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From the charred wreckage of a Lamborghini, a DIY supercar

PORTLAND, Oregon – Under the back cover of Chris Steinbacher’s Lamborghini Huracán sits a Chevy engine. Sure, it’s a turbo twin, and, yes, it pumps menacing 900 horsepower to the wheels, but the pedigree is Detroit, not Italy. And the rest of the car was assembled in Portland.

Lamborghini purists might want to cover their eyes now.

The Lambo Left for Dead is one of Mr. Steinbacher’s salvaged supercars. He bought it – what was left of it, anyway, after a fire burned it almost in half – for $ 40,000, and it was delivered by forklift. (A new Huracán can approach $ 300,000, and Mr. Steinbacher’s now-deceived 2016 model hovers in that same stratosphere.) The parts of this resurrection cost around $ 50,000, a reduced total he has maintained with the help of sponsors. on his YouTube channel. , B Is for Build, which has nearly 1.5 million subscribers.

Flooded Ferraris and mutilated McLarens can easily be found on auction sites like Copart and Impact Auto Auctions. Most of the people who play in this arena work strictly with cash, Steinbacher said, although funding can sometimes be arranged. What happens after your wreck is off the delivery trailer is much more complicated, but with more money and dedication, a dream car can be within reach.

A few years ago, Mr. Steinbacher was a senior software engineer keen to build unique sports cars. “I started around the beginning of 2015, knowing absolutely nothing about cars,” he said of his YouTube channel, where he learned on the go. “In January 2017, the company I was making software for went out of business and I continued to work on YouTube full time.”

When he learned he could buy salvaged supercars at a small fraction of the used market price, Mr. Steinbacher was “kind of hooked,” he said. He started buying totaled cars and fixed them in his backyard.

Fixing cracked cars isn’t easy “unless you’re a hell of a gamer,” Steinbacher said. “The hunting part is not difficult – anyone can google and find salvage car auction sites and find supercars there.” Most of the time, the car will require a shipment, however, and you might not see it in person, let alone take a test drive.

“You have six to ten photos to try to assess the extent of the damage and how much it will cost to repair,” he said.

It is a skill that can take years and many mistakes to master. “I finally turned on a camera to track my progress,” he said, “and started posting it on YouTube.”

For a number of top rebuilders, YouTube is a vital source of know-how, and the ad revenue certainly doesn’t hurt.

“I love working with my hands,” said Rich Benoit of Boston, whose channel is Rich Rebuilds. A graduate in computer science at university, Mr. Benoit “continued to work until Teslas, Audis and now the BMW i8,” he said.

“Supercar is a funny word,” added Mr. Benoit. “I have built a lot of high-end cars, like Teslas, Audi RS7, but the i8 is my first ‘supercar’ in itself.” All were built in his family’s garage. Her favorite renovation? Replace a V-8 motor with a Tesla.

There is no formal definition of what gives a sports car superpowers, but generally speaking this class comprises the best specimens of an automobile manufacturer, in terms of design, power and capacity – and the most important price.

Purchased after an accident, the salvage carcass of the 2014 BMW i8 cost Mr. Benoit $ 28,000. After $ 10,000 in parts and countless hours of work, his project is over.

What about the i8’s labor cost? It is “free time and considered fun,” he said. Billing for time is like “billing money to spend time with your kids”.

Dashboard trading desks, Mr. Steinbacher may not have known much about cars in his early days, but it’s a quick study. He lost count after more than 50 reconstructions, he said, and kept around 25.

His YouTube channel helped fund his “auto-build addiction,” he said. He wouldn’t mind another day job, he added, “but just more hours on the cars means they’re done faster and I’m able to build crazier and crazier things. .

Repairing these cars can make dreams come true at a discount. If you have the skills or the contacts to do it, they can cost a lot less than showroom counterparts.

In Clackamas, Oregon, Wheel worked on around 200 supercars during his nearly 20 years as the head of Tommy’s Window Tinting.

His customers brought him Ferrari 488 Spiders and Mercedes-Benz SLS AMGs, as well as a crown jewel, a 1958 $ 2.8 million Corvette that will make its debut at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show this year. year, widely known as SEMA.

“You will probably end up getting the car of your dreams for half the price,” Saenz said. “But you should also come to the conclusion that you are getting a car that has been salvaged or has been separated.”

For enthusiasts like Mr. Benoit and Mr. Steinbacher, part of the appeal is the thrill of the hunt. The mythical “barn find”, to discover a dusty classic that just needs a deep cleaning? It would be far too easy.

A key theme emerges when speaking with rebuilders: A supercar that has been in an accident will only invite more trouble if not corrected properly. This hobby requires as much money as it does labor.

“There are a lot of corners you can cut,” Saenz said. “You don’t have to replace it with a factory part.”

Once they’re ready for the road, insuring a rebuilt supercar can be a worthwhile endeavor. “Liability insurance is not very difficult,” said Steinbacher. “Most of the big auto insurance companies don’t want to insure a salvaged supercar.”

Full coverage, however, may be another story. Some insurance companies want to inspect the car to assess a value – owners must agree – in case it is totaled.

Insurance is a bet that manufacturers take. Mr. Benoit, for example, has never had a problem getting full replacement value coverage.

Mr. Saenz offers this advice to buyers: find the seller and what you want to buy. “I hope they have a lot of money” for the upcoming project, he said.

All the hard work in the garage can pay off.

Mr. Steinbacher’s Huracán took three men to work for five months before revealing their Burntacan. The total expense? Less than $ 100,000. “It was a creative way to double the original horsepower for much less than half the cost of replacing the engine,” he said.

In addition to the LS Chevy V-8 engine and drivetrain, twin turbos and custom carbon fiber bodywork complete its one-of-a-kind Lambo.

To Mr. Steinbacher’s knowledge, no one had previously designed a Huracán with manual transmission. Much less once as if it had hung over a campfire like a roasted marshmallow.

His next vision is to take a donated 2016 Huracán chassis and transform it into a full-fledged Mint 400 off-road racing car, “turning it into a purpose-built endurance desert racer,” he said. declared.

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