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Body shop owner's 3-year passion project transforms light truck into mini-Lamborghini

Hiroyuki Fukuda stands by his miniature Lamborghini Countach replica, the "Sambarghini Kocountach LP360" on March 3, 2021, in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture. (Mainichi/Tetsuya Shoji)

MAEBASHI, Gunma -- With its chisel nose and upswinging scissor doors, the low-slung form lurking in a cavernous garage here would be familiar to any supercar aficionado as the 1970s classic Lamborghini Countach.

    Peer a little closer, though, and one can spot certain differences. The size, for one. This car looks like a Countach that's been shrunk in the wash. And then there's the engine, with its 360cc, not horsepower. Because this vehicle was not hand-crafted in Italy, but in Maebashi, from a light truck of all things.

    Meet the Sambarghini Kocountach LP360, a three-year passion project created by 56-year-old body shop owner Hiroyuki Fukuda.

    Fukuda was an elementary school student "smack-dab in the middle" of the supercars' heyday, when he and his classmates marveled at 1970s speedsters like the Ferrari 512BB and the Lotus Europa. But the Countach, with its distinctive doors and striking design, held a special place in their imaginations. Fukuda says that he still clearly remembers the first time he saw one at a supercar exhibition when he was a child.

    "It was really low to the ground, and it felt like a car from the near future," he adds. "There were all kinds of cars at the exhibition, like Ferraris, but the Countach was in a category by itself."

    Grown up and working on cars professionally, in 1998 Fukuda went to Las Vegas to go to the SEMA Show, the world's largest parts exhibition. Looking at all the customized vehicles at the show, he thought, "Wow, you're really free to make whatever you want. I can build the car that I want." And so the fire was lit. He would build a car, and it would be his childhood automotive first love, the Countach.

    The base for his homage to the Countach was a 1974 360cc Subaru Sambar, a light truck more commonly seen bumping down farm lanes than burning up speedways. The little truck's rear-engine, rear-drive design is one thing that recommended it for the project, as a real Lamborghini's engine is mounted directly behind the driver. To get the details right, Fukuda used a one-eighteenth scale Countach model. His car is 13 times the size of this model, its body made from fiber-reinforced plastic.

    All told, it took Fukuda three years and three months to finish the "Sambarghini." On its bright yellow hood is a logo that looks very much like the iconic Lamborghini bull, but turns out to be a deer.

    And the machine quickly attracted attention, with six real Countach owners dropping by to see Fukuda and his creation. He has also been invited to automotive events.

    Yet the body shop owner's drive to build cars was not sated with his Kocountach. Right after finishing it, he built a copy of the Mach sportscar from the 1960s manga and anime series "Speed Racer."

    "It's just so much fun to build them," Fukuda tells the Mainichi Shimbun. In that case, what will he make next?

    "I'm thinking of a lot of options, but if I say one of them out loud, then I'll be committed to doing it," he says with a sly smile.

    (Japanese original by Tetsuya Shoji, Shibukawa Local Bureau)

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