25th Anniversary Lamboghini Countach Kit Car
In the summer of 1996, we finished our Lamborghini Countach kit car. This car was built from a kit sold by Imaginary Fibreglass (IFG) in Chino, California. In 1995, we took a trip down to the factory to visit the nice folks there and have a good look at the kits. I was quite impressed by how much was included in the kit. As it turned out, the instruction book was a bit of a joke - I think it might have been 20 pages long, in large fonts, printed on one side of the page. Some of the fit and finish of the components left a lot to be desired. However, the price was good, there was little else you needed to buy and the construction video showed pretty everything you needed to see in order to figure out how to put it all together.
We started with a 1985 6-cyl. Fiero. We drove this car for a while before we decided to take the plunge and buy the kit car, and we really enjoyed it. I really flinched when I first cut into the car with a sabre-saw.
Here's a picture of what the car looks like with all of the Fiero body panels removed -->.
With the IFG kit, you start with a perfectly good Fiero (body damage OK), remove the outer body panels, cut the front end off, cut the back end off, cut the roof off, cut it in half and weld in frame extensions to stretch the frame by 5 inches.
There is a new subframe which is welded to the bottom of the car to ensure that it retains the necessary stiffness - seeing as how you cut the roof off.
You also cut out a good part of the upper dash area, to make room for the new, very long Countach dash panel.
Once the car is prepared, you start welding on new frame supports, which are in turn welded to the steel tubing inlaid in the one-piece fibrglass body. The kit is shipped in a great, big wooden box. The body is pretty much all one piece, so the box has to be big.
Here's a picture of "Vanna " (my extremely attractive co-builder) displaying the merchandise.
When the body is in place, it's time to start sheeting in the interior and the front and rear compartments. This is where you get to exercise a lot of artistic discretion - there really are no instructions in the manual. Wherever you can see garage floor or walls, a panel needs to be cut to shape and riveted into position. I used regular pop rivets throughout, as nothing here is structural.
The windshield turned out to be my biggest screwup. With a bead of glue/sealer around the frame, the windshield was lowered into place. The fit was not all that great, so I placed blankets on the windshield and used bricks for weights, to press the glass into the sealer. Everything looked great until I came back the next morning and removed the blankets to see a huge crack running down the middle of the windshield. I nearly cried. Fortunately, IFG took pity on me and supplied a replacement windshield at cost - though it still cost about $800. They are custom made in Argentina, so they're not cheap by the time they make it all the way up to Canada. Needless to say, on the second attempt, I used a much thicker bead of sealer/glue and didn't press the windshield anywhere.
Now, it's starting to look like something!
After about 1200 hours of work, we ended up with the finished product you see in the next few pictures. It could have been done in less time, as I spent a lot of time on little customizations, like a servo-operated trap door for the ignition lockout keypad, storage compartments in the sides, side-impact rails in the doors, keyless door entry, etc.
Due to time constraints, I had it painted in a shop in Calgary. The first time around, the job looked terrible, with significant orange peel in the paint, so they did it over again. It wasn't until I got it out into the daylight that I realised they had used a slightly different shade of white on the popup headlights than on the rest of the car. Some of the overspray also got on to the leather, which was difficult to remove without causing damage the leather. I guess it is always a challenge to find a shop that does the standard of job you want, but doesn't want an arm and a leg in payment.. Next time, I'll do the painting myself. That way, if it sucks, it's my own fault.
We were able to drive it for about 2 weeks, before we put it into storage and re-located for a couple of years to England. Actually, the 2-year England posting turned out to be 4 years + and was a great experience, but it meant that our poor car was sitting neglected in the barn until we returned to North America (Texas) and got it running again.
As we were working on the car, I knew that I was likely to be posted, so I decided to stick with the original Fiero engine. I rebuilt the engine with oversize pistons, but it still puts out pretty much the same horsepower as stock.
I was very impressed the first time I tried to start it up after we resettled to Texas. The car was shipped down on a flat-deck truck. A new battery was installed and oil squirted into the cylinders before the key was turned again for the first time in 4 years. The engine turned over once before it caught, rumbled a bit and then purred to life. Gotta love that fuel injection!
One of the items on my to-do list is to swap in a Chevy short block Some of these engines develop a fantastic amount of horsepower - much more appropriate for the skin the car is now wearing. Unfortunately, other projects and responsibilities have gotten in the way, so here we are in 2002 (as of this writing) and I have still not gotten around to swapping the engines.
It was a lot of fun to build and I'd do it again - if only there weren't a bunch of other projects to build, first. . .
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