Paul Bennett spent $3,000 on his 1983 Nissan Maxima. The Miami International Airport mechanic guesses he's sunk another $15,000 in DIY renovations, turning the vehicle, which has 200,000-plus miles, into a creation straight out of Mad Max.
First, 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. Because a growing amount of strange equipment -- including a generator for power outlets he added to the interior -- was filling his trunk, he built a special silver box jutting from the back of the Nissan for storage space.
Then Paul -- a part-time mango farmer who likes to make intricate, 120-volt mechanical sculptures in his free time -- added a spinning hood ornament adorned with fake diamonds. And he stripped the car of its corporate logo, emblazoning it with silver decals reading "The Time Machine" instead.
Today, it's officially the most awesome-looking, environmentally friendly 28-year-old Japanese sedan we've ever seen -- which is why when he passed us on the highway, we sped up and madly waved our business card.
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At least once, cops have let him off the hook for a speeding ticket because the car looks so weird, he says. 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. The guy is an American hero.
The thing gets so much attention on the road that he installed a tiny billboard on the back and is now looking for advertisers. 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 effect its resale value. "I'll never sell this car."