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DIY Automan Autocar

Last month I wrote about my “The Computer’s Voice” Movie Marathon that I did, and that led to an acquaintance pointing out the Automan TV show from 1983-84. The show is ridiculous. The premise is a computer scientist cop who creates a physical hologram who helps him fight crime. The technology doesn’t make sense, the plots are overly complicated, and it’s simply not a very good show. But it’s fun. As silly it is sometimes, it really broke my heart when I loaded up the final DVD and finished watching the series.

Plus, I had company! The Continuum Drag podcast was watching them too. A few days after each pair of episodes I watched, I would load up the next podcast on my walk or run, and voila! Some folks to enjoy the pain and laughs with. They were definitely harsher on it than I was, but I think I’ve come to be more comfortable with camp and older shows as I’ve gotten older. I also deeply appreciated how bad all the computer scenes were, so I had a fondness for the show that I think is hard for someone who doesn’t work full time in tech to appreciate.

But my favorite thing about the show? The Autocar. It’s instantly recognizable as a Lamborghini Countach LP400, the car that, to this day, I think of when I think of “the car of the future.” I don’t know why the Countach landed in my head like that, but it probably is the most iconic car of the 1980s.

The car graces the DVD cover:

And Shout! Factory (who was responsible for the DVD release) put a lovely clip up on YouTube:

Cool. But then, our friends at Continuum Drag tweeted about Automan merchandise and made me want an Autocar of my own! At first, I publicly mused about 3-D printing one, but after looking into designs and pricing, I started looking at toy cars that already exist and could be repurposed, so that’s what I decided to do.

First stop, eBay! I picked up a Matchbox 1982 Lamborghini Countach LP500 for about $10, shipped.

A few things about this model for this project:

  • It’s green. Looking at the listing again, you can tell from the photos, but I guess I wasn’t looking that closely
  • It has “Lamborghini” scrolled across the sides
  • It has a spoiler
  • Technically it’s the LP500 rather than the LP400, but I am pretty sure the exteriors are the same

My first decision had to be whether I wanted to repaint the whole thing black. I decided against it. I’m not very good at painting (as you will see), and I worried that I’d botch it, and it would just end up looking awful. Plus, this toy is the most fun when the lights are off anyway! And the spoiler? I’ll just have to live with it.

So, paint. I learned from my baby mainframes the best paints to use for this kind of work were acrylics, and I went with Golden Artist Colors.

In the baby mainframe project I learned that putting on a coat of white paint over the black did wonders for having the subsequent color put on. Now, this is also true of the glow-in-the-dark paint, but it turns out the Light Ultramarine Blue I was using doesn’t need a white base coat. I could have saved myself a lot of time and ugliness if I had skipped the white base coat. Oh, well.

But as I said, a base on the green was important for the Spacebeams Aquaris glow-in-the-dark paint. When I put the glowing paint on without a base, it barely showed up. So the good news is, if you could put the blue coat on nicely, you could afford to be a little sloppy with the glowing paint. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at any of it, so my Autocar is a cute hobby craft, rather than a work of art. The glowing paint also is mostly transparent over the blue, but not totally, so it did make for a slightly toned down blue in the light.

But once the lights were off, I was totally in love! The colors were perfect!

It’s my very own toy Autocar!

Oh, yeah, I also got a t-shirt.

Once this was all complete, I felt a bit silly about it all. I’m a 40 year old woman with two small kids, and very little time to myself. This is what I spend it on? But this project is so very me that I kept me entertained and grounded through a transformative time in my life. It’s silly, but it’s mine, and right now I need more that’s just mine.