Paul Bennett describes it like the beginning of a love story. He was driving on the Turnpike near his home in the Redland a few years ago when a white 1983 Nissan Maxima with a For Sale sign swerved past.
Enamored, Bennett briefly gave chase but then gave up. Later, the same beautiful hooptie was idling in a residential neighborhood. Something about it spoke to Bennett, a tall, eccentric, and resourceful 40-year-old Miami International Airport mechanic and mango farmer who likes to make intricate, 120-volt mechanical sculptures in his free time.
He overpaid for the diesel-powered automatic ride, plunking down $3,000. Then, so he could safely leave his dogs in the car, Bennett bought two cooling fans to attach to the rear windows — and fastened a giant solar panel to the trunk to power them. He added a pan and a circulator near the front bumper to catch and recycle rain water for air conditioning.
tricked-out Nissan Maxima
Then Bennett affixed a rotating, rhinestone-studded hood ornament and a silver decal reading "The Time Machine."
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After $15,000 in custom changes — which are too numerous to enumerate here — Bennett is driving the most awesome, environmentally friendly 18-year-old Japanese sedan the world has ever seen. It's all stainless steel and spinning whirligigs and looks as cool as a postapocalyptic Mad Max dune buggy. Bennett cuts off Maseratis on the Dolphin Expressway, and the black smoke from his exhaust, which he rigged upward to mimic that of a semi truck, belches in front of them. More than once, cops have let him off the hook for a speeding ticket because the car looks so weird, he says.
The thing gets so much attention on the road that he installed a tiny billboard on the back and is now looking for advertisers. When Riptide first saw the world's greatest Nissan on the highway, we sped up and madly waved our business card.
Is there really any reason to ask Bennett why? "I can't have a regular car," he says mystically. "I have another car and a pickup truck that are plain. This is the show car."
He looks offended when we foolishly ask how the alterations might affect its resale value. "I'll never sell this car."