Working as a Director for a company specialising in tuning Japanese cars, it was only a matter of time before I ended up with one. A deal came my way whereby I could obtain a car previously tuned by us from a customer who had fallen on hard times. Over 22K had been spent on the car with us, and he was the original owner from new, having paid 43K for it a few years earlier. It was a good price so a deal was struck.
The car was a Toyota Supra Twin Turbo which whilst doing everything you could ever want from a car, eventually felt bland. Heres a link to a site I built for it: Nathans Supra if you are interested.
With refinement as good as a Lexus and 600bhp to play with it certainly wasn't a bad car, and I never got bored with the power, but Supras started to get relatively common and I became bored with the overall bodyshape. I had also decided that after a year and a half of ownership, I no longer needed 600bhp and 200mph. My licence had already been threatened several times, not to mention my heart after more than a few serious sideways moments. My criteria was that I wanted something that really stood out from the crowd. It didn't have to be overly powerful- I just wanted something that you don't see often.
I had always been amazed by how Lamborghini had made their cars look so special, so I started to look through the kitcar magazines in January 2002, knowing that many Countach replicas had been built over the years, and maybe I could pick a pre-built nice one up for the 19K or so I had to spend. I saw one advertised at a car company specialising in kitcars and thought I'd go and have a look. From the pictures in the magazine I thought it looked awesome. On closer inspection I could see that it certainly was a 'kitcar' and told myself that maybe this is how they all were. After all, you could hardly expect things to fit and look nice from a kit of parts that wasn't original...? I tried to convince myself that this particular example was about as good as they probably got, but walked away. For one, I didn't fit into it properly to take a test drive, and I just kept thinking about all the little things that were wrong with it that I knew would bug me. After all, the way the Supra was screwed together could hardly be more different to the 'kit' Lambo so you could say I had been spoilt.
The next issue of 'Which kit?' magazine that came out (February 2002) blew me away. On the cover was a Diablo replica that had been put together so well I knew immediately that I wanted one. I was someone that went from having no intention of building a car, to working it out in my head, to dismissing the idea because I had no covered garage, to just giving in. Within 3 weeks I had sold the Supra and was asking questions via email to Bill Glazier of Parallel Designs about their replica (named 'Torero') quicker than I could type them.
I must add at this juncture that I did investigate the only other Diablo replica option on the UK market at the time, that is the Hand Crafted Cars 'RD1'. I had seen their car in 'Kit Car' magazine and to be honest I pretty much dismissed it immediately due to the fact that it wasn't nearly close enough to the real thing in terms of shape, especially across the wheel arches form a head-on view. Sure, to many people it shouted 'Diablo' immediately but having seen it from several angles it was clear that there was no way it could have been moulded from the real thing, and if it had the moulds were certainly due for renewal. Also, many parts had been sourced secondhand, thus it was unable to use a new registration. I was not sure if it even had an SVA certificate. The seats were from an old Rover and the engine looked like it had been pulled straight from a well-used Land Rover, complete with rusty exhausts. Granted, it was a good effort, and no doubt a huge amount of work and time had been spent on it's development, but it just wasn't good enough, and certainly not as good as the Torero in my opinion. Note also that this car, originally red, has now been resprayed in purple. UPDATE @ 06/03/03: I have heard of and subsequently seen pictures of a red Roadster replica that has now been built by HCC, and by all accounts seems to be a huge improvement over their original car. The body looked accurate and the interior was, going by the pictures, awesome. I have not seen the car in the flesh but it has certainly moved the goalposts for HCC. My advice is to check them out just as throughly as Parallel. It might just be that Parallel has been knocked off the perch...UPDATE @ 02/05/03: I have now seen the car close up and can confirm that it is indeed VERY accurate, but further questions explained why- a lot of the panels were original! Apparantly the subsequent HCC Roadster bodies will be fibreglass but I have yet to see them.
Anyway, back to the Torero....
The independent write-up in Which Kit? was about as favourable as you could get so it had to be a good starter for 10. Bill's email responses were curteous and helpful, something which many businesses seem to be lacking in. At first, I was convinced that the job would just be too mammoth for me to carry out, but not only could I not afford a 'turnkey' car at about 40K there were not likely to be any coming up on the secondhand market anyway. I had a choice- have a go at building it myself or not have one. I buckled. I needed to have that badge on a car before I croaked it....
With Bill's responses and the information available on the Parallel website, I budgeted for around 23~24K to complete the project. It was a bit more than the 19K I had, but in the 9 months or so that I had planned for the build, I could scrape up the rest.
On the 24th February 2002 (yes, it was a Sunday- Bill was good enough to come and meet me at Parallel- even though he had plans with his family later on that day) it appeared Bill had been caught up so I had the pleasure of speaking to his Partner, Naz Maniscalchi. Naz was every bit as helpful as Bill had been, so things looked even more reassuring. When Naz explained to me that both he and Bill had built their own class-winning Countach replicas it just couldn't get any better. Here were two people, obviously passionate about replicas, who were polite, helpful and had been through the laborious process of not only building their own cars, but also the extremely tedious job of drawing up and marketing their own replica program. The fact that Bill had been President of the Countach Replica Owners Club only served to convince me of the Company's heritage. I was now happy about dealing with Parallel as a company. I just needed to have a close look at the goods. Unfortunately, the original demonstrator had been snapped up by an eager buyer with a pocketful of cash who couldn't wait for another to be built, but their workshop had another one, in dark (genuine Lambo) silver that was about two thirds through the build process. It looked good. Very good. Try as I could to pick faults, there weren't any. This was somewhat of a contrast to the Countach I had seen at the dealers. The body was accurate and free from blemishes, the interior was as well trimmed as a production car, and everything just looked, well, right. When Bill arrived we talked and it was clear that this wasn't your usual 'kit' car, and seemed slightly offended that it might get seen as one. This was, in his words, a replica.
From the outset, I had been wary of getting involved with building a car because firstly I don't have a garage and therefore a build would be dependant on the weather and secondly I wouldn't have easy access to specialised equipment like lathes, pillar drills and welding equipment, and I really couldn't be bothered to go through any production issues anyway. If I was going to go ahead with a self-build I certainly wanted to buy everything I needed from Parallel, with just assembly being the only thing I was prepared to do, rather than making bits and pieces from scratch. After looking at the rolling chassis with all it's mounting points for rads, exhaust, rear bumper, suspension etc already on there, as well as the fact that the suspension arms, coil-over shocks, all brakes (including handbrake) and even brake lines were already fitted when I received my chassis things were looking much more bearable. These guys know how to make things easy for prospective builders. As a replica, cheap it isn't, but I'd rather pay a bit more than mess about for days with files and saws making a single bracket for a pipe mount. Not to mention it'd look crap too with bits of bent-up iron all over the place.
I worked out that that the most grief I was likely to have was engine supply (only because I couldn't afford to buy a turnkey engine from Parallel) and the actual fitting of the body, which again I couldn't afford to pay someone to do, althought Bill said theres nothing particularly difficult in doing it, it just takes time. Indeed, the boys had made it pretty easy for almost anyone to assemble a Torero. Gone were the replica Countach days of faffing around in the workshop for days trying to construct one-off brackets, pipes and god knows how many other items that go into a car and were not supplied with the kit.
I left that day £9,141 lighter, having placed an order for a full rolling chassis including most bits I needed up until the body needed to be fitted.
It has to be said that I was still a bit concerned as to what I had got myself into. Still, there was no turning back....