This Incredible Chrome Deathtrap Is a 70-Year-Old’s 1,500-Hour Project (and Street Legal!)

This custom machine is loosely based on Mickey Thompson’s 1963 Harvey Aluminum race car.

If a septuagenarian can realize his dream of making a completely custom street-legal chrome go-cart, maybe there’s hope for the rest of us completing our life goals someday, too.

Car: “Lulu”
Location: Valle Grande, New Mexico
Photog: Paul Kalenian (Image send to us via Extension PR)
Camera: Unknown

This car just won the second North American show of the 2021 Hot Wheels Legends Tour. That’s a series of events designed to find a real-world custom car that judges determine to be wild enough to warrant turning into a 1:64 Hot Wheels toy. It’s a pretty fun idea! As you might expect, cars that become contenders are usually more than just modified daily drivers… they’re bonkers-looking one-offs like Lulu here.

Having placed first in one of those Tour shows means this car will advance to another round and have a shot at becoming toy-ified.

Extension PR, the communications company spreading the word about this, passed me a note via email with a little more info on Lulu since I had no idea what the heck I was looking at:

“The Lulu is a one-of-a-kind, fully street legal, race-inspired ride. Garage built – from sketch to street – in just seven months, this heliarc, all-aluminum monocoque/bulkhead design features a rear, structurally mounted turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 325 horsepower [at] 24 PSI. The brainchild of 70-year-old Paul Kalenian, it loosely replicates Mickey Thompson’s 1963 Harvey Aluminum race car. To date, Lulu has already clocked 5,000 miles.”

I had to look up that Thompson car because I hadn’t heard of that one, either. Basically it looks like a tin toy deathtrap, in case you were wondering.

Car & Driver said Kalenian was “1,500 hours and $35,000” into the project and Autoblog, which has a few more images of the thing on its site, reported that the car only weighs “1,530 pounds wet.”

I have a lot of respect for Mr. Kalenian’s creativity here, and even more for his endurance if he was the one who put the 5,000 miles on this remarkably rough-looking road missile! He sounds like a character; Autoblog also included this gem of a soundbite in its writeup:

“Kalenian tells us that living in New Mexico – ‘the Wild West, where a donkey with a motor can be plated,’ he says – helped ease the process of registration.” The NM plate the car wears simply reads “XS.” Whether that’s shorthand for “extra small” or “excess” (opposite concepts that somehow both would make sense in this case) or just somebody’s initials I’m not sure, but low-digit plates are always cool for some reason. Maybe I should move to New Mexico if they still have some left.

We got a few more images from Hot Wheels’ wacky contest too – rest assured I will share them soon because some of the other cars Lulu was up against were similarly unusual and amazing.

Andrew P. Collins

Andrew P. CollinsAndrew’s the Editor-In-Chief of Car Bibles and an experienced writer, amateur mechanic, and off-road expedition guide with just a little racing experience. He’s particularly fond of tuner cars and old trucks. Contact the author here.