(Editor's note: When KIT CAR arranges to photograph a kit or replicar for a feature in the magazine, we always ask for some background information on the car and its owner, so we can write an article to go along with the photos, describing the "why" and "how" of their project. After getting the information from Rinaldo and Debra Rizzo on their Viper Yellow 25th Anniversary Countach from Exotic Illusions, we found that the story had nearly written itself, or, more accurately, the story they provided in their own words was compelling enough to run "as is.")
In a recent conversation with a business associate who asked me to send her pictures of my car, one of her first questions was: "When did you decide to build the car?" To answer as honestly as possible, I would have to say almost 10 years ago-back in 1995. Now one might say, especially anyone who knows anything about building kit cars, it doesn't take 10 years to build a car, not even a Lamborghini Countach replica!
I'd have to say this car is, and has been, more than just a project for my wife Debra and myself. It really has been one of our goals. Debra and I have always set goals for ourselves, and if you ask any of our friends, they will tell you that for as long as they can remember, building a Lamborghini Countach has always been one of my goals. I was lucky enough to find a wife who shared that thought and supported me in accomplishing that goal.
In 1995 I bought my first '87 Pontiac Fiero, with the intention of someday using it as the donor car for a replica 25th Anniversary Lamborghini Countach. But at the time I had to prioritize my goals as there were more important things I needed to accomplish first; though some people may think "What could be more important than building the car of your dreams?"
Earning a degree in business management from Texas A&M University was the first goal, which I achieved in December 1999. Debra and I then moved to New York (leaving my '87 Fiero covered up with a car cover at a friend's house) to pursue our goal of graduating from the world-renowned cooking school, the Culinary Institute of America. We accomplished that goal in 2002, and then secured jobs as estate managers and private chefs for a family in New York.
With those major goals accomplished, it was my wife who initiated the conversation about looking for a builder that for our replica Countach. We researched builders on eBay and traveled to see interesting replicas. Well, to say the least, none of the builders or cars we found looked like what we wanted. Anyone who has gone through the process of trying to find a manufacturer of 25th Anniversary Lamborghini Countachs knows that they are few and far between-builders of this type of car are a dying breed.
Debra and I were determined to find a company that could build the car we wanted, but most are not interested in replicating a Countach, as everyone seems to want a Diablo. Nevertheless, if you grew up in the '80s, the Lamborghini Countach was the poster car for the era, and at the pinnacle when anyone mentioned the term "exotic super car."
Our hopes almost distinguished, I ran across an article on KIT CAR's Web site about a fire at Exotic Illusions that destroyed their facility, and how the industry's builders in Pennsylvania had come together to help a comrade get back on his feet. After reading the article, we were reluctant to call, but word on the Web was that he was back in business.
Thus, on April 18, 2003, we e-mailed Demetrios Koroneos at Exotic Illusions and introduced ourselves. We told him we were interested in his Eurosex 2500 kit with a stretched wheelbase, and I told him that I had wanted an exotic replica for as long as I could remember. We had looked at a lot of replicas for sale and had e-mailed a lot of manufacturers, but we were not satisfied with the quality of their work.
We asked if it was possible to visit his shop to take a look at one of his cars and talk to someone about the process. Our first questions were: What is the cost for a turnkey; What was the amount of deposit required up front; and How long does it take to build the replica? Demetrios responded by e-mail that he had two stock-wheelbase Countachs ready, both with a V-6 and an automatic. One was white with tan interior, the other black with black interior, with gold trim and a Targa top.
He was asking $40,000 for the white car, which had been featured in a magazine article, and $55,000 for the black one. He also said had two 25th Anniversary Lamborghini Countach stretched-wheelbase replicas. One was a V-8 with a five-speed that needed paint and interior work, plus he could finish it with any combination of interior and exterior colors we liked. The other replica was an automatic with no engine, and he said he could put what ever I wanted in it.
The price of the stretched V-6 was $45,000 and the stretched V-8 was $55,000, and the production time would be eight months to a year. Demetrios concluded his e-mail by writing that he would be more than happy to meet us at his shop that weekend. My wife and I looked at each other and said, "Hey, let's give this guy a chance. What do we have to lose?"
We got in our car and we drove almost three hours to meet Demetrios at his new location in Pennsylvania. To be honest, when we saw his shop we were a little skeptical. It was small and all the windows were blacked-out. The entrance door was locked and had a big sign that read "Beware of Dog," and you could here a very loud dog barking from inside the shop. At that point, we both felt we had made a bad decision and maybe we should not even knock on the door. But Debra said, "We came this far, lets give it a shot."
We knocked on the door and Demetrios answered it, but then told us if we could wait just a minute, as he closed the door. We thought that was kind of strange, but once we walked into the shop, we realized why he asked us to wait. Demetrios has a very large dog name "Lucky" that guards the shop when he is not there. And when you look at the cars in his shop, you realize why he has a guard dog!
The shop was small, but very clean and organized, and Demetrios explained that the old shop he had for over 20 years burned down and this was the best he could afford until he could get back on his feet. Even though his shop was small, for a Countach lover it was like walking into the Lamborghini factory itself. Demetrios had about five cars he was working on at the time, in different stages of completion. Some were his models, and some were sent from other manufacturers by owners who'd asked him to finish them for various reasons. We were very impressed.
Next, we took a ride to his house, which was about 15 minutes away. Behind his house, under his carport, covered with a car cover was the white Countach replica, and in his garage was the black one. He allowed us to get inside the cars and start them up; they were very nice cars. I really liked the black replica with the gold trim and wheels, but Debra said, "Don't even think about it." Demetrios did not pressure us to buy a car; he told us that when we were ready to e-mail or call him. On our three-hour drive back to New York, Debra and I decided we'd sleep on it and make a decision the next day.
On April 20, 2003, we e-mailed Demetrios and told him we would like him to build a 25th Anniversary Lamborghini Countach on a stretched frame, and we requested that he draw up a contract. The contract stated Dometrios would build a 25th Anniversary Lamborghini Countach replica with the long 98-inch wheelbase. Demetrios would supply the chassis and do all modifications as shown to us during our visit to his shop, and that he'd rebuild the shocks, struts, brakes, alternator, and whatever else might be needed.
The body would be painted Viper Yellow, and include a black leather interior, CD-player, alarm, and remote doors and trunk. The replica would have a curved windshield and be fitted with original taillights, wiper arm, and emblems. All underside panels would be finished and painted too, which included the hood, engine cover, and trunk. When completed, the replica would be test-driven 500 miles to work out any problems that might arise before delivery of the car in March of 2004.
Photos of the project would also be taken, and we could visit the shop anytime to check out the progress of the build. The total cost of production would be $45,000. An initial deposit of $10,000 would start production in May 2003, with an additional deposit of $10,000 when it was ready for paint, then another $10,000 would go against the installation and work on the interior, and the final $15,000 would be paid upon delivery.
Our goal was to have a replica of a 25th Anniversary Lamborghini Countach that was as close to the original as possible. However, with today's gas prices, we wanted a replica that was still efficient enough to drive, which is why we stayed with the Fiero V-6. After talking with Demetrios further, we chose not to ship my Fiero that had been sitting in Texas for over five years to Pennsylvania.
Demetrios believed that it would be best to start with a Fiero that was running and in good shape and, since I knew my car never had the fluids drained properly before I parked it at my friend's house, I went with his recommendation. Demetrios had an '85 Fiero with a 2.8L V-6 engine that was running that he suggested we use, which we did. When it came to choosing the body, we wanted the replica to have the lines and dimensions that the 25th Anniversary Countach was known for.
At that time, the only builder of a 25th Lamborghini Countach body that was as close to the original as possible was IFG in Chino, California, and we found a rebody that had been mounted to an '85 Fiero chassis. Demetrios mentioned that for him to build a car with another company's body, he would want to reinforce and finish it to meet Exotic Illusions' standards. So we started the production of our replica knowing that it might take additional time and money to get the body of the replica to meet Demetrio's standards. Debra and I, after seeing Demetrio's work on the other replicas, had the confidence to give Demetrios full reign and authority to do whatever he thought it would take to produce the replica we wanted.
So the body was cut, reshaped, reinforced, and relaid with fiberglass before being sanded. EI's crew reinforced the body with hand-laid fiberglass, and reinforced the window frames to fit EI's door glass. Rear vent scoops were removed, sanded, relaid, and molded back into the body for a clean and sleek look. The front hood, doors, rear engine decklid, and trunk were all taken off, reinforced, and finished both inside and out.
Next, Demetrios started the work on the chassis, which was taken apart, reinforced, and rebuilt. Both the front- and rearend were cleaned, rebuilt, and painted. The five-inch stretch in the rear of the chassis to give the replica the right dimensions had been done prior to Dememtrios getting the car in trade, so EI's crew went in and reinforced the stretch, painting the areas flat black to match the rest of the engine compartment.
The engine was taken out, taken apart, washed, and rebuilt. All the following parts on the engine were replaced: A/C compressor, alternator, water pump, cap, rotors, wires, injectors. The EI crew removed all the old Fiero insulation, replaced the rubber hoses, and removed unnecessary brackets while adding new wiring and stainless steel braided fuel lines.
The engine compartment was then painted flat black, while the top of the engine and valve covers were painted Viper Yellow to match the body's exterior color, and yellow vacuum hoses and spark plug wires were installed. Next, the EI crew replaced or rebuilt the shocks, struts, brakes, and whatever other parts they felt necessary. The EI crew then fabricated a custom trunk with a carpeted interior.
A Viper Yellow paint job, custom 25th insignia steering wheel, and a black leather upholstery job (with yellow stitching) was next, as were custom Lamborghini insignia gauges and shifter knob. A round replica H-pattern gate shifter, replica black and yellow 25th Anniversary doorsills, black and yellow embroidered floor mats, and Lamborghini brake and clutch pedals were also added. A replica Countach interior dome light and ashtray, authentic-looking replica Lamborghini climate control, Alpine mobile multimedia station and speakers, and a stock replica EI dash finished off the interior. Even a yellow and chrome fire extinguisher and an alarm system with remote entry were installed by the EI crew. But the project wasn't done yet.
Hidden under the replica Lambo A/C controls is an Alpine CVA 1003 Mobile Multimedia AM/FM receiver that has a retractable, fully motorized 6.5-inch monitor. It displays system information and provides a great picture for DVD movies. It has a Mosfet45 internal amp with Bass Engines that provide pinpoint tone shaping. The Bass Engines have bass and treble center frequency controls, bass width adjustment, plus sub-woofer level controls.
The Alpine system also includes a MaxTune SQ tuner for top-notch AM and FM reception. It also has CD/MP3/DVD changer controls, XM Satellite Radio controls, auxiliary A/V inputs, navigation inputs, preamp outputs, 19.5 watts RMS/45 peak x 4 channels, and FM sensitivity 9.3 dBF. If you don't follow all that, just know this system thumps!
An Alpine CHA-S634 CD/MP3 changer was installed behind the passenger seat, and if you want to play video games inside the car, you can connect a game console or camcorder using a set of A/V inputs on the front panel. It plays DVD, CD, MP3 discs and video CDs.
Next, an OEM curved windshield, OEM taillights, a replica wiper arm, replica emblems, and a pair of OEM electric Vitaloni turbo mirrors (painted Viper Yellow) were installed, as was an OEM black silencer grille (under the bumper for exhaust), an OEM black grille on the rear bumper, OEM license-plate lights, and original Lamborghini round flip-up light under the hood were also installed. For rollers, 17-inch replica Lamborghini rims by VT modular wheels (with replica O.Z. Racing wheel decals and Lamborghini script chrome value stems) were bolted-up, and finally, monster Michelin Pilot 335/35-17 rear tires and 225/40-17 front tires completed the two-year project.
In closing, Demetrios may be a little rough around the edges, but he tells you like it is. He is not going to blow smoke up your nose, or anywhere else. One builder I talked back in April 2003 said he could build the ultimate Countach, and it would cost between $65,000 to $85,000. He also said he would have pictures for me by June of 2003, and I am still waiting! When I took our car to the 2005 Carlisle show, I was really impressed by the number of individuals who came up to Demetrios and said, "Hey you were right . . . I should have listened to you from the beginning," and "Hey, I heard about your reputation, can you build me . . .?"
After hearing those comments, we knew we had done it right-and we'd done it with the right guy.