What kind of car does a man buy who has a love affair with
the Lamborghini Countach from years ago watching the movie The Cannonball Run and raised during Ford's dominance of Le Mens with the Ford GT40? The answer is, he builds a Countach from
scratch out of aluminum with a steel tubular space frame. He powers it with a bored and
stroked 351 Ford Cleveland, topped with 48IDA Webers running the burned racing
fuel at 12/1 through stainless steel 180 deg. headers referred to as the Ford
GT40 “Bundle of snakes”. The 515hp mid-engine
power is being transferred through a ZF transaxle 5 speed. Yes, it's eclectic,
old school and 100% built by hand.
as it started in 1990. A wooden forming buck to shape the body panels to. I
made it from the combination of a 1:16 scale model and measuring a real car. I
spent a year on that wooden buck... I started at the back and worked my way to
the front, hand forming the aluminum on an English wheel. It is an old school
forming tool to put the complex curves into the body panels. The harder to form
pieces I left for last like the doors. Soon the whole buck would be covered in
aluminum. The panels are then removed and welded complete and checked on the
buck again for fit. A lot of work went into repairing the weld warpage, but
after learning to not weld it all at once and tacking a lot, I was able to keep
it to a minimum.
Here are some shots I added showing the transaxle I bought from a Pantera. It bolts right up the the Ford Cleveland which just happens to be the same engine in a Detomaso Pantera. Why mess with a good thing but I did opt for the hydraulic throwout bearing. I built a frame jig out of 4x4 I-beam and it anchored to my basement floor to build the chassis on. It holds the hubs to the right track width, wheelbase and squareness. Using 5.5" blocks keeps the frame at the right ride height and proper ground clearance. An issue later would be to add a little more after scraping a driveway ramp with the chin spoiler. Yeah it runs about 4.5"
This is the construction page where the upper frame was mated to the body to offer support as well as safety. It was challenging to hold the body which at this point can be a little flimsy. Time and care were used to measure and cross measure to properly hold the body at the right location. The supporting frame was 2" round tube with .093" wall. The tubing on the bottom was a mixture of 2" and 1.5" square.
Here are the pictures of the chassis. A full tube frame supporting the aluminum body. Hand built stainless steel 180 deg. headers with 12"long racing mufflers. All Corvette design suspension replaced with steel tube and rod ends for adjustments on caster,camber and toe. Aluminum radiators with 2400 cfm puller fans set to turn on at 180 degs or an override switch on the dash. 4 piston Wilwood calipers on 12" rotors. Full adjustable front and rear sway bars, and coil over shocks.
Countless hours of bodywork will take place to make sure the body is perfect before paint. It was painted with a self-etching primer first, then sealed with an epoxy primer, body work, a second coat of epoxy and finally topped with a high build primer that was block sanded to perfection.
Starting to look more like a car now. Getting all of the components fitted like the fuel cell, pedals, brake lines, and wiring etc. Making sure those doors open and close right will be a nightmare as well as the parting line between panels.
I got away with the priming in a makeshift booth, one piece at a time but the final painting was done in a professional downdraft booth and not my basement for obvious reasons. I spent 25 hours in the booth on all 33 separate pieces. Each piece was carried out of the basement and brought back down carefully. The final assembly was only after hours of color sanding with 1500 grit and then 2000 grit followed by buffing with all three compounds. The result was a deep shine which is difficult for a pewter gray metallic.
Here are some shots of my wheels being machined. My friend Dale, who was a very good machinist, worked off my blueprints. They started out as 2" thick aluminum T6 billet and 10hrs of machining to make the centers. BBS rim shells and ARP fasteners finished them up. It was a shame in a way to cover up that beautiful finish with black powder coat but I think they turned out pretty good.
Some of the projects over the winter. Improve on the strength of the rear carriers. Found a small coolant leak. Good thing I planned well with a front inspection panel. Makes working on the front of the engine a lot easier. As far as changing spark plugs, well they are best handled by working through the wheel wells instead of trying to reach over the large quarters.
Here are the pictures of that fall day in 2008 that tested my sanity. The complete excavation before it was safe in its garage took only 1 1/2 hours. So why didn't I build it there you ask? More about that in my Testimony section.
Working the bugs out. It seems the task is never finished . There is always something that can be improved on. I wouldn't have it any other way.
I was born in Oxford, England while my father served his country in the U.S. Air Force. I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin after the family returned to the States. Midwesterners are known for their love affair with the automobile, and I was seduced by cars at a very early age. My fascination with cars has flourished throughout years of customizing, most notably a 1970 Ford Mustang Mach1 Cobra Jet with engine parts acquired from NASCAR legend Dick Trickle. For the last thirty years, I have worked in the metal fabrication business as a welder, tool builder and manufacturing engineer—handy skills to have when one decides to build a Lamborghini Countach from scratch. I live in Wisconsin with my wife Eileen and our two beautiful young children.
Here are my two daughters on their way to the first day of school. Arriving in style! By the look on their faces, I think they will remember it.
I have been raised around cars all of my life. This picture at the right says it all. 1958, Oxford England, my play toy was a hand built sports car chassis my father was building. I was told by my father, I was drawn to it at very young age. Notice the hands.....ten and two. I was a natural! I love you Dad!!!!!