Joe Martin is no stranger to the world of kit cars and hot rods. Hes also a guy who has his priorities in order.
Thirteen years ago, Joe worked for now-defunct Exotic Dream Machines (builders of custom, tube-chassis Countach replicas), which gave him a great deal of sweat-equity, hands-on experience, and insight into the workings of kit cars, fiberglass construction, and powertrains. It also turned him into somewhat of an elitist when it comes to kit carsas youll discover later in this piecehaving literally seen the best and worst of the business. As for having his priorities in order, lets just say Joes home shop completely dwarfs his home by a significant margin. He says that will change when he converts his shop into his living space and then builds an even bigger workshop.
Joe always wanted to build a car for himself, so several years ago he set aside his other personal projects. He had seen enough bad Lambo bodies (and had even acquired one) to know hed have to do his own thing and virtually start from scratch, working from his own designs. He scrapped the Countach kit body and began massaging a collection of various Lambo parts into something he could work with. He also thought ahead enough to make his own molds in the event he would ever consider starting his own business.
Next he located a donor vehicle, dragged out the torch and the welder, and he was on his way. But as everyone knows, when you have to work for a living (Joe is a welder who builds auto manufacturingrelated heavy equipment), projects such as this take a lot of time. He began the chassis for the car you see here in 1994 and the completed car made its debut at the Club Sandwich show in Laughlin, Nevada, in October 2000.
As fate would have it, about three years ago Dave Swinney unexpectedly showed up at Joe Martins shop door with a handful of parts and inquired, Can you build me a car? Dave wanted a Countach. For years he had dreamed about prowling the streets in a Lambo kit car. Though he had owned several Corvettes, he was looking for something more exotic to satisfy his desire. Joe certainly had the knowledge, the experience, and a fairly good start on the foundation of a solid car. A deal was struck and Joe turned his project into Daves project, going back to the drawing board for some more refinement. The short story is that a good working relationship developed, and a spectacular, show-winning street machine emerged as a result.
The first thing was to design enough cockpit room into the car so the average-to-tall person would be able to get in and drive it, Joe says. After slightly raising the roof in the front to allow for adequate headroom, I had to find a donor windshield to fill up that big hole. A cut-down windshield from a Ford Aerostar turned out to be the correct fit. The side and back windows are custom-made using tempered glass.
The body is a hand-laid fiberglass structure, with Coremat added for additional strength. Once the body was mounted on the frame, remote-door actuation switches were installed and the highly modified wing was mounted.
Next, Joe checked the body measurements. The tubular frame was modified slightly to accommodate some of the changes. Its a Martin-designed steel space frame with the actual construction employing various-sized rectangular and square tubing. This chassis is designed to accommodate many of the Fiero donor-car components as well as aftermarket gear.
I really like this design, Joe tells us. The long, low nose and the slipstream design of the car make it look like its moving even when its parked.
Joe and Dave both wanted a smooth ride with responsive handling, so Joe used modified Fiero components for the front and rear suspension. The front employs Aldan coilover shocks, while the Fiero rear struts are modified for coilover springs. This setup allows for adjustment in ride height, spring rate, and damping rates. Since approximately 80 percent of the stopping is accomplished with front brakes, custom hubs with 10-inch rotors were installed. The rear brakes are stock Fiero units. The wheels are Centerline Champ 500s15x8 up front and 15x10 in the rear. The polished alloys are shod with Yokohama AVS tires with 225/50 ZRs and 285/40 ZRs, respectively.
Wanting the car to be as fast as it looks, Joe installed a 350ci small-block Chevy with throttle-body fuel injection. The engine is mated to a Fiero five-speed Getrag transaxle using a combination of Zumalt axles and custom-made components for strength. The power transfer takes place through a beefed-up clutch and adapter kit from PISA. Custom headers were fabricated and Flowmaster mufflers with dual Anza tips create a mellow, satisfying sound.
The attention to detail is remarkable. Joe spent numerous, painstaking hours making sure every part of the vehicle fit as planned. Once he was satisfied with the bodywork and the fit, the paint was ordered. After some deliberation, Joe and Dave decided to use a three-stage custom orange mix by House of Color. The effect is stunning, and at different angles and different times of the day, the paint takes on different colors and gives the Lambo a changing personality.
For the interior, Dave selected Dr. Johns Auto Trim in Denver, Colorado. There, John Edwards took special care in making sure the installation of the headliner, carpet, and leather equaled the workmanship of the rest of the car.
Due to the sharp angles of the doors, the windows only roll down 2 inches, so air conditioning is a must. Looking at the size, the stock Fiero unit was a natural fit in the car. A set of Classic Instruments Elan GTseries gauges keep track of the engines vitals, while Alpine stereo provides the cockpit entertainment.
This car is definitely not for a driver who wants to assume a low profile. Dave lives in St. Louis, and twice the car has been mentioned on the radio because an announcer happened to see it on his way to work.
All the money and hard work that went into building this vehicle paid off when, on its first time out, the car won the Presidents Choice award at the Laughlin show, Dave says.
Dave now tours the country in the car of his dreams, and Joe iswelllets just say hes considering another project for himself. Well just have to wait and see if hes able to keep it.