Hand-built Car Made Almost Entirely From Scavenged Parts


So you’ve swapped out your car’s motor or added new tranny. Perhaps you’ve rewired your ancient VW bus from 6v to 12v. Do you think that makes you a car expert? [Orismar de Souza] might beg to differ.

The homeless Brazilian native has spent the last four years of his life building a car from sheet metal and junked parts. He searched high and low across the region looking for parts, scoring a 125cc motorcycle motor, among other various components – mostly from old Fiats. He scraped together $270 while panhandling and simultaneously fighting off starvation over the span of four months in order to purchase enough sheet metal to skin the vehicle. Crafting the body panels by hand using a borrowed hammer and chisel, he nearly gave up, but was resolute in not letting his dream die.

The car features more amenities than you would imagine. It can hit 50 mph on the freeway and includes a real car ignition, which replaces the old motorcycle kickstarter. It was recently fitted with a new gearbox that allows him to go in reverse, and if you look at the picture above closely enough, you will also see that he even took the time to install a stereo.

We are totally blown away by [Orismar’s] “Shrimpmobile” – it definitely takes scavenging to a whole new level. Got any amazing stories of scrounging and hacking? Share them with us in the comments.

73 thoughts on “Hand-built Car Made Almost Entirely From Scavenged Parts

  1. “The car features more amenities than you would imagine.”

    Like the fact that it doubles as a casket for when anything hits it. The designer appears to have to forgot to design in crumple zones.

  2. ANyone else notice that the MUFFLER seems to be painted green? That would burn off in a few short runs and turn to a flakey powdery residue. If he has access and can afford to buy heat proof paint thats up to the job, let alone the custom made colour to match the body there, well then he cant be that poor, and for what the paint would have cost could have bought a small motorbike or car anyway.
    Cool story if its true, but highly highly doubt it.

  3. I love a good hack as much as the next person and I don’t mean to disparage this builder as there is something to be said for making things yourself.

    But there is also something to be said for your time being worth something. For $1000 or possibly even less, you can buy a working car that is better made. So in my opinion, this is a great display of resourcefulness but a poor display of practical use of time.

  4. Congrats to him. Although this is pure awesome…I would like to know why he is homeless if he is this resourceful. I’m not trying to knock him but maybe he could have spent this time changing his lifestyle in order to gain a home. I guess in some respects he did by building that car.

    It seems to me this would make more sense if we knew more about him.

    From a purely “epic point of view” this is awesome.

  5. @cutthroughstuffguy
    what do you mean by ‘a practical use of time’? He wasn’t getting paid to build it but the article said he used it to help find himself a job and a home. I’d kill to have the kind of resourcefulness and determination that this guy does, even if it doesn’t earn me the big bucks. besides, $0 is 100% cheaper than $1000. and he doesn’t need to worry that a mechanic’s going to screw him on a repair: he knows all the ins and outs of the car, there are no surprises to him, and he can fix it all himself.

    Would you have motorcycles be banned from the road? If he offers you a ride and you’re more worried about the lack of crumple zones than amazed at his ingenuity, feel free to decline.

  6. He spent four years building this car. Presumably he didn’t spend 16 hours a day building it but he obviously put considerable effort into it.

    $0 is cheaper than $1000, yes. But he still had to spend money to buy the parts. Then spend 4 years putting said parts together into a useful car.

    The thing that I think you are missing here is opportunity cost. What else could he have done with those four years? He could have obtained a job working even at a minimum wage and obtained far more money than it would have cost to build this car from parts and time. So if he could have done so, then that would have been a better decision than to spend so much time building this.

    He can fix it all himself but it will still take his time to do so and because it is so custom, nobody else is really qualified to fix it but him. I am technically able to fix just about anything on my car but that doesn’t mean I choose to exchange my time rather than money to do so because I can engage in other more productive things that earn more money than spending a day fixing a car. I still like to change my own oil and such but at some point in time you have to do a cost benefit analysis.

    I don’t think the creator of this ever bothered to do so but maybe I am being too harsh on the guy. He now has a car and that is great but don’t kid yourself that it cost him $0. Maybe he can now land a job fixing cars so that might be worth something. Who knows?

  7. “and includes a real car ignition, which replaces the old motorcycle kickstarter”

    OK… how does an ignition system replace a starting system? BIIIIIIIG coil?


    I agree. Late to the table, but my first thoughts on the post were “Homeless…getting a car. WHY??”

    Maybe to GTF out of there, but 4 years of walking would get one quite a ways away :)

    Overall, it makes me call shenanigans.

  8. @CutThroughStuffGuy: He could have obtained a job working even at a minimum wage and obtained far more money than it would have cost to build this car from parts and time.

    Um, I don’t think they have a minimum wage in Brazil.

  9. I think you missing a big point of this site… or at least what I think it is.

    Making/Building things, not because you can do it better than someone else or they can do it better than you, rather to learn how to do it your self.

    More so its often something you enjoy doing your self. I could pay someone to build my computers, or service my car But then what would I learn.

    Clearly this guy as an interest in building cars, and with out knowing him more I doubt he spent every hour of the day for 4 year working on it. So plenty of time to look for a job and doing the other things we are “supposed” to do with our lives.

  10. Brazil

    The Brazilian national minimum wage is adjusted annually. The minimum wage in 2009 was R$ 465 per month (which corresponds to R$ 23,25 per day and R$ 2,9 per hour).[14]

    2010= Brazilian minimum wage increased to R$ 510 per month (which corresponds to R$25,5 per day and R$ 3,18 per hour).[15]

    Brazilian states can set higher minimum wages, which may vary in different economic sectors.

    In Brazil each increase the minimum wage results in a significant burden on the federal budget, because the minimum wage is tied to social security benefits and other government programs and salaries.[16]

  11. you’re right, I did not note the amount of time it took him to build; the opportunity cost of 4 years worth of time is undeniable. that’s a lot he could have done with his life.

    but what if he actually wanted to spend 4 years of his life building a car? I don’t think this is a case of ‘well i have no money but lots of time, building a car is my only option’. I think he was doing something very fulfilling in those 4 years. Clearly his dreams didn’t involve making money as soon as possible as fast as possible (which you seem to say means making a ‘worse’ decision). sure he could have built a bike quicker and gotten a job sooner, maybe he’d have made some money so that his eventual car would be a little nicer, but the end result is this: he wanted to build a car and he didn’t let his unemployment or homelessness stand in his way. I’d rather the homeless guys on the corner use my donations to build cool stuff like this than buy booze.

    Besides, without a job there are more available hours in the day. building a car: 4 years. building a car while working a job: 10 years.

  12. “Besides, without a job there are more available hours in the day. building a car: 4 years. building a car while working a job: 10 years.”

    Besides, without a job there are more available hours in the day. Building a car: 4 years. Working a job: 1 year then buy said car.

    I still fail to see why building this car paid off anything except learning how cars work (which if that’s the point – great) but my point is there are *MUCH* easier / better ways to achieve the end goal of obtaining transportation.

  13. I’m dubious. I enjoy working on old vehicles myself, and I can’t fault the guys craftsmanship, but the whole “built out of junk by a homeless guy” is a stretch. He had to have had a garage and lots of $$$ tied up in tools to have built something that looks this good. Something just doesn’t jive here.

  14. This is godlike. He MADE a car, from scrap scavenged. This is like an unwritten Gingery book after “how to build a sheet metal brake”- “How to build a car from scrap”.

    I was just thinking today, if I started with nothing but a book, and dug up my own metals, and made my own tools, and worked by hand, how long it would take me to, without electricity and nothing but homebuilt tools Gingery style, build a working, flying ultralight helicopter.

    It seems this guy thinks like me, and as amazing as it is, true awe inspiring, what the hell does having a car do for a homeless man? I bet he didn’t calculate for the ridiculous gas prices now and realized that after 4 years, he could beg for a month and afford enough gas to go 10 miles.

    Someone, give this man a job as a mechanic- he’s more than qualified!

  15. Sometimes I wonder if the so called hackers that comment to HAD could. handle it if life threw them a box of lemons. When a person in the States says it took the X years to build or remodel or restore something do people really think they meant they spent all their time on it or do they understand they meant part time. 30 years ago dad and I built a shed from stuff scrounge from the old city, dump including the paint. Paint of all colors, brands . the result was an acceptable yellow most of it is still stuck to the metal that never received a prep job other than a light sanding to the original paint.

    For his efforts the mam has a shelter that will fellow him. Few will be tempted to steal it. The people who panhandles from will begrudge him the fact that he has a “car”, except if the read, comment to HAD :)

  16. You’re right that there are faster ways of merely obtaining transportation. but if all you’re looking for is the fastest and easiest way of doing something (and you’re going to criticize people for doing otherwise), why hack at all? I’ll continue to dump time into hobbies that don’t make me any money but are sure a lot of fun!

    Here are some of the payoffs you seem to have overlooked. building something, experience with creative fabrication, learning how cars work, recycling materials, doing a lot with very little, gaining transportation at a low price, doing something to get you noticed around the world, cementing the discipline to see a task through to the bitter end, pride in craftsmanship, pride in ingenuity, pride in creativity, self-expression, car doubles as a home, excellent resume item, given his publicity he could probably sell the car for more than it cost to make, probably more fuel-efficient than 99% of all enclosed vehicles, and probably a great story to tell the kids one day.

    Not all payoffs are monetary. That is why we hack.

  17. Oh who gives a crap if the guy was homeless or not- he built his own car. Very cool, but I wish there were more technical details.

    Of course, homeless could mean he didn’t have a home of his own, but was living with someone else and relying on someone else’s generosity in order to live. In that case a car would be a good tool to becoming independent, as it would allow you to travel to a job so you can work. Even living in the US I can understand where he’s coming from, as many people simply cannot get a local job that pays enough to be independent and are forced to commute in order to work.

  18. I knew of a guy in Dolgeville NY back in the early 90’s that built a full size pickup completely from junkyard and barnyard parts. That thing was awesome. It sort of looked like a dodge power wagon but it had a ford tranny and a chevy engine. The frame, cab & bed were welded together from all sorts of donors some of which weren’t even trucks… I remember the floor in the bed was the corrugated steel of an old silo.. It was amazing for a highschool farmboy to be able to do it, how the hell a homeless guy did it is beyond me.. Bravo

  19. “Not all payoffs are monetary. That is why we hack.”

    I agree but the payoff isn’t really monetary in this case and I never argued it was. I too love the learning process of figuring things out and that is one motivation behind hacking. But my point was merely pointing out if he wanted to make a car to become not homeless and get a job, there were probably far easier ways of doing it than spending 4 years and more money than it would have cost to just buy a used car. I don’t know the Brazil used car market that well but I could imagine that he could have bought a complete used car for what he paid for just the sheet metal.

    If cars were not available at all or not available for less than $20,000 or something amazingly high then I would applaud this hack much more. But because used, well made cars are available for so cheap, it just doesn’t seem to make sense to spend so much time and effort for, let’s be honest, a mediocre result.

  20. I see a lot of comments saying how its not practical, not street-worthy, and how he would’ve needed more money to do it.

    Living and visiting different countries in South America, I can assure everyone that this is plausable. I have seen my fair share of homemade looking vehicles over here.

    Also, for those saying the paint job looks too nice or someone had to have given him paint or more tools or money, this was a work in progress. When he first started driving this thing, I assure you there wasn’t even a roof on the thing. Notice in the link it says “Souza was able to replace the motorcycle engine’s kickstarter with a car ignition”. So he was still making changes on it then.

    What we see is the finished product after 4 years of changing and revising. All I can say to Souza is BRAVO! I wouldn’t have even known where to start.

  21. @arfink

    Good point. He may not be truly homeless living on the streets. The homeless I see definitely do not look like him.

    Nice work though. All he needs to do now is convert it to electric or bio-diesel and bum for french fry grease.

  22. The article linked to in the comments states that he saved up $450 over 4 months to go and buy the steel for the panels. Give me $450 (or the $270 that HAD says even) and a day and i can come back with a runnning licenced car with a tank of fuel to boot. The original article and i think even more so HAD are playing up the ‘poor homeless beggar man’ part of this story, indeed the original states EX homeless man. (the original article does not say he was fighting starvation. It says he chose to save money rather than buy food. Thats a deliberate choice not starvation.)

    It seems that what SHOULD have been said was “man builds his own car on small budget, discarded car and motorbike parts and handmade the panels to join it together, because he really really wanted to”

  23. @CutThroughStuffGuy
    Do you like hearing yourself speak or something?
    It is glaringly obviously you don’t understand the point of hacking so please-please-pleeeease just restrict yourself to the arduino threads.


    Awesome hack!!!

  24. Great achievement! Hats off to this guy, I wish I had one tenth of his patience!

    @CutThroughStuffGuy: This guy had no job but the car he built helped him to find one, so that the four years spent building the car actually gave value to his time.
    The fact that he found a job in a sugar cane field instead of as a mechanic speaks loud about the difficulties over there.

    That man is a monument to ingenuity and perseverance; he should be leading some big industry, not working in a sugar cane field.

  25. “man builds his own car on small budget, discarded car and motorbike parts and handmade the panels to join it together, because he really really wanted to”


    Or: “man builds his own car for the same price as a used car only it takes him far longer for an inferior result compared to a commercially available car because he really, really wanted to and that is perfectly ok – we like hacking and we encourage innovation and that is a really, really good thing. But let’s not over play this hack up simply because he was homeless.”

    This isn’t the story of somebody rising to fame, wealth and happiness through the direct result of their amazing hacking skills that allow them to take $0 and turn it into working cars and space ships and teleporters. This is a guy who spent more money and time building a car than he could have spent buying a used car or heck even a used motorcycle. I am not trying to demean the spirit of hacking or this man’s efforts. My point, which hasn’t changed here, is that there were FAR simpler, cheaper and easier ways of accomplishing his goal here.

    If the point was hacking for the sake of hacking – that’s completely fine. I applaud his efforts. It takes a lot to make this work. I am not and have not been demeaning of the ingenuity that went into this.

    However, what I do question is why if you need a car to further yourself along in life that you chose the clearly inferior option from the time, cost and end result perspective when you could simply find a COTS solution and be done with it. If it is about the experience then alright, I can respect that.

    Maybe I am just too practical in my hacking? Before I start a project I ask myself, is there a better way than starting from scratch and putting something custom together? Is there at least documentation available? Can I leverage others previous work to accelerate my outcome or improve the process? How many COTS parts can I incorporate into this project?

    To be fair, this gentleman did incorporate COTS parts. But the point I am raising is that is all well and good but in my opinion, he seems to have missed the outcome of finding a better, cheaper, faster way of achieving the same goal. That’s my only point here. And if like custom hot rod builders that was entirely the point then I guess it doesn’t matter. But I just don’t get the impression that is the case here. If so then I guess I am wrong and that is completely fine too.

    Hacking isn’t just about coming up with a barely working solution. I appreciate this hack for what it is and the time invested in it; but I don’t applaud it. A good hack (simple or extravagant) is well executed, clever in its methods, resourceful, reuses as much as it can and only seeks to reinvent the wheel if nothing else is available or that can be modified that can adequately accomplish the same task or series of tasks.

    Bottom line: If you can buy something that accomplishes the same result you seek to produce for less money and far less time AND achieve a far superior result then you wasted your time and you wasted your resources, even if the end result is functional and unique.

  26. As much as everyone hates to hear it, you said it all right there. What was the end point of all this for the guy? It does not seem like he built it to gain an understanding of the workings of a motor vehicle, or panel beating, or the internal combustion engine. He did not achieve a better or even comparable result than he could have got for the same amount of money and far far less work. What did he accomplish here at the end of the day? Could he not have spent his 4 years of time and money on getting an education, some actual job qualifications, or on his parents farm as mentioned in the article. He could have bought a far better car, what was the purpose in building it, what did he gain from it?
    I disagree with the above post on one point only: Even if you are going backwards in regards to time and money, if your project gives you a working knowledge of something you did not previously understand, then it would be worth it. Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case with our featured friend and his ‘car’

  27. I’ll take that as a “yes” then ;)

    “It’s the Journey NOT the Destination….”

    Some people just don’t understand that concept, even when they kick and scream they do *roll eyes*

  28. @CutThroughStuffGuy

    Cars in South America cost a lot more than they do in the states. To get a small used (crappy) little car in the states you can pay $500. But to do the same in South America it’ll normally cost about $2000. Please do not play down what he did.

    Let’s forget all the bullcrap if he was homeless or not. Just focus on he had limited funds and did what he could do.

  29. CutThroughStuffGuy: “Can I leverage others previous work to accelerate my outcome or improve the process? How many COTS parts can I incorporate into this project?”

    So Arduinos all around then?

    Leverages others work to accelerate my outcome? – check

    Improves the process? – Check

    COTS parts to incorporate into my project? – Check

  30. This reminds me of something I was thinking about the other day; I’d like to see someone build a car using completely non-OEM parts. For example, if someone just bought enough replacement parts to completely build what looks like a Honda Accord without ever actually having a Honda Accord. I think that would be pretty neat to see.

  31. Dudes… Just stop, who cares? Sure this story was probably exaggerated to some point, who are you to pick apart the life of a Brazilian guy that you read a paragraph about on some website. You keep talking about how “he could have been more resourceful with his 4 years” but look at you, you read a short paragraph and ended up writing a novel explaining how stupid a homeless man is to build a car instead of getting a real job.

  32. You just don’t understand how is brazilian life to realize the conditions and the story.

    Believe me: there’s no an exaggerated story.

    Some people just can’t get easily “a real job”.
    Osimar made the car with TRASH parts and DONATED parts(discarted from garages, lije the old 125 cc engine).

    What this guy did was incredible EVEN for who lives here.

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