It’s Project Car State of the Union time once more and I’m still without some sort of actual project car. It comes down to space issues, really. But I have a terabyte of space on my gaming PC… In an effort to contribute something for the SOTU this year, I fired up Grand Theft Auto V and… well, I “made” a project car.
This idea came up one night because I got bored. Rather than going outside and making friends, I immersed myself in the digital world of Los Santos, San Andreas in Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V for some shenanigans. I was playing with some of the new cars they added to the game when I had the urge to change gears and take on some sort of old “project car”, as hoons do.
What followed was about three hours of pure infatuation with an assortment of pixels on my screen loosely resembling a real car. Three hours of my life went by before I snapped back into reality; I ended with no physical manifestation of my work to show for it, but the fun was certainly real.
Say hello to Project Voodoo, a car that exists only on my hard drive and in my heart…. because I could.
I wasn’t too sure on what exactly I wanted to take on at first, but it didn’t need to be fast and it didn’t even really need to be sporty at all. As I searched on Los Santos’ Craigslist which totally legitimately exists and wasn’t just made up with injecting my own HTML into the real thing, I started to lean towards older American cars for their beauty, ease of maintenance, and because they’re perfect for cruising with. San Andreas is definitely a cruiser’s paradise, so that part was settled.
Many minutes (which is, like, days in GTA time) and many more beers went by, and despite the 1st-grade-levels of reading comprehension and typing skills I was acquiring, I found the one. I had stumbled upon the perfect project. It was big, beautiful, and “RUNS 100% GRAET”.
Here’s what I was working with…
It’s a 1960 Declasse Voodo, one of the most recognizable and most luxurious cars of the period. It was the range-topping luxury coupe in its day and was bought mostly by business managers and bankers because they were typically the only ones who could afford it. Families typically went with other sedans or wagons from the brand because they were more practical and a fair bit cheaper. You were somebody important if you had one of these.
Then the 80’s came, and you were suddenly a drug lord or in the mafia if you had one of these. The Voodoo became notorious for being the car of choice for some pretty bad people and law-abiding owners were offloading theirs for cheap, desperate to not stand out anymore. But now that most of them have moved on to other cars, it’s possible to drive one of these without being put on a no fly list. I think.
I had my sights set on this one because it seemed like the perfect project for the perfect price. I could hardly believe someone was selling a Voodoo for just $800, but I figured something was up from the minute I called the seller. He didn’t know a damn thing about it.
Me: “Does it have the two-speed auto or the three-speed manual?”
Seller: “… Yes”.
Me: “Is it the 283ci V8 or the 348?”
Seller: “I don’t know how to open the hood”.
He seemed really anxious to get rid of the thing though. His kid, “uh… Billy”, had a rare face disease and he needed some extra cash, he said. I mentioned I was interested in taking a look the next day, but he responded by offering it for a lower price if I drove it home that day. So I “borrowed” a friend and his tow truck and headed straight for the paradise that is the Grand Senora Desert.
And there it was.
“Uh… where’d the bullet holes come from?”, I asked. He said to not worry about it but asked repeatedly if I was followed. At this point I got a little nervous about the whole thing until my friend reassured me that we probably wouldn’t be murdered that day as long as we played it cool.
In an effort to lighten the mood, I asked how he acquired such a rare car. It’s not often you get to see one of these on the streets and not in an impound lot. “It was weird, man. I walked up to this dude and was like ‘HEY MAN’ I mean uhm, ‘hello sir can I buy this’ and dude just straight up ran away. He practically gave it to me – for a perfectly reasonable price”.
My friend jokingly said it “sounds like it was a steal“. The buyer didn’t like that. My friend is a real asshole.
The inspection continued and it started to get worse. There were bullet holes all over the hood, down the side, and even carried on to the rear. A couple of windows were completely shot out and a few lights were too. The rust was also a fair bit worse than I was expecting too, but it wasn’t missing anything. This was the only way I was going to get a Voodoo for under a thousand so I knew I had to live with it.
Surprisingly, it really did run and it did in fact have a nice big V8. It was a 348ci V8 which should be good for up to 330 horsepower. It’s not exactly rare because plenty of people had them, but it’s definitely the one to have. The engine looked much nicer than anything on the exterior did, so someone probably put some money into this recently.
The interior was another thing that surprised me. Despite the broken glass, empty shell casings laying around, and this mysterious powder I found in the glove box, it was in remarkably good shape. The leather was fairly worn from decades of sun exposure but it was nothing my boy Benny couldn’t fix.
The seller became even more agitated at this point and lowered the price to $600 if we just left with it ASAP. So back to Los Santos it went.
The same friend with that awesome Vapid tow truck happens to own a Los Santos Customs shop and he agreed to help me with some of the work. He had all the tools I needed, so it went straight to his shop rather than my garage. At that point I still didn’t know for sure what I wanted to do with the thing. I had tons of ideas that were all equally dumb, so while I sorted those out, we got to work on the essential hardware underneath the flawless skin.
The motor was in fact newer than the rest of the car but you’d never be able to tell by the way it ran. On the rare occasions in which it fired up on its own it would sound more like bricks in a dryer than a V8. It was more trouble to fix than it was worth, so a brand new one went in.
It was a similar story with the transmission. It wasn’t original and it was worn to hell, so a new five-speed manual took its place. With a better engine and transmission combination paired up, it was now hilariously slow instead of dangerously slow.
Now that it was making proper power and had a transmission to handle it, a full brake system overhaul was necessary. Full discs at each corner worked wonders on a car which tipped their scales at 3,700 pounds. That plus an all-new suspension package meant the car was finally drivable. It still looked like a rolling latrine, but it worked.
While we got things running properly, another one of the shop guys got to work prepping for the new paint job. In no time at all, bullet holes were covered up and the old raggedy ass paint was gone. There was still a bit of rust on the trim left, but we decided another friend, Benny, was the man for that.
Benny owns the best low-rider shop in the state and has probably touched more Voodoos than anyone. I knew it would be in good hands, so we sent some of the body panels ahead for a full restoration while we put everything else back in. Mechanically, it was just about perfect.
With the tetanusmobile in his shop, we finally decided on an awesome look for the thing. He said I chose well and that he’d be in touch when he and his team were done with it. Several minutes (which is, like, days in GTA time) went by before I got the call….
You remember how that one TV show with Xzibit would show people going apeshit over the sight of their former crap can looking all nice and shiny? I had that kind of reaction.
I tried to be as involved with every stage of this project as possible, but Benny insisted on leaving me out of his work so he could surprise me. This was my first time seeing it with actual paint and completely rust free. It was stunning.
The color I chose was dark blue metallic with a fluorescent blue pearlescent effect added in. It’s rich in color but it absolutely pops in direct sunlight and it goes perfectly with the refinished chrome. Ideally I would’ve kept the two-tone look with bright white down the sides, but I wasn’t allowed to. Thanks, game.
Most of the chrome was replaced because a majority of it couldn’t be saved from the rust. The bumper was too shot to be reused (literally) so they instead gave me a recreation from a ’62 model which not only looks nicer but is also quite a bit lighter than the old one because it uses less metal.
Only the wheels were missing but that’s because I was still trying to track down a set. Benny hooked me up with these steelies to hold me over.
They even dressed up the engine bay with color-coded valve covers and shinier velocity stacks. It sings through a new set of test pipes which split into quad tips.
Their interior guy had a field day in here. The leather looked and felt fantastic, probably better than how it left the factory. It’s all black with white inserts and the color scheme continues throughout with new brushed aluminum door inserts.
I opted to keep the steering wheel factory-spec even though most Voodoo owners put in the fancier wooden wheels that came with the later models. Fun fact: these steering wheels were originally painted white because it attracted less heat in the days when AC didn’t work terribly well, but later owners were more appreciative of its usefulness at concealing cocaine residue.
I finally a 99% completed project and a Voodoo I wasn’t embarrassed to drive around. Driving it out of that garage was one of the greatest feelings of my sad life. Blood, sweat, carpal tunnel, and beers were poured into this crap can and it finally looked presentable. This was it; my first project car was ready to find the open highways. No longer was it a latrine on wheels. It was a proper American classic ready to dominate.
This called for a burnout.
I picked up my vanity plates that same day. I was pleasantly surprised to find that HOONIVRS was still available given our overwhelming popularity. Now she was officially mine.
I actually started to like the way it looked on those borrowed steelies, but I managed to find a legitimate seller who had the wheels I was looking for – just in time for the cords to start showing on the rear tires… oops. The seller offered me a few hundred off the asking price if I met him alone that same night at the rail yard in East Los Santos. I got a little nervous about the whole thing but my friend offered save my tools if I was never seen again.
It was one of the sketchiest deals in my life, but I got my wheels despite some rather… unfortunate circumstances. It was weird, the dude just ran away and practically gave them to me… at a reasonable price, of course. All four wheels were stuffed in the trunk with room to spare and would be mounted the next day.
On the way back that night I also discovered that my car could shoot fire. As we know, cars which can shoot fire are better than those which cannot. I spent the rest of the night doing that in front of EV charging stations.
The next day I got to see how she looked with the new shoes on. They’re Benny’s Originals “Spindles” and I quite like them. Most other Voodoos have lowrider-style wire wheels or some other kind of steelie, but I think a good five-spoke design fits them just as well.
At this point, it was 100% done. It ran perfectly, looked perfect, and I wasn’t put on a no fly list. I left the shop that day and brought her home for the first time. Within minutes of shutting it off I had the urge to just keep driving. Years of dreaming, a couple hours of clicking, and two probably illegal business deals went into building the project car of my dreams. I couldn’t bare to not be driving it for every waking moment.
The next morning I climbed back in and fired it up. There was no hesitation from me or the Voodoo as I pointed that long hood down the longest road I could find.
I drove on for hours and hours with the beautiful San Andreas sunrise as my backdrop. I didn’t really have a destination in mind but I wasn’t turning around until I couldn’t keep my eyes open – or until the game crashed, which was more likely.
But as I went from county to county, it never skipped a beat. The ride was smooth, the engine never hesitated, and nobody shot at me. It was also still spitting fire, which made me happy.
I ended my drive on the northernmost beach in the state. I was on the exact opposite side of the map from where I started and it went by all too fast. I could’ve done it for hours more but I decided I had escaped reality for long enough. I saved the game and signed off with my character and my Voodoo in this same spot, so now it’s waiting for me in the same spot every time I load it up.
And that’s all I have to show for it. A string of ones and zeroes on a hard drive is all that defines this “project”. I’ll never be able to physically drive this car but it was still something I became emotionally attached to. A project car is something you dive into because it allows you to spend time doing what you love. It’s a way to learn a new skill or perfect the ones you’ve already acquired. Either way, you end up exactly the kind of car you wanted and it’s something you can enjoy for the rest of your life.
For as long as that hard drive still works, I’ll certainly have something I can enjoy.
Thanks for reading.