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How To Build Your Own Dream Car On A Budget

The goal was simple — produce a car that had been in my head for more than few months and spend much less money than a single service trip with a Bugatti Veyron would cost (MUCH less).

The car only had a few requirements. First, I wanted it to have an exo-skeletal chassis in the same vein as the Ariel Atom.  A car in its purest sense, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t spend an afternoon or evening daydreaming about climbing over the top bar into the seat and just enjoying the ride.  However, I did have a few reservations with this idea.  The car in my head wasn’t a replica.  While I like the Atom, I don’t want to be “that guy with the fake car.” Also, I’ve never been a fan of the pointy nose of the Atom.  It’s like putting a beak on Keira Knightly – the whole package is sexy as hell, but that damn thing out front screams, “Follow your nose!”.  Another gripe I held with the Somerset product was that ridiculous roll bar. What is supposed to be said following a rollover? “It’s too bad his head and shoulders smashed into the ground, but thank god the air intake is fine”. The final add-on for my own car relied on its engine. As much as I love a good, reliable Honda engine, it just lacks that sound that makes my hair stand on end.  I wanted it to be powered by a motorcycle engine, allowing my ears to orgasm with every rev.  Plus, my wife won’t let me have a motorcycle, knowing I’d kill myself on the first week.

With those in place, I came to the realization that I had about as much fabrication skill as a pre-monolith man-ape discovering a stick for the first time.  I believed wholeheartedly that my dream would never come true.  I tucked this dream in the back of my head along with the dreams of Keira Knightley (without the beak).  That is, until I found an online community, specializing in helping each other build various versions of the iconic Lotus 7 at home.

Taking a chance, I threw out an email to a gentleman whose signature with every post said, “will fab for food,” with hopes that he was being serious. Turns out, he welcomed the challenge and was willing to work with my pint sized budget.

Many sketches were sent back and forth before the building began. The first big ticket items were purchased and sent to his shop. A pile full of steel tubing and a 2004 Hayabusa engine found their way into the bender and on the build table. It didn’t take long before the car began to take shape.

The only snag that occurred happened when figuring out the differential.  Trying to maximize the amount of wheel horsepower, I wanted to maintain a chain drive system over converting the engine into a shaft drive. Besides, the chain drive looks as cool as Steve McQueen giving the peace sign in a mug shot. Turns out, pre-made chain diffs cost more than all of the steel the car has on it, which meant we’d (and by we I mean me on my keyboard eagerly awaiting my Sunday updates, and my fabricator who did all of the work) be building it from scratch.  Taking the diff from a Miata and then gutting it, a giant sprocket was added and we could now move the rear wheels.

With the drivetrain, suspension, and interior installed, the only thing left was the bodywork. I must have hit the lottery, as my fabricator also happened to have a penchant for working with fiberglass.  Keeping it basic, it covers the front, the radiator, and that’s about it. This is minimalism at its finest.

This pretty much brings us to where the car sits now. The frames been painted and it’s awaiting final assembly with a few knick-knacks to be added on.  Hopefully, I’ll be seeing this car for the first time in person before I put on my best impression of one of those Jersey Shore kids on Halloween (it was either that or wearing a trash bag and telling everyone I’m a douchebag).

The amazing part of all of this is that I have never once even talked to the guy over the phone, relying completely on a forum update and my Sunday morning emails. In the end, I’m just a gear head who wanted something that he never thought he’d ever be able to get, and I’d be a giant liar if I said I didn’t describe this experience with great excitement.  Now, all I have to do is hope the car actually makes it here before somebody over there becomes too attached to it.

Click here for Build Log

Steve.