I’m the kind of person who’s in perpetual danger of waking up in the morning and suddenly realizing that there’s some expensive thing that I can’t live without. Most of the time, the fever passes without action—honestly, what would I do with a hovercraft?—but sometimes it settles in and demands satisfaction. Then I end up buying a boat on eBay and finding out what my wife looks like when she’s homicidal.
A new must-have item recently wormed its way into my brain after a trip to Factory Five Racing. Factory Five’s headquarters is less than an hour from my house, so I decided to pay a visit. Company president David Smith gave me a tour of the factory and a ride in one of their MK4 Roadsters, a 2000-pound car with a 300-hp Ford V-8. The ride was spirited enough that an irate area citizen called the cops on us. It was a fine day.
So now I probably want to build a Factory Five car, right? Well, yes. Particularly the yellow GTM in their showroom, a mid-engine monster with a 600-hp Chevy LS7. But before I could think about building my own car, I’d need something else. I’d need a garage.
Technically, I have a garage. You know how Jay Leno’s got a pair of giant warehouses containing countless awesome cars? My facility is like that, except instead of two warehouses, it’s a small hovel at the end of my driveway. And instead of jet cars and a machine shop, I’ve got two lawn mowers and a rusty tire iron. I don’t want to brag, but one of the lawn mowers (the one that runs) has a five-horse Honda engine. Sure, I don’t really need that much horsepower, but to a guy like me, excess is just a starting point.
My garage is 221.2 inches long. I know this because that’s the length of a 1979 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. I wouldn’t think that such a yacht would fit, but my neighbor, Jim, swears otherwise. His family used to own my house, and he informed me that his mother parked her Cadillac in that garage. “The Caddy was two inches too long,” he said, “so my father cut a notch in a beam on the back wall. When the bumper fit into the notch, the garage door would just barely close.” Wonderful—I have the only garage that uses a Coupe de Ville as a stressed member. Which is worrisome, since I don’t have a Coupe de Ville.
I once parked a Lotus Exige in my garage, just to see if it would fit. It did, in the sense that a whole pig fits inside a hungry python. But merely parking a car indoors isn’t the point of a garage. You want to have space to do a brake job, to hang out with buddies and drink beer. A garage should be a refuge, a mode of self-expression. I know one guy who’s got the framed title to a Ferrari F40 on his garage wall (and the F40 parked right in front of it) and another whose garage contains an ex-presidential limo—complete with a decanter of original presidential Scotch between the rear seats. A garage in the Adirondacks hides an almost-new 1978 Ford Bronco that I’d angle to get my hands on, if I had anywhere to put it.
And there’s my dilemma. Even if I wanted to expand my tiny lawn mower hut, there’s nowhere I could go with it unless I annexed my neighbor’s lawn. So it appears that, like George Lopez and talent, I’ll have to work with what little I have. Instead of dreaming of a bigger garage, I should pine for smaller cars. Which brings me back to Factory Five.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you stuffed a Subaru WRX motor into something that’s mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive, and weighs less than 2000 pounds? Because that’s the next Factory Five car—a two-seater built around inexpensive and indestructible Subaru running gear. The styling isn’t finalized, but I’m imagining something that looks like a Lancia Stratos. And if you don’t break into a creepy serial-killer smile every time you imagine an affordable, WRX-based Stratos, then you’re some kind of weirdo.
The new car’s wheelbase is locked in at 95 inches, which is a little longer than an Exige but definitely shorter than a ’79 Coupe de Ville. Finding room to work on it, though, would be a problem. When I tell Factory Five project leader Jim Schenck of my sad-sack garage, he replies, “We had a guy who built a car in the crate it came in. He just rolled it in and out to work on it. I don’t think he even had a garage.” That sounds like a challenge. Perhaps instead of thinking outside the box, I need to start thinking in it.
Illustration by Tim Marrs