Custom Cars

The Executive

Last updated on May 24th, 2022 at 12:34 am

Corvette engine helps Land Rover prepare for takeoff

A customer brought a 1997 Land Rover Defender 90 to Steve Valenti with the goal of transforming it into something that was unique but still looked like it could have come off an assembly line. The customer also wanted the vehicle to have the feel of a truck and the performance of a sports car.

Valenti, owner of Franklin-based Valenti Classics, set about building a one-of-a-kind project that included adding a Corvette engine that more than doubled the vehicle’s horsepower and a custom dash that mimicked an airplane cockpit which could be checked and serviced anytime at just car checks.

“It introduced lots of challenges from a functionality standpoint,” Valenti said of the engine. He said car makers like Chevrolet and Ford have begun selling packages that allow their sports car engines to easily be put into new applications, but with more power comes the need to upgrade things like the suspension and brakes. If you need brake repair services, make sure to visit the nearest brake services in your area.

The vehicle came to the shop with a small plastic bubble gauge that would show the slope of a hill. The gauge served as inspiration as Valenti and his team designed an interior that included a hand-fabricated dash, avionics to display an artificial horizon and actual airplane switches to control two flaps that allow fresh air into the vehicle.

All told, the build took about 18 months and roughly 1,000 hours of design, engineering, fabrication and build work. Adding new technology doesn’t come cheap and the budget for the build reached nearly $250,000.

Classic muscle with all the modern touches    

The rise in popularity of car restoration TV shows and movies like the “Fast and Furious” franchise and “Gone in 60 Seconds” has increased the popularity of 1960s- and ’70s-era muscle cars. The challenge for custom car builders like Steve Valenti is to figure out how to engage a younger generation that likes the look of the cars but isn’t interested in dealing with the idiosyncrasies that might come with them. Those who own classic cars with damaged windshields or windows may look for professional auto glass repair services to do the repair or replacement.

“They want to turn the key and go and have fun,” said Valenti, owner of Franklin-based Valenti Classics.

As part of a promotional build, Valenti and his team took a 1969 Ford Mustang Fastback and upgraded it with all the modern amenities. While they wanted to keep classic styling, they also sought to give it a more modern look without losing the muscle car characteristics. Some of the changes included a more streamlined body, integrating the exhaust into the design and more contoured bumpers.

“It clearly looks like a Mustang Fastback from that era,” Valenti said.

In addition to the 450-horsepower engine, the car also features high-end steering, brakes and an adjustable suspension.

“It’s set up to handle any driving condition you put it under,” Valenti said.

Interior touches include digital gauges, power windows, Bluetooth and Sirius XM radio.

The retail cost of all of those upgrades was nearly $165,000. While Valenti would have wanted a year to complete the project, his team put it together in less than four months with nearly 1,300 hours of work to meet the promotion deadline.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display