The Cars of Craig Lieberman

The Cars of Craig Lieberman

Forgive the braggadocio title – I used it only to make search engines happy and to help people searching for this information to find it more easily.

Like many car nuts, my predilection for cars back to my early youth. I was fascinated by the 1960s Batmobile and later on, the Mach 5 from the Speed Racer cartoon series of the late 1960s. Also like many car nuts, I couldn’t afford the cars I wanted when I reach driving age. My family was not well off and I had to pay for nearly everything myself. By the time I was 19, I had moved out and was going to school and working two jobs. I spent money on only a handful of things: school. food, my girlfriend and my car.

Still, I managed to have some fun with cars and over the years, the cars I owned got better. As of this writing, I’ve had 43 cars. I’m not including in this list the several company cars I have been issued over the years. Here they are in order:

  1. 1981 Isuzu I-Mark sedan
  2. 1973 Mercury Capri V6
  3. 1970 260Z widebody
  4. 1973 240Z
  5. 1974 260Z
  6. 1967 Chevelle 396
  7. 1981 Honda Accord hatchback
  8. 1978 Fiat Spyder
  9. 1976 Audi Fox
  10. 1976 Mercury Capri V6
  11. 1972 Datsun 510 2 door
  12. 1971 Datsun 510 4 door
  13. 1970 Chevy Camaro
  14. 1976 Firebird 400
  15. 1967 Firebird
  16. 1972 Datsun pickup (with Chevy V8)
  17. 1975 Datsun 280Z V8 swap
  18. 1998 Nissan Nissan Pulsar NX
  19. 1990 Nissan Maxima
  20. 1993 Mustang GT
  21. 1996 Impala SS
  22. 1997 Nissan Maxima
  23. 1998 Nissan Maxima SE
  24. 1994 Toyota Supra
  25. 1999 Nissan R34 GT-R V-Spec
  26. 1998 Lexus G400
  27. 2001 Lexus IS300
  28. 1998 Lamborghini Diablo Monterey
  29. 2002 BMW M3
  30. 2001 Lamborghini Diablo 6.0
  31. 2004 Mercedes CLK55
  32. 1998 Toyota Supra
  33. 2005 Mercedes CL500
  34. 2003 Lexus GS430
  35. 2006 Mercedes SL600
  36. 2007 Audi RS4
  37. 2008 BMW 750Li
  38. 2009 BMW 335
  39. 1998 Nissan 240SX
  40. 2014 Lexus GS350
  41. 2014 Lexus CT200h
  42. 2015 Nissan GT-R
  43. 2017 Audi S3

 

As you can tell from the list, I was into Japanese cars from an early age. Admittedly, some of these cars from my younger days were a bit rough. For a few years, I couldn’t make up my mind and I was seemingly always in search of the perfect Datsun Z car. I started off with hand-me down car – a 1981 Isuzu I-Mark sedan. Never heard of it? Me neither. My dad gave me this thing and like an idiot, I spent a ton of money on a Porsche red paint job, an expensive rear wing and what few engine mods could be done to the car. The car made maybe 90hp to the wheels, but somehow, I was convinced it was fast as hell. It wasn’t and I learned that after spending $4000 on this piece of crap (in today’s dollars, that’s about $13,000), I could’ve had a much better car.

This is why I tell people today to STOP SPENDING GOOD MONEY ON SHIT CARS.

I made that mistake. Learn from my stupidity.

Not long after this failed mistake, I found a fun project car – the Mercury Capri. Made in Europe, these cars were making a name for themselves in racing. They made wide body kits for these cars, all sorts of suspension goodies, brake kits, and V8 motor swaps were a possibility.

At the time, I was working at Super Shops, a chain of high performance speed shops on the West Coast. I had access to good parts, dirt cheap, so it was the perfect gig.

In what was clearly becoming a pattern, I jumped in with both feet. I ditched the crappy brown paint for a home-done white paint job. It was then that I learned that I sucked at painting. from ten feet away, it was great, anything closer and it was a train wreck.

Still, it had badass Carroll Shelby, gold-mesh wheels, a robust exhaust system, a 2.6 V6 engine with a Holley 500 carb and it an agile 4 speed transmission. It was fast(ish) for its day and it was a lot of fun.

This was the first car in which I installed a good sound system. How good was it? It blew out the rear side windows one day to Depeche Mode’s “Lie to Me.” God, I miss that car.

My Capri looked a bit like this. Everything was white. – the grille, the wipers, the steering wheel.

That was the first car that I ever tore apart and rebuilt myself. I learned how to rebuild motors from Auto Shop in high school and in this case, out of the Chilton’s Repair Manual.

 

My V8 Z looked a lot like this…same wheels, almost the same rear wheel over-arches…but mine was brown. I never did get around to finishing that car because when summer came around, I was tired of cars without air conditioning.

I had several Datsun Z cars, and each of them was more modified than the last one. One of my Z had dual Weber carbs, another one had triple Weber carbs and another one had a Chevy V8. The red one was probably my favorite looks-wise but my brown, V8 monster was the most fun to drive.

In no particular order, here are some pictures of some of my favorite cars I’ve owned:

My First Diablo. A 1998 Monterey Edition, previosuly driven by Jay Leno and Mario Andretti. This car got a $20,000 interior makeover and a custom nitrous system.

 

Custom paint scheme design by me/ This car won numerous shows and scored several magazine features.

The Fast and Furious Maxima AFTER I ripped the graphics off. This car featured Dodge Viper GTR blue paint, a custom reverse-opening, louvered hood, a Vortech supercharger, Stillen brakes and a side exit exhaust.

Der Uber M3. Complete custom build. Custom made HRE Wheels (about $12,000 retail), 15″ Stop Tech Brakes (about $8800), a custom candy blue paint job and body kit (about $15,000) and a $20,000 audio system. This car got many magazine features around the world.

My 1000hp, Ryan Woon built Monster. Big HKS twins and full supporting mods. Real TRD wide body kit.

My second Diablo, a 2001 6.0 VT

The motor on my Silver Supra.

2003 996 Twin Turbo., Chipped. Injectors, exhaust, GT2 wing.

 

Fully built, 347 cu inch, Vortech S-Trim blower, cog driven and a complete fuel system. The car had a full interior and audio system as well as full suspension upgrades and Baer brakes. It remains one of my best builds I’ve ever done.

As you can see, I’ve had some pretty decent cars – and some pretty awful ones. Perhaps the best piece of advice I can give to anyone is remember that spending money on bad cars is keeping you from owning a good car. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

 

CAR MODIFYING ADVICE

People often ask me what they should do to their car. Let me get the bullshit political answer out of the way – it’s your car, do whatever you want. Just make sure you have a thick skin because there will always, ALWAYS be haters. f you can’t stand the haters, don’t you dare get into the car hobby – you’ll be suicidal over the hate.

That said, here’s the real answer: craftsmanship is king. Poor workmanship and cheap parts commands the respect of NO ONE. If you’re buying cheap parts, everyone knows it. If your installation of good parts was done by the lowest bidder, everyone knows it.

I’ve seen interior work that looks like it was done during a 3rd grade class’ Arts and Crafts session.

If you’re on a limited budget, here’s what you should do:

  • Good, high quality, wheels from a reputable, well-respected wheel manufacturer.
  • Lowering kit/sleeve kit- Eibach or H&R. KW Suspension, Bilstein, Tein, GReddy, HKS, Ohlins etc.  Don’t buy Chinese shit. Ever. No matter how broke you are
  • Proper exhaust system from a reputable company. Stay off Ebay, for the love of God.
  • Don’t put carbon fiber stickers on anything. Ever.
  • Intake – On a 4 cylinder car, an intake is going to do next to nothing. If you think being louder make you faster, dyno your car before and after. Let me know what you find out.

Whenever possible, start with a turbocharged car. These cars have potential. Naturally aspirated cars are much, much, MUCH harder to make fast without digging into the motor. If you don’t have a turbo car – STOP. Save your money for a turbo car.

I know some people will piss and moan about my suggestions, especially those who have naturally aspirated cars and have poured a bunch of money into it. I’ve been modding cars since 1980. I’ve owned a fair number of cars and worked on many more. The opinions I’m presenting here are based on those experiences.

 

I hope this helps.