Building a Fast and Furious Replica Car
Building a Fast and Furious Replica Car can be a fun but challenging endeavor. The enthusiasm is understandable, given the excitement that still exists for these movies. It’s the same type of enthusiasm I had for cars as a teenager.
In fact, I couldn’t until I got my driver’s license before I started working on cars, so I worked on friend’s cars. My buddy had a ’78 Ford pickup with a 351C and I changed the carb on that. Another buddy had a 69 Mustang and I installed a Paxton blower on that. And so it went for the next 20 years. I had a day job, but after work, I was tinkering on cars.
At 18, I rebuilt my first engine by myself using nothing but at Chilton’s repair manual. The car was a 1973 V6 Capri with siamesed exhaust ports and nylon teeth cam/crank gears instead of a timing chain. That was fun!
I learned a couple of things early on:
1) If you don’t have the money to do it right the first time, you sure as hell don’t have the money to do it a second time.
2) If you don’t know what the fuck you are doing, hire someone WHO HAS PROVEN RESULTS doing the exact job you need done.
Case in point – remember that V6 Capri I just mentioned? I sure as hell didn’t try to bore the cylinders at home – I sent the block to a proper machine shop. Know your limits and your capabilities. If you’re struggling to come up with the cash to buy a part or get a certain job done, you might want to consider another hobby – or another career.
Judging by some of the work I’ve seen on replica cars around the world, it’s clear that some builders are in over their head. It’s a damn shame too, because some cars are being ruined for collectors because of shoddy replicas and it affects others in the hobby.
Parts are nearly impossible to find and those that are available are often double or triple their original price, so when someone gets a rare set of wheels and slaps them on a shoddy replica, it’s frustrating.
People often ask me what I think of replicas. The short answer is that I admire those who would go to such trouble. The long answer is that I don’t understand why some people are willing to settle for shoddy workmanship and building a car that’s supposed to be about passion.
Let me explain.
Common sense in automobile customzing means that you only do what can be done right. If you’re going to try to replicate a movie car’s interior, you don’t cut out pieces of leather and glue onto door panels.
A movie car replica should be put together with care and attention to quality. To do anything less is an insult to the fans and it’s selling yourself short.
I’ve traveled to many countries and seen many replicas. Some are done so poorly, they look like they were built on a dirt road in Mongolia. I just don’t understand why anyone would build a car with no attention to detail and no concern for quality. Morevover, I just don’t understand why someone would showoff a car that looks like it was built by monkeys. It’s embarrassing.
LOOK AT THIS!!
If you don’t know what’s wrong with this picture, you should not be working on cars. This thing looks like it was cut with a handsaw while it was on the car. The edges haven’t even been deburred so where did the metal shavings go? Right into the engine. This engine is now a ticking timebomb and an expensive replica could soon be turned into a paperweight.
Finding the parts for these replicas is hard enough. Taking valuable parts and installing them on a shit car is an insult to those people who can build a proper replica.
I’ve watched online as people have built replicas, only to have to pull them apart and redo much of the car because fo shoddy workmanship the first time. Painting a car once is expensive, painting it twice is stupid. Yet the practice continues.
In this Instagram generation, it seems that too many people are focused on faking it till they make it and the same holds true in the movie car replica world. I’ve seen great looking replicas on Instagram, but when I see them in person, they’re a hot mess.
The process of building a replica should be obvious and straightforward to anyone. If I were building one, I’d only jump in if I already had the bodykit and the wheels – no movie car replica project can be accurate without those key bits.
Assuming I’ve been successful in finding those parts, I’d start with the paint, then do the decals, install the wheels, then start on the interior – as time, parts availability and as the budget permits. Just do each stage correctly before moving on.
Know What You’re Getting Into
Many of the companies who made the parts for these cars have long since disappeared. Many of the parts that were being made back then have also been discontinued. This means you’re going to have to scour the global auction sites (like eBay) to find authentic parts. They won’t be cheap and it could literally take years to find one part that’s key to your build.
Take for example Dom’s RX7 – the wheels on that car are extremely rare, as some know. One builder said he hunted for four years to find the wheels. Wheels are everything on these cars. If you don’t find the wheels first, you should build another movie car.
One of my local buddies has built at least one movie car replica and has a couple of others in the works. His approach is systematic. He gets the wheels and bodykits first, THEN he buys the car. Meanwhile, he gathers other parts, too. By the time the car is painted, he has 95% of the parts. It takes him 3-4 years to fully build a replica, but so far, his work is pretty spot on.
Other cars I’ve seen in elsewhere in the world are hit or miss. Some people are smart enough to build cars that are easy to replica like the Heist Civics or the S2000. Others have tried building more comple cars, like the Supra and the Jetta. Most have fallen far short of what I would consider to be a reasonable replica. Such cars essentially become tribute cars or “inspired-by” cars, but that’s cool, too. Do what you can, just do it right. There’s no shame in that.
A few have the right wheels and body kit. Some even have a bit of the interior. None have anything close to my Supra’s engine parts, nor do they have any of the audio/video parts my car had. I guess to these builders, sort-of close is close enough for them. I can respect that.
I can’t stress this enough – if you’re not highly experienced in building cars, hire a goddamn professional. I’ve never met an engine builder who’s also a good electrician and vice versa. I’ve never met a car painter who’s also great at auto upholstery. I’m sure some exist, but as evidenced by the builds I’ve seen, none of them are building movie car replicas.
Some ohif the installation work and craftsmanship I’ve seen on these cars are so bad, it borders on being dangerous. There was one car in particular that was so bad, noone in my shop would drive car.
If you don’t have the money to hire a professional, you have a few options – find a better job, sell off other assets or find another hobby. Car modiyfing is not cheap – it never has been and it never will be.
Your reputation is riding on the car you build. Do you want to be remembered for doing things right or for building a substandard car?
Shoddy work ALWAYS costs more thang GOOD work in the long run.
WHEN MONKEYS WORK ON YOUR CAR
This fellow really, really, really REALLY had to have an accurate oil cap. Never mind that it was for the wrong car. What did he do? He cut it, and since the piece was not deburred, you can bet the shavings swimming in his motor oil.
BUDGETING FOR YOUR BUILD
While budgeting for your build, it’s important to take into consideration things like currency exchange rates, local economic factors, international shipping and other factors. Here’s an example of what it might cost to build a replica in the USA. I’ll use my Supra as an example. All prices are in US Dollars:
Paint job – $8,000 to $10,000 This includes light bodywork, seamlessly blending the body kit, pulling the car’s glass, proper surfaced prep and cost of the paint supplies.
Wheels and tires – The wheels can range from $400 each to $1,000+ per wheel depending on the condition. I’ve seen pristine sets sell for $5,000 or more.
Bodykit – Most of the bodykits are still available (although many are replica kits that lack the fit and finish of the original parts) for around $1,000 to $2000. The Veilside Fortune kit on Han’s RX7 is about $20,000.
Brakes – On my Supra, the brakes were about $4,000.
Supension – You can cheat here,but even the cheapest lowering kit will be $400.
Upholstery and seats – On my Supra, I had about $4,000 of upholstery and seating.
Stereo – It depends on what you want, but for a car like my Supra expect to pay around $3,000 for used parts assuming you can find them and another $2,000 for fabrication of the interior to replicate what I had in my Supra. Although I spent much, MUCH more on mine, it’s because I bought the equipment new and the install involved a lot of custom work.
Tuning – If you’re building a turbo car, it will need to be tuned. With My Supra, I had about $1500 in supporting electronics and another $1500 in tuning.
Turbo kits – $3,000 minmum for anything decent, then add the intercooler, fuel pumps, bigger injectors etc. and you could easily top $5,000.
Decals – If you want ACCURATE decals, you’ll buy from Modern Image. Add $1,000 – $1500. You can find mediocre replica graphics on eBay for around $400.
That’s over $40,000 in parts and labor so far.
If You’re Going to Do It, Be Realistic
Don’t expect this to be cheap. If you don’t have this kind of money, the best you can hope for is a similar looking tribute car. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, so long as you focus on quality. If you can’t do it all, do what you can, but do it right.
The rest of use can tell the difference – even on Instagram.