM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


mrbill: "These pictures are from 2008, btw. Jalopnik has much better coverage.

From this past January - he's selling it.
"

Can he actually call it a Lamborghini Countach if he assembled it by hand from a plywood frame? Does it have a Lambo engine and power train?
posted by boo_radley at 10:12 AM on June 10, 2013


So could a scratch-built car ever be street legal? Can he actually drive it?

Well, the Countach was famous for being undriveable, so the question may be academic.
posted by selfnoise at 10:12 AM on June 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Spoiler alert: the answer to the question that has been asked twice in this thread is well worth seeing in pictures before the answer gets discussed here.

Actually, that seems to be the exact opposite of a spoiler alert.
posted by ogooglebar at 10:12 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The entire chassis is custom made, the body shape and lines formed from plywood, even the wheels are custom made in a machine shop.

"A" machine shop? Meaning not his own? That can't have cost any less than just saving up and buying the car.

What I never get about these stories is where people got the measurements from. A friend with a Lamborghini? Copy of the blueprints that fell off a truck?
posted by DU at 10:13 AM on June 10, 2013


Hrm, and from his own site, as of March the car is no longer for sale.
posted by mrbill at 10:14 AM on June 10, 2013


where people got the measurements from. A friend with a Lamborghini? Copy of the blueprints that fell off a truck?

Car shows / museums, tape measure / ruler, and a notebook.
posted by mrbill at 10:15 AM on June 10, 2013


So could a scratch-built car ever be street legal? Can he actually drive it?

Of course. Here's the registration process for home built cars in California.
posted by notyou at 10:16 AM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can't imagine this was actually less expensive than just buying one.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:17 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cars don't have to be super expensive to be fun. I like the Miata, but if I was going for a kit car I would probably get something like the Ariel atom. Oh my god so cool. He probably had some sort of emotional attachment to this car though so I can't judge. I just can't imagine waiting that long to tool around in a fun drive.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 10:17 AM on June 10, 2013


Johnny Cash weighed in on the story.
posted by COBRA! at 10:19 AM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


That is an amazing act of commitment. Really impressed.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:21 AM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


The correct answer to "what kind of kit car should I build?", btw, is always "A Caterham."
posted by selfnoise at 10:22 AM on June 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


Holy shit -- that's amazing! Puts my own car/truck/boat inspired projects into perspective. I may have been crazy, but I wasn't that crazy. Or something.

Wow.
posted by mosk at 10:23 AM on June 10, 2013


That Caterham is gorgeous, though I was hoping for something more like this.
posted by slogger at 10:31 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the real questions are: Was he married when he started building that in his basement? and was he married by the end? Lastly, if so, is his wife blind or a saint?
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:33 AM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


in action

Nanukthedog, according to the Jalopnik article, 1) yes, 2) yes, and 3) she was very supportive.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:36 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


A "Lambo" with a Ford V8? Why not put spinners on the thing, too?
posted by Thorzdad at 10:37 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find it hard to believe this car can be street legal.

I mean...plywood?

Talk about scrap lumber.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:37 AM on June 10, 2013


Spolier alert: his wife is actually KITT and this is their child, moving out of the house after graduation.
posted by antonymous at 10:37 AM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Johnny Cash weighed in on the story
...
You'll know it's me when I come through your town
I'm gonna ride around in style, I'm gonna drive everybody wild
Cause I'll have the only one there is a round
posted by filthy light thief at 10:41 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a Lambfaux.
posted by argonauta at 10:42 AM on June 10, 2013


Blue Horse: "I mean...plywood?

Look closer: He used the plywood for shaping the body panels and layout, but underneath it's all welded steel.

However: There are a number of wood framed cars out there, especially old British sportscars. Properly used, wood is a great fiber that has all sorts of good structural properties.
posted by straw at 10:42 AM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's funny when that car was new, it was the sexiest thing I'd ever seen. Now, it looks a bit squared off and oddly proportioned. 1980's Ferrari's suffer from the same problem.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:44 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Apparently the previous owner of my parent's house on Cape Cod did this same thing back in the 70s or 80s, but with a Ferrari. When Ferrari, S.p.A. found out about it they were so impressed they actually sent some executive over with an official badge for the guy to put on the car. Several months later, the guy's son wrapped it around a tree at the end of the street. :(
posted by Rock Steady at 10:48 AM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ohmygod selfnoise that is beautiful. How hard would that be to build if one started from 0 mechanical knowledge?
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 10:49 AM on June 10, 2013


I can't imagine this was actually less expensive than just buying one.
I know folks who make their own pizza, if you can believe it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:52 AM on June 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's not exactly street legal.
posted by Chuffy at 10:53 AM on June 10, 2013


If you like this sort of thing, here is a guy building a Lola T70 replica from scratch. He's not done yet, but based on what he's done so far, I have little doubt he'll finish it. The thread starts in October of 2006, and the latest post is from May 2013.
posted by smcameron at 10:53 AM on June 10, 2013


Does it have a Lambo engine and power train?

No. It's missing a third of the cylinders, since it has a Ford 351 Cleveland engine. That means:
A. It's going to be much slower
B. It will never sound right
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:55 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a Lambfaux.

I like "Fauxborghini."
posted by octobersurprise at 10:56 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Shamborghini, duh.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:58 AM on June 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


would be awesome if it had a Kia engine in it.
posted by entropone at 10:58 AM on June 10, 2013


What? Lamborphoni, obviously
posted by cnelson at 11:01 AM on June 10, 2013


Holding out for a Fugazi Testarossa.
posted by jquinby at 11:01 AM on June 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Spoiler: it is substantially better built than the original Countach.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:03 AM on June 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


It's funny when that car was new, it was the sexiest thing I'd ever seen. Now, it looks a bit squared off and oddly proportioned. 1980's Ferrari's suffer from the same problem.

I think the Countach is hideous, but I don't see it with the Testarossa. That is a timeless design.
posted by invitapriore at 11:04 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lambogus.
posted by argonauta at 11:04 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


smoothvirus: "So could a scratch-built car ever be street legal? Can he actually drive it?"

Yes, although it behooves you to call the DMV a couple weeks in advance and explain you have a scratch-built car/boat/whatever that you need to license, because they're going to make you talk to a bunch of people who have no idea what to do about licensing a vehicle that doesn't already have title papers (that's the sticking point!) until you get to the one guy in the whole state DMV system who knows how to license a hand-built vehicle.

I had a friend who coped with law school by learning to build boats from scratch, and he always had to go through a bit of a rigamarole to get them licensed, but it's definitely doable!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:06 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's a lot of time and effort to invest in what is essentially counterfeiting and trademark infringement.

Guy on the street: Hey that's a really nice car! What's it called?
Owner: It's a Lamborghini Countach.
Guy on the street: [hands over papers] You've been served!
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:06 AM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ohmygod selfnoise that is beautiful. How hard would that be to build if one started from 0 mechanical knowledge?

With kit cars, you need to have A: unlimited time and B: a willingness to learn from your mistakes... over and over again. This is how you end up building a car in a bulkheadless basement.
posted by selfnoise at 11:08 AM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't imagine this was actually less expensive than just buying one.

If you want to torture yourself, go look at ebay and similar places for used exotics. You can (sometimes) pick up Ferrari 328's or Aston DB7's or Panteras for under $50K, and used Elises for $30.

I'm sure they'd be just stupendously dumb purchases, especially here in WNY where any of them would be stupidly dangerous all the long winter. But still... the heart wants what the heart wants.

would be awesome if it had a Kia engine in it.

It would be more awesome if it had a J79 in it. Afterburner optional.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:11 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Several months later, the guy's son wrapped it around a tree at the end of the street. :(

That's the most beautiful car story I ever heard.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:16 AM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


(I would also accept a smaller helo turbine converted to be a jet instead of turboshaft)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:17 AM on June 10, 2013


Guy on the street: Hey that's a really nice car! What's it called?

Owner: Giovanni.
Guy on the street: ...
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:21 AM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I beg to differ on the what kit car to build. The best answer is the Hawk HF (IE: Lancia Stratos).

Also how do you insure a homebrew super-luxury sports car?

Like any other home build car. It's pretty straight forward in most jurisdictions with often minor paper work to prevent someone from laundering a stolen car.
posted by Mitheral at 11:22 AM on June 10, 2013


Next time, build a garage first and THEN the car. Saves on the whole "smash a hole in the basement holding up my house" portion of the car build.
posted by stltony at 11:48 AM on June 10, 2013


Here's how you build a kit car. First, you take $4,000,000 and give it to Pininfarina. They in turn buy an Enzo Ferrari, strip the shell off and build a one-off body and interior. Possibly the most beautiful not-quite-a-Ferrari in quite some time.

Until this. A Lancia Stratos update built on a Ferrari F430 Scuderia chassis. They were supposed to build fifty of them, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo even drove the prototype and declared that he was on board with the project. Then mysteriously six months later Ferrari declined to sell them the fifty chassis and the whole thing went to shit.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 11:50 AM on June 10, 2013


I can't imagine this was actually less expensive than just buying one.

I know folks who make their own pizza, if you can believe it.


But they aren't making pizza because they can't afford to buy one, unlike the claim in this story. He couldn't afford $N to buy the car, so he spent $100N to build one.

I fully agree that it would be a great experience to build a car. You'd learn a lot, make a bunch of friends, maybe even have a better car. But the stated purpose here was to save money. I doubt he did that.
posted by DU at 12:08 PM on June 10, 2013


DU: "But they aren't making pizza because they can't afford to buy one, unlike the claim in this story. "

The builder said differently:
The idea of buying something was out of the question — I was raised by a German perfectionist of a father who would quote, "I can't understand why anyone would buy something when they could make it" whenever the topic of buying something came up. He would say, "You have the skills, just build one"
posted by exogenous at 12:24 PM on June 10, 2013


The important question is, does it run on mom's baked ziti?
posted by phaedon at 12:47 PM on June 10, 2013


From this past January - he's selling it.

He's changed his mind!
The car started out as a mission without GOD in my life. It was an exercise of human self-centered, egotistical, selfishness that just about ended my marriage and losing our home. The car at this point was a constant reminder of what I have done and I just wanted it out of my life. The car goes up for sale. As my faith begins to grow, I realize GOD gave me the talent to do what I do and there is nothing wrong with that; my only mistake was not using it to Glorify Christ. How could I do that? Answer: Go on a mission to tell my story how I was saved in Jesus Christ and use the car as a visual symbol of my quest for worldly treasures. I think the car is most fitting don’t you?
posted by no regrets, coyote at 12:57 PM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I saw a Countach on the highway some years ago. As I came up behind it,* I could tell it was something unusual, but when I got close enough to identify it, it looked like a pile of bricks.


* Yes, it was going slowly.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:57 PM on June 10, 2013


Sometime around 1985, I saw a brand new Countach trying to parallel park on 2nd Street right in the middle of Little Tokyo in LA. It was obviously a manual transmission. He kept killing the engine while trying to slowly back up, then he'd rev it up and smack into the car behind him. Then he'd kill the engine trying to inch forward, so he'd rev it up and smack into the car in front of him. And he did this 5 or 6 times. I couldn't stop laughing.

But then, I find stuff like this totally hilarious.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:36 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The car started out as a mission without GOD in my life. It was an exercise of human self-centered, egotistical, selfishness that just about ended my marriage and losing our home. The car at this point was a constant reminder of what I have done and I just wanted it out of my life. The car goes up for sale. As my faith begins to grow, I realize GOD gave me the talent to do what I do and there is nothing wrong with that; my only mistake was not using it to Glorify Christ. How could I do that? Answer: Go on a mission to tell my story how I was saved in Jesus Christ and use the car as a visual symbol of my quest for worldly treasures. I think the car is most fitting don’t you?

If this guy puts crucifix stencils on the rear lights of his Countach he will have won the entire universe.
posted by selfnoise at 1:56 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The builder said differently:

I guess I made the classic mistake of believing the MeFi writeup and "journalism".
posted by DU at 2:15 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


If this guy puts crucifix stencils on the rear lights of his Countach he will have won the entire universe.

Lambthatwasslainborghini? Lambofgodwhotakesawaythesinsoftheworldborghini?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:13 PM on June 10, 2013


That's a lot of time and effort to invest in what is essentially counterfeiting and trademark infringement.

There's actually a whole sector of replica builders out there. There are some trademark and trade dress issues.
posted by dhartung at 3:28 PM on June 10, 2013


I spent a few hours going to stores today looking for kit car books about series 7 roadsters like the caterham. I couldn't find anything so I'm going to get the book off amazon. But since I can't look at it first can someone who knows cars memail me recommendations please?
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 3:55 PM on June 10, 2013


The day he finished it Walter Sobchak showed up.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:05 PM on June 10, 2013


Nice to see Mike Mulligan stopped smoking his pipe and got off his ass.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:59 PM on June 10, 2013


If this guy puts crucifix stencils on the rear lights of his Countach he will have won the entire universe.

Lambthatwasslainborghini? Lambofgodwhotakesawaythesinsoftheworldborghini?


WWLD?
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:07 PM on June 10, 2013


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