Making the list of top 100 rides
Wall Street Journal reporter A.J. Baime was on the line.
"Hey, I'm doing a book about my favorite rides, and I was wondering if I could include your Lamborghini in it?"
The question caught Crook County High School graduate Derek McCallister by surprise. Baime had already featured him and his white 1987 Lamborghini Jalpa restoration in the nationally renowned newspaper. Now, he wanted to put him in a book?
"I was pretty excited about that," the 34-year-old recalled.
McCallister took a long and winding path to his inclusion in "100 Dream Cars, The Best of My Ride," a hard-bound coffee table book that features a foreword by renowned racecar legend Mario Andretti. A self-professed small-town computer nerd, McCallister resisted continual attempts by his dad to get him working on cars.
"I love video games, so I spent more time as a kid avoiding working on cars with him," he said. "It was really not interesting to me at the time."
But he did like cars and was especially enamored with Lamborghinis.
"Lamborghinis to me have always been the things that dreams are made of," he said. "When I was a kid, I remember all the posters of Lamborghinis and all the Lamborghinis in video games. I would read stories about people who would buy them because they are beautiful and fast. It was dream to aspire to."
McCallister never left behind his computer-nerd ways — he currently works in software development in Bend — but he did later discover autocross. The idea of racing cars seemed like a lot of fun, so he jumped into the sport — only to break his first car.
"It was going to be expensive to fix, so I decided, 'I have to fix this myself,'" he recalled.
He suddenly found himself regretting the times he avoided auto repair lessons as a kid — learning how to fix it would not have taken so long — but he finally got it done and found a new hobby along the way.
"This is kind of cool, this is kind of fun," he thought. "I can do this myself, save myself some money, and then I can go back to the track and have some fun."
Car repair progressed to car modification, and again, McCallister realized he enjoyed the process. So, at around age 22, he bought his first car — but it wasn't a Lamborghini. It was a classic Porsche 924. The couple who had owned it had let it sit for 10 years, so it didn't run or even start.
"It was utterly destroyed," he said.
It wouldn't stay that way. McCallister got to work and eventually "brought it back to life and turned it into a track-day car."
Thus began what he calls his Porsche addiction. He would later own a 944, then a 914, then a 911. He has owned seven Porsches in the last decade — but a childhood fascination still gnawed at him.
"I had always wanted a Lamborghini," he said.Amid his car restoration efforts, McCallister found his way onto different online forums, and one of them catered to vintage Lamborghini enthusiasts. One day, one of those forum members told him if he really wanted a Lamborghini, he needed to stop spending all his time and money on Porsches.
So he sold them off, banked the money and about four years ago, he found the car he was looking for — a 1987 Lamborghini Jalpa. He got a great deal on it, but that was because it needed a lot of help.
"It was beat up and needed a whole bunch of stuff and needed to be rebuilt," he said.
As he took on the project solo and completed the work in a single-car garage, he wasn't exactly encouraged by his fellow car enthusiasts. He remembers a lot of people telling him that he was too young and didn't have enough car knowledge.
"It's going to be a parts car. You're wasting your time. Don't even bother. I was like, 'OK, watch me.'"
Baime writes in his book that the car needed new pistons and new valves, so McCallister bored out the cylinders and converted the motor to electronic fuel injection. He interviewed seven different machinists before finding one who could repair the cylinder heads. He took apart the entire interior, cleaned everything and redid the wiring.
All the while, McCallister posted updates about his project to the Lamborghini forums — and they got a ton of attention. He would end up with 50 pages of replies on Lambo Power and 66 more pages of responses on the Grassroots Motorsports forum.
So when Baime reached out to the Vintage Lamborghini Garage Club in search of a fresh and interesting feature story, they recommended the small-town Oregon computer nerd who had fixed up a 1987 Jalpa in his single-car garage.
"He called me and started talking to me about it," McCallister said.
Not one to wait, Baime said he would send photographers out in two weeks for a shoot. Wanting to make a good impression and ensure that his ride was in top form, McCallister took it out for a street tune the day before photographers would arrive. It didn't go as hoped. Rolling into the driveway, the car blew a coolant line. Coolant spilled all over the engine bay, and some wiring was damaged.
"I had just detailed the car," he said.
Panicked, McCallister made some stressful 11th-hour repairs that stretched beyond 4 a.m., but he managed to get everything fixed last-second.
"I was so frazzled, but it ended up being a wonderful experience," he said.
McCallister didn't expect to hear from Baime again, but a year later he found himself on the phone, being asked permission to feature his ride in a new book.
"We really don't have any Lamborghinis," Baime told him. "Would you be OK with me putting yours in there?"
It wasn't exactly a tough sell. He knew that Rizzoli New York, the publisher, had a reputation for putting out incredible books with extremely vivid photography.
"It is quite an honor to be in there," he said.
More time passed, and McCallister began to wonder when or if the book would ever see the light of day. Then finally, a couple of months ago, he received a copy. Turning to page 76 and seeing photos of him with his prized restoration and the accompanying write-up was a bit surreal.
"I don't know how to describe it," he said. "It is kind of interesting to see something that I spent four years restoring actually published in a book. It is kind of a Cloud 9 feeling. It has given me a lot of motivation to continue working on the car."
And there is certainly more work to do. McCallister said Lamborghinis are made in such a way that they are difficult to work on and require a lot of maintenance. While he has stolen some time during the summer to take the car on the road, much of his time has gone into additional restoration work.
His latest project involved redoing the gauges, which have never really worked properly.
"So I have actually pulled the old gauges out and have replaced them with LCD screens that are reading my standalone ECU I installed," he said. "I essentially made my own modern gauges for it."
Another project is sure to follow. McCallister said he is always improving and tweaking things, but it remains a labor of love.
"It is often said in the car community that a restoration is never finished," he said. "There are always little things you want to do on it."
Copies of "100 Dream Cars, The Best of My Ride" can be purchased on Amazon.com or on A.J. Baime's Facebook page.
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