La Bala is a low-compromise, from the ground-up, new car. It is built using an early model Toyota MR2 powertrain. The reality is that there are many other donor choices available that may actually be better suited to lightweight vehicle construction. At this point though, construction is far along and won’t change in the original prototype. The idea is to make the car as inexpensively as possible and yet make it look like a million bucks and go like stink. I am doing this by thinking creatively and doing much of the work myself.
What inspired me to build la Bala? Ferdinand Porsche, when asked about why he started building cars said, “I couldn’t find the car of my dreams, so I decided to build it myself.” Well, I simply have not been able to find a car sold stateside that combines light weight performance motoring with good looks AND low cost. Light weight, looks good, costs little and goes like stink… Can you name one? Didn’t think so.
It seems to me that lately that production cars are really suffering from “feature-creep”. Every year the manufacturer assumes that they have to add more “stuff” to last years model so that the people feel that they are getting an improved model. Just look at the Mitsu Eclipse or the Miata… They are perfect examples of feature creep. You can certainly buy an economical car, but it’s a slug in every sense of the word. You can’t buy an economical car that provides what sport bike riders get doses of every day; Big performance with bare essential trimmings. I just want a car that looks good, is extremely light, has race level safety features and goes like stink. And while I’m at it, it should get close to 40mpg around town.
I want a vehicle that feels connected to the road, that vibrates and gurgles and reacts to my thoughts. I want to create a visceral experience out of steel and rubber. I want to grin from ear to ear as I enjoy the beauty of a perfectly carved line up some back canyon road. Reason enough? I think so.
Who designed and is building the Bala? This car is designed by me and is being constructed by myself – alone – in my 2 car garage on weekends and some weekday evenings. Every custom part has been designed by myself and then fabricated using simple hand tools. The chassis is my design, the suspension is my design, the body is my original design. I used the book “Tune to Win” by Carroll Smith as a guideline for the suspension geometry and with assistance from Alan Bertwistle. Alan has been a true inspiration and great help. Even though we are across the country (USA) from each other, he has always been willing to answer my questions with truly useful information. Check out his car, the Meerkat. The only custom fabricated part not made by myself are the front suspension balljoint pucks, which were machined on a lathe by a local machinist. I also find that the Locost_Theory and Locost_North_America Yahoo Groups are a great source of inspiration and camaraderie with like-minded folks.
What other experience do I have with cars? My Velo Rossa was the first experience I had with car building. After that project made the cover of Kit Car Magazine and won some trophies, I spent many, many hours of my personal time answering technical questions and providing valuable sales support for John and the beautiful Velo Rossa Ferrari 250 GTO replica. You would not believe the amount of interest my participation in the Velo Rossa project back in 1999 still generates to this day! You can check out John’s business at www.kitcarz.com. I hope you all enjoy my website.