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                                 Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary Project

                                                                                         Mid-life Crisis Version.         David J Melbourne, Arlington TX

What we hope it will look like before I am too old to drive it.

Here is the never ending story of my longest running project to date - A Countach Replica. If you need details on how all this is done, you might want to visit Ron Fletcher's www.Lambolounge.com Ron has collected a treasure trove of information on how to build these cars. Need to ask a question about kitcars? The absolutely BEST place is www.kitcentral.com These folks are the most friendly people who love to encourage individuals to enter the fun. Why not build an Ferrari Enzo? Did not want my project seized! They do that you know. Besides, I love Lamborghinis, even though I have a Chevrolet pocket book! For those of you looking for the Air Lift System, it is a little ways down this page, it won't hurt my feelings if you skip past the whole story bit!

And why a Fiero?

Community. This simple little car has a nation of kind friendly folks who help each other. Want proof? Read the Tyler Shipman Story and you will want your own.

Why build it?
Ever since I first saw a Lamborghini Countach, there seemed little point in owning any other car. I have nothing against all the other classics out there, but how special is your ride if you pull up next to another one now and again? The Countach is so wildly impractical, few would have one even if the price was reasonable. It was so different, I knew that one day I 
would have to have one, or at least something that looks just like it.
The $200,000 was a bit of a problem though, so being an inventor type guy I figured "build yourself one"  I started thinking about the project in the early nineties!

How to start?

I considered building the body from scratch, but was talked out of that idea by my lovely wife Mandy.
Then I thought I would get one of those "non-stretch" kits as this seemed the quickest way to my dream. Again, she
wisely talked me out of it. She finally made me realize that the car I really wanted was a 1989 25th Anniversary Countach.
Since then Lamborghini have come out with Diablos and others, but none have appealed to me the way the original Countach does still.

Body

In 1994, I traveled to California to pick up a body from Imaginary Fiberglass Inc "IFG" (Update: Sadly out of business now for these)
They were fairly honest folks who supplied a pretty good body all in all. (All fiberglass pieces of this size have to be reworked some to make
them perfect I know) 
Make sure you visit the place where your kit is made and don't give them thousands of dollars up front, just enough to
encourage them to finish your kit to get the rest! Then GO SEE IT BE PICKED UP YOURSELF
(Arrange a privately paid transporter) This way you can inventory and inspect the thing yourself, saves years of hassles later. 
To call these cars a "kit" is stretching the word a bit. You don't get all the parts to assemble, you must fabricate all the substructure yourself, with no exact drawings to go on.
 Now you know why there are so few of these around. It is said that for every ten lambo cars started, probably only one is ever
completed. I can believe that, as it is a very hard build indeed. Every aspect is difficult, the chassis modifications, to the weird
butterfly doors that won't close, then leak when they do.

I had bought a 1984 Fiero from an individual in Dallas, TX and, after removing what appeared to be live ammunition and syringes 
from the insides, tried for months to get the 4 banger "Iron Duke" motor to run properly. Waste of time and money.
Finally, I decided that the six cylinder 2.8L was by far the better engine, so I converted to the six cylinder.
Another huge undertaking. All the cradle and wiring was different, every time you turned around,
something did not fit. Why not a big V8 turbo powered 500HP powerhouse? Legalities. I could see the authorities at the
other end looking at the emissions and saying "no"  So, instead I went for a sure thing.


 
The real things being made. Faster than mine!  

The body I have is an exact (it was "splashed" during a rental of a real one I am told!) replica, so the wheelbase is 98.5 inches.
Since the Fiero was 93.5 inches, an extra 5 had to be added. This was the bit I feared the most, as if it was not done just right,
the car would "crab" down the road sideways. Through a friend I learned of a fabrication expert, who builds drag racers from scratch. He even let me help, and did not charge more because I did! He let me saw the car in half once it was all squared up on a jig, then extra steel was added behind the firewall to get the required wheelbase. I showed him the video that came with the body and he was polite and did not laugh, nor did he laugh at the pieces supplied by the manufacturer to extend the car. He just quietly did NOT use them! (Or their method)
I will soon add pictures of the joins, so you can see how he did it. He was careful not to change the way the engine moved
with the suspension, or change any of the angles. His solution was elegant and quite sturdy. Thanks Mike.

Notice the new extender point triangular brackets in the top picture which the engine cradle fixes to.

Can you see the extra 5 inches in the lower picture (upper chassis)?

This is the stuff that takes forever - The out rigging to make the Fiero wide enough to touch the body (83 inches wide!)


Well, after many years and 2 children, I have decided to not become a statistic and finish the car. It is my version of a mid life
crisis, without the divorce and havoc that normally causes.

THE PROBLEMS

There are 2 main problems with my car right now, apart from looking terrible..

1)  The rear suspension was going to turn as it moved up and down. This is a design
fault with the 1984 - 1987 Fieros. a condition called " Bump Steer "  A Fiero is basically a front wheel drive car running
backwards. It uses a front suspension in the back. The steering arms are still there, the knuckles, everything. Here then,
was the problem. Since the steering arms are attached to the engine cradle, they turn the wheels when the rear
suspension goes through it's motion. Bump Steer.  Inside the car, it feels like a twitch as you get on, or let off, the
power in a turn. The car tries to swap ends. Not too much fun. A company called Held Motorsports makes a kit that
 is a total CURE of this problem.
This kit replaces the silly original rear suspension with totally new parts and no weird steering arm.

 
Here is the excellent replacement Held MotorSports New Fiero suspension.

Here's a picture of what it looked like before.

Ugly huh? Here is the problem steering arm which causes Bump Steer.

      

Here she is rear end up in the garage.


The rear knuckle after cleanup and reconditioning with new attachment point installed

UPDATE 4/22/2004

Well, finally got the bump steer on. Now the wheels won't turn! Seems the center bolt CANNOT have a washer like it shows in the instructional photos. This means removing it all again and that is a handful. Oh well, who said this was going to be easy?

UPDATE 4/25/2004

I think I got it fixed. Here is a close up of the interference problems)

You can see where the bolt head hits the drive shaft! 

Then I ran in to another contact problem, the emergency brake cable bracket hits the new suspension also.......

 

 

More to come as I do this ...................................!

Here pushed out of the garage (yes pushed). Been in garage so long that opener died of
old age!

Present engine. Like this would fool anyone. Surprise! Some of those folks we all like to impress take one
look at it and are convinced. I tell them the truth of course, well eventually......  To be honest, I like this
engine, it may not put out enough horses, but who cares? The police around town are going to have
a field day with the car anyway once it is on the road. Speed would equal trouble anyway. Update: Have
converted to 1227730 ECM out of a 91 Beretta - See below for how.

2) Cannot get out of my driveway in it.

After the Bump Steer, I am installing a new Air Ride Suspension from Held Motorsports.
The people at Held and especially Lee Waldmiller, are the very best people you can know. Their
materials are excellent quality and their service exceptional. Highly recommended!

Why? The car has only a four inch clearance and cannot drive out of my driveway without cracking
something! The real ones have the same problem, and now use an air lift system also apparently.

Product development had slowed my pace on my IFG Lambo project, but now I am back to speed. One side is completed and actually works! With air from a regulated air compressor, the car rises smartly up. (No, it won't jump, in case anybody asks) I decided to change all the bearings and rotor/hubs also. The knuckles were sandblasted and repainted just for fun. All nylon bushings will make for a hard squeaky ride I think! Then I discovered the lower ball joints are welded into the old lower A's! Another quick call to Lee of www.heldmotorsports.com and new ones complete with boots, castle nuts, spring clips and pins were in the mail. To make the front wheels match the body better, I had asked Lee for a 2 inch length extension to the suspension and boy does that make it look better! See photo. An extension for the steering arm was also included.

New lower A arm with new ball joints pressed in and spring clipped. (not welded!)

Modified Cross-member.

Cleaned up front knuckle - new bearings.

Starting to look better -Still high as on jack Passenger side.

No brakes or sway bar yet, but WORKS!

I have been working on the air lift control system (below). My goal was to make a module that can be removed for service and to get
 access to the wiper motor and air conditioning. The various components; air tank, compressor, control valves and relay controls
 were screwed to an aluminum plate shaped exactly like the floor of the spare tire area.
 This whole thing can be removed as one lump for service.
 
When fitted to the car, looks like ....
Update 2/15/05
Applied air pressure to the system this weekend. It rose about 4in at 80lbs! I may have to move the sway bar
though as the top of it touches the outside of the air ride shock (Shockwave) and they are really 
adamant about nothing touching these. Lee, at www.Heldmotorsports.com (always helpful) suggested moving the mount
point. Will see if that's possible. Will include a short video of the front coming up.
Update 4/1/05
Made sway bar mounting point moving brackets. These allow you to move the sway bar forward a little to stop the ends touching the air 
shocks. Will put picture up soon.
Update 7/2/05
Attached sway bar brackets. Works, but must be too tight as it restricts the motion of the air system. Must come up with a way to 
allow the sway bar to move more freely. Ah well - no one said it was going to be easy.
Update 10/03/05
Gave up on sway bar - Lee (Held Motorsports) say I probobly don't need it anyway with the independant nature of the 4 air valve system.
We shall see.
Update 3/06/06
Finally back on the car - FOFA (our key finder product sold out so fast we have to wait for them!)  Should be back in stock in a few days though.
I installed an RS232 Port in the shifter plate - looks a little cool and lets you run a neat free expertly written program call Winaldl
on a laptop (or PC) through the serial port. Lets you see the entire insides of the ECM computer on the car - wow. It worked first time!
Right now I am cleaning up the wiring and just getting it back to where I can work on it again.
Lesson learned - Do NOT leave the front radiator cap off, then, like an idiot, open the engine filler cap. Antifreeze goes everywhere.
What a moron I am sometimes. Supposed to be smart? Yeah right.

Will put more pics in when I have some. Questions about this build are always welcome! 
david.melbourne@melbournedesigns.com

Update 08/04/06
Started work on interior panels - fed up looking at metal! I am going with wood covered in foam and leather looking vinyl. This part is harder than the electronics!
Anyone out there with tips - HELP! DJM
Update 10/13/09

Starting back again! My brother is coming over to help - should be fun if we don't drink too much beer!

Update 9/14/10

Installed 4 point harnesses (RCI) - In the process of updating the computer to a 1227730 (out of a 91 Chevy Beretta) should give more modern engine performance

Update 9/27/10
Converted ECM over to 1227730 using MEMCAL from Sinister Performance - Many Thanks Ryan. Say goodbye to the oddball Cold Start Injector crud and odd startup problems!


To see the article on the Air lift system, click here.

Held MotorSports

WARNING! Do not try any of this at home. Damage to your wallet will occur!

Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary is a Trademark of Lamborghini Automobili SPA.

Ultima GTR McLaren F1 LM Koenigsegg CC8S  Ferrari Enzo  Saleen  Jaguar XJ220 Porsche Carrera GT  Pagani Zonda  Ruf R Turbo Ferrari F40 Ferrari F50  Mercedes SLR Lamborghini Murcielago Lamborghini Diablo

This project is dedicated to the memory of my mentor and long time best friend, Hershel R. When your engine has destroyed itself, there was no one you would prefer to see walking up your driveway. He gave of his genius and help freely and will be missed terribly. Your Dad was a good man Chrissy & Brandi. God Bless.

IN MEMORY OF

HERSHEL ROBERTS

Until we meet again.