Step by step
How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
That's what Derek McCallister's friend suggested more than four years ago when McCallister was trying to figure out how to restore his 1987 Jalpa Lamborghini sports car.
"So that's basically what I did," the 2003 Crook County High School graduate says. "I would set something aside every day, and after work and on the weekends, I would choose just one thing to do on it, and I would just slowly go at it. I started with the interior, moved to the engine. It was a long process."
His love for Lamborghinis and his dedication to bringing an old one back to life earned him a half-page feature article in the Jan. 3 Wall Street Journal.
"It was really cool that they did it. I'm super excited about that," the 32-year-old son of Prineville residents Dale and Ramona McCallister says of the feature.
"When I was a kid, I always had posters of exotic cars on my wall," says McCallister, who now lives in Redmond. "They were always art to me. Some people like pictures in art — I like cars in art. They're not practical, but they're beautiful, and they're motivating to me."
He says the '70s and '80s are his favorite generation of cars — he likes the engineering that goes into them.
"I like the leatherwork on the interior, everything just kind of comes together, and it's really super beautiful to me," he says. "There's no reason to buy one other than the fact that you like a car."
McCallister joined some car clubs and eventually ended up with two 1980s Porsche sports cars, but his true love was the Lamborghini.
Fellow members of the Lambo Power club told him that if he kept spending all of his money on Porsches, he would be holding himself back from getting a Lamborghini. He realized they were right, so he eventually sold his Porsches.
He called his friend Jason, who owns Maniac Restoration and Racing in New Jersey, and told him he was on the quest for an Urraco or Jalpa Lamborghini to restore.
That same day, Jason was telling one of his customers that a buddy was looking for one, and the customer said he had a Jalpa that he was willing to sell.
So, Jason drove up to New York, snapped a bunch of pictures and told McCallister that the white 1987 sports car was in need of a lot of work but was confident his buddy could restore it. The engine was seized, the electronics were ruined, and the interior was trashy.
McCallister was willing for the work and the $20,000 price tag, so he hired a transport company to ship it to Redmond. That was late summer of 2013.
He spent his days working as a data center technician at a Bend data center, and his evenings and weekends restoring his Lamborghini, which would have sold for $65,000 when it was new in 1987.
"They made very few of these. They only made 410," McCallister says of the two-seater Jalpa 3.5 liter, noting that Lamborghini only made the model from 1981 to 1988.
"This thing probably sat for 10 or 11 years," McCallister says. "It obviously sat for a really long time because there was no sign that this car had run in a very long time."
Over the next four years, McCallister cleaned up the interior, replaced the wiring, repaired the engine, and converted it to electronic fuel injection. His buddy detailed the interior and buffed the original white exterior paint.
The engine cost him another 20 grand, and he spent even more on the little miscellaneous parts and services.
"I've never put $20,000 into an engine before. So it's a bit unsettling at times when you realize you're tuning an engine that expensive. But, I love it, so it's all good. I think the most expensive engine rebuild prior was one of my Porsche motors for about 5K," he laughed.
He says the Lamborghini Jalpa is now worth $100,000.
"I love it," McCallister says, adding that it's all modern now with electronic fuel injection. "I only have to plug in my laptop to make changes in an old '80s engine," he laughed.
More recently, A.J. Baime, a journalist with the Wall Street Journal, contacted Jack Riddell, who runs the Vintage Lamborghini Garage. The international car club has a few hundred members, including McCallister.
Baime was looking for a Lamborghini to write about and wanted to know if Riddell knew of any interesting projects in his club.
"Well, as a matter of fact, there's a kid in Redmond who restored one," Riddell told the reporter. "They sent him my way, and they ended up doing an article," McCallister says.
Last month, the Wall Street Journal sent a freelance photographer from Portland to take pictures of McCallister and his Jalpa, asking for specific details.
"We spent about an hour and a half taking photos, all the different angles of the car, driving the car, and the engine bay, everything they could," McCallister said, adding that the photos were taken in his Redmond neighborhood.
Baime then did a phone interview with McCallister and wrote a 400-word article. It was published online Jan. 2 and in the Jan. 3 print edition of the Wall Street Journal, a New York City daily newspaper with a circulation of about 2.277 million.
Last week, McCallister was doing some winter maintenance on the car.
"They're a rather high-maintenance car, so they always need something," he laughed.
He wants to go to Portland International Raceway with it this summer and do some track days. He also plans to take some road trips.
He'd like to drive to Monterey Bay, California, in August to attend the Concorso Italiano car show. Jack Riddell, the owner of the Lamborghini Vintage Garage, will be there, as well as Valentino Balboni.
"Valentino was the original test driver for Lamborghini, and he's sort of like a legend," McCallister says.
Now that the Lamborghini is pretty much complete, he plans to restore a 1980 Porsche.
But, he says, his Lamborghini is an original, and he plans to keep it around.
"I'm not going to sell this one. I put way too much work into it," McCallister says. "It is definitely mine."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.