It is a truth universally acknowledged that there are some things you can DIY, and some things you can’t. I myself grew up in a very handy household, but even my father handed down the sage advice of always hiring a professional for at least two aspects of maintenance: electricity and plumbing. Pallet planter? Go ahead. Roman blind? Have at it. But anything involving serious risk to life and limb was out.
Which is why I am full of admiration for the inventiveness of a certain homebrew community I read about this week. In the Soviet Union, car ownership was sporadic and limited to the basic, quasi-nationalized brands of cars that were less than reliable and even less than affordable. So, what was an Eastern Bloc car enthusiast to do? According to Jalopnik, build their own — from harvested parts, chunks of other machines entirely, and raw materials like fiberglass and glue. Misha Lanin writes:
“Resources aside, each homemade car is an incarnation of the creator’s automotive dreams, whatever they may have been — air scoops and spoilers and three-figure top speeds, morning commutes not on the dinky trolleybus, family mushroom picking trips deep into the woods.
Like the $19 million Bugatti La Voiture Noir, these cars are one-offs. But the La Voiture Noir is almost destined to endure a solemn existence, probably hidden for most of its life in a Swiss cave, languishing alongside various other supercars, some valuable art, and the Large Hadron Collider. The homemade cars of the Soviet Era were built to be driven, and driven often. (That’s primarily because those who built them had nothing else to drive.)”
Lanin further tells the story of a collector of these extremely limited-edition DIY vehicles, referred to only as Yura. Yura once displayed his own ingenuity when called upon to transport a new acquisition — a meticulously designed, but long mothballed, racing-style car its builder dubbed the Virus — from Volgograd to his home in St. Petersburg, a nearly 1700 km trip. Yura hitched the Virus to the back of another of his collector’s items, a sleek yellow car he called the LamborZhiga. With a minor jackknife on the way, Yura got his cars home — and remains one of the few deep appreciators of this lost art of automotive magic out there.
While I’d probably be terrified of driving one of these cars, I can recognize that they filled a need — and also scratched a creative itch. We at DFC are no strangers to building things from the ground up. Even in computing, if there hadn’t been someone to DIY the first iteration of some of our key concepts and products, where would we be now?