How to Build a Replica Fast and Furious Car
Perhaps the most repeated question I get is this one: How can I build a replica Fast and Furious car?
There isn’t one answer to this question because obviously, it depends on which car you’re trying to build. If you’re trying to replicate one of the cars from any of the movies AFTER Tokyo Drift, it will be MUCH easier because most of the cars from Fast 4 onwards were little more than tires, wheels, mufflers and some parts needed to perform stunts.
So for the sake of this article, let’s focus on the idea of building a replica of one of the cars from the first three movies. Spoiler alert: it’ll be a multi-year project and will take tens of thousands of dollars and literally THOUSANDS of hours scouring the internet for every classified sale page on the internet – Ebay, Facebook marketplace, ModFinds, individual Facebook Classified pages and so on.
If you want to build a Supra replica (from the first movie) or a GTR replica (from the second movie), you better have $100,000 cash in your hand, right now. And no, an 18-year-old kid is not going to get a $150,000 loan from a bank to build a 20-year-old movie car, so you can forget that.
If you’re saying to yourself, ‘well, I’ll just by a non-turbo Supra and make it look like the movie Supra,’ then you’re not building a replica. Honestly, you’re building a cheap knock off. In this case, you’ll end up buying some bodykit that looks similar and some wheels that resemble the original wheels.
I can’t help you with such a project because I can’t help bargain shoppers who make purchasing decisions based on finding the cheapest parts so if you DM me asking for help on such a project, I probably won’t respond.
“I cannot help you if you’re doing a budget “replica” build. These projects always turn into cheap knockoffs and this is not what I do.”
Assuming you DO have the budget, we can have a conversation. However, I’m very cautious these days. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my time wasted by miscreants who claim to have money but end up being 18-year-old kids living in a shantytown in a third world country. Before I work with anyone, I will be asking for verification of identity and funds.
With those disclaimers out of the way, let’s get down to business.
Most of the parts used on the cars in the first three movies have long, LONG since been discontinued. That means that we’d have to scour the world – which often takes YEARS – to find these old parts for sale. I have many friends who have literally spent five years looking for one part and when they bought it, they paid five times the price of the new items.
- Bodykits for most of these cars are no longer made;
- Sparco steering wheels for most of these cars are no longer made;
- Wheels for most of these cars are no longer made;
- Wings for most of these cars are no longer made;
- Things like foglights, grille replacements, interior pieces and audio/video components for most of these cars are no longer made;
The key here is to have the money in hand – if you have to save up for a part that you need, you have picked the wrong hobby. I suggest switching to collecting HotWheels because this hobby will break your heart if you’re not well-funded. That’s not meant to be a harsh comment, it’s just reality. Having money in hand will mean the difference between missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own the correct part or losing it forever.
“The key here is to have the money in hand – if you have to save up for a part that you need, you have picked the wrong hobby.”
Assuming you have the cash and you get lucky finding the part(s) you need, you have to remember a few things:
1) Old parts will likely need reconditioning. Old wheels, for example, will definitely need refinishing.
2) Replica body kits made in China will cost you double because you will have to pay a bodyshop a lot of labor hours to fix poorly molded bodykits. So why the replica bodykit might cost $1000, it’ll cost you another $1000 to fit it to the car properly.
3) Paint jobs – if you don’t have $6000 for a paint job (this is the average cost in the USA as of 2020), then you should save up until you do. Cheap body shops NEVER work out and you ALWAYS end up painting the car again. I know this from four decades of experience.
4) Engine mods – Cars like my Supra and my GTR had extensive engine mods. Finding, installing and tuning these parts will add thousands to the project. If you’re going to do engine mods, save those for last.
WHAT TO BUY FIRST
Don’t you dare by an Eclipse and tell yourself that you’ll find the parts later – you won’t. There are backyards around the world littered with derelict Eclipses waiting for parts.
Candidly, the Eclipse was a terrible car when it was new and suffered from HORRIBLE interior build quality, and electronic issues. The engines were weak, unreliable and made very little horsepower. Since there are more than 100 Eclipse replicas running around our planet, I hope you’ll pick another car.
Whatever car, you choose, you need to get the wheels and the bodykit first. That should take you a couple of years to find.
Next comes the paint and decals. The decals can be purchased online at www.modernimage.net
The decals you see on Ebay are garbage. They’re cheap vinyl, have no UV protection are not even reasonably accurate. ModernImage did the ACTUAL MOVIE CAR DECALS back in the early 2000s.
These decals are multi-layered vinyl with airbrushed accents. If you want them to be authentic, buy from Modern Image. PS. They’re not cheap: $1200 – $1600 per car.
BUYING THE DONOR CAR
Once you’ve accumulated the parts you need to make the outside of the car look authentic, it’s time to buy your car.
A used Supra in the USA will run you about $60,000 to $90,000 for a decent twin-turbo car. A NON-TURBO Supra can be found for around $30,000 USD. A right-hand drive Supra can be imported to the USA for about $25,000.
Since banks don’t do loans for 25 year old cars, you’ll need to have the cash. That usually means most people can’t do it.
A lot of people start with an Eclipse or a Jetta. Again, both of these cars were really mechanically problematic and suffered quality issues. I’d advise against choosing either of these cars because they are soooooo overplayed around the world. There’s nothing unique about them, now.
A used GT-R in the USA is at least $80,000 for an illegal, smuggled car (which I don’t recommend unless you’re willing to risk getting the car seized and crushed) and LEGAL GT-Rs aren’t available until 2024 in the USA.
But when they DO become legal, expect to pay north of $125,000 in the USA. Building a GTT is an option but converting a GTT into a GTR is an expensive project unless you personally own a bodyshop/collision repair center.
HOW TO GET A REPLICA NOW
Easy. Write a check. I have plenty of friends who have replicas of just about any car from these movies. If you want one, I can find you one but don’t even think about contacting me for help unless you can show verification of funds. I’ve had my time wasted too many times, sorry.
I’m going to be direct and blunt – You’re going to need cold, hard, cash to build a good replica. If you’re struggling to pay rent, or working from paycheck to paycheck, this is not the hobby for you. If you’re sitting on the couch all weekend playing video games, you’re not really serious about building your dream car, so don’t expect to be successful.
If you want it – I mean, REALLY want it – you’ll work hard for hard but step number one is always, ALWAYS, have the cash in hand to do it. I can’t tell you how many friends of mine have cars and car parts scattered in their backyard for years before they finally realize that they’ll never finish the project.
Be honest with yourself from the outset. Assess your commitment and evaluate your financial position. If there are roadblocks here, there’s no shame in collecting scale model cars.