If you’re a man of a certain age, like I am, you might remember Mickey Thompson’s Indy Racer, the Harvey Aluminum Special from the early 60s. It impressed me at the time, because of its unique look, a wide and flat oval cross section and small 12 inch wheels with low profile tires. It resembled a roller skate of sorts and it picked up the nickname of the roller skate car. I liked it. Paul Kalenian liked it, too.
Paul decided to design and build a car for street use, inspired by the Indy racers. He didn’t have much to go on in the way of actual prints of the old car, so much of what he did is his interpretation of the original design, with obvious allowances for two seats and street legal necessities.
The monocoque/bulkhead design came together with power from a GM LTG DOHC 2.0 Turbo at 325 HP, more than enough for a very lively drive in a car that eventually came in at 1530 pounds wet.
The process of building the car was pretty straightforward, as Paul says: “I bought some 66” wide plates for water jet cutting into bulkheads. I made a jig from 2×4”s and drew on each numbered plate for numerous trips to Water Jet Inc in Albuquerque NM.” The frame was heliarc welded by Skip Canfield who teaches precision aluminum welding at UNM, Los Alamos.
The design is a combination of observing airplane structures and Frank Costin’s designs and Colin Chapman’s concept to add lightness.
Paul’s dad owned a precision machine shop that did work for Pratt and Whitney Aircraft and Paul now has his lathe, milling machine and hand tools which he obviously put to good use. Paul says, “The entire car was designed and built over a 7 month period …all water jet cut and heliarc welded in my garage at home. Lots more time and machine shop work than expected.”
You’ll notice some photos show a sort of lawn chair seating setup which his buddies said looked “primitive” in such an otherwise impressive car, so he bought some aluminum replacements, which certainly look better, but after his first 150 mile trip he noted, “my ass was numb.” Lulu now has about 3000 road miles, mostly trouble free.
I think this is an excellent example of just deciding to do something and doing it, figuring things out along the way and learning by doing. Since this one turned out as well as it did, Paul says, “I’m now designing Lulu 2. I found and am using my old drafting table to design a ‘formula car’ in which I’ll mount a BMW 1600 6 cylinder motorcycle engine and transmission in a narrow lighter frame now that I’ve learned a few things.” Drafting tables in the age of CAD, I like that a lot and I’ll be very interested in seeing what his BMW powered Formula car looks like.
This build is impressive in so many ways, from concept to just drawing the bulkheads, water jet cutting, Heliarc welding, a combination of old school skills and new technology. Great work Paul!