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. @Wagner Felix — Us 1st Worlders often don’t understand what goes on in some countries. For instance, I was on a medical missions trip to Guatemala… some guy wandered in off the street, showed us his license to PRACTICE MEDICINE (yes, he was an MD), and asked if he could help us with our mission work in exchange for a little food for his family.

    It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that a relatively-skilled individual had tools but no job, thus plenty of time to build a car out of trash.

  2. I applaud this work of expert salvage. Coming from a place where most people around me just throw money at every problem, it’s immensely important to me to teach my children the ability, virtue and value of salvage and repurpose in general.

    Thanks for putting this online.

  3. This is bs; where’d the chassis come from, the windows that all match, the bumpers, etc,? Maybe what I think building a car from salvaged parts is and the author’s is very different, but this is not something a guy with no tools but a hammer and chisel did. I do believe utilizing old things is important, but to say this is a hand built car is a flat out lie. I looks like an old car was fitted with a new power plant and possibly got a little body work, then given a new paint job. Nothing more exciting that putting a 350 in an S10. We’ve been doing stuff like this for more than 100 years in southeast MO. It is nice to see something a poor guy doing what he has to do get a little attention though. There’s too many out there that have no idea what it’s like to take a bunch of junk and get the job done.

  4. Various artists, architects etc. have to build up portfolios of work to tout for business. Engineers often have final year project where they build something to show their skills.

    This guy has not only shown his skill, he has shown determination, resourcefulness and a damned sight more imagination than some of the more negative posters in this thread.

    This is the best CV/resume he could give himself.

  5. …this guy were homeless, from the streets. Here in Brazil, I can say that 99% of the homeless people are analphabet, so, this guy build his own car, from scrap, without ANY knowledge about it. And he started with a hammer and a chisel.
    I really think that the american people don’t know about Brazil’s situation. I’m not blamming anyone, but you simply can’t say he “could get a job”. C’mon, he was a hobo! How many hobos you people know could get a job, save money and buy a car? And, if now he is an ex-hobo AND have his car, MADE BY HIMSELF, I think he is a fucking genius and an example of perseverance. No, I don’t think a car is that important, but accomplish your dreams is…

  6. I’m very dissapointed and ashamed of almost all comments here…

    I DO live in latin-america (Argentina), and I can assure you that the story could be 100% true. GO AND READ THE ARTICLE, he had donated things also (like the 125cc engine), and he scavaged A LOT (4 years is a lot of time).
    Here cars are REALLY expensive, you could never get a running car for 500$ here (just maybe an old 50cc moped).

    Also, i DO know two homeless guys, and both are good people and CHOOSED to live that way, they aren’t intrested in getting real jobs. And I can assure you that it’s VERY difficult to get a job in latin-america, and if you’re a homeless, almost impossible.

    Don’t say the first thing that comes to your mind, think about it two times, and think also WHERE this dude lives and the conditions of the place.

    PS: In the article you can read that his whole-life dream was to build his own car, and that’s what he did. I’m very, very proud of that man. When i go to brazil i will try to find him to felicitate him and strech his hand.

  7. @CutThroughStuffGuy, @essjay
    You’re both idiots. He did not work on this car CONTINUOUSLY for 4 years, that’s just the length of time it took to get to where it was. Scavenging for working parts takes time, and would have happened around the essential stuff of getting food to eat, water to drink, etc… If he had all the parts at the beginning and had his life essentials sorted (i.e. if he was working on it full time) he could’ve put it together in much less time than a year. Think about it like a part-time project and hopefully the penny drops.

    Anyway, bravo Orismar, truly inspiring. : )

  8. I never suggested his accomplishment was not noteworthy nor did I suggest he took 4 years of constant work to complete this. What I did suggest was there were probably easier/faster/cheaper ways to achieve the same or better end outcome given the abundance of cheap, used cars on the market today.

  9. @CutThroughStuffGuy
    No, what you implied was pretty clear. Your implication was that it was quicker to earn money and pay for a functioning second-hand car. To make this stick you use the 4 year figure as if he worked on it for all this time, i.e. as his only priority. “For $1000 or possibly even less, you can buy a working car that is better made.” Seeing as the guy made roughly $270 in four months (and putting his health at risk doing so, by the sounds of it), you’re saying he could pay for a car in 16 months if he worked as much as he could for 16 months and only spent the bare minimum.

    Even if that $1000 figure is true (which neither of us know, as I can safely say the used-car market in Brazil is not our forte), 16 months of full labour is a lot of work. Instead, the guy was smart, scrounged parts where he could, and came up with a working vehicle using LESS effort than earning the money to buy one (as I said, you could put together a car in less than a year if you had all the parts to hand, kit car builders manage it, even first-timers). Most of the parts would have been working as-is, the main custom parts are the body panels.

    You also used outstanding insights like:
    “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.”
    Show me any country where you can buy a fully functioning car for a lower price than sheet metal, and I’ll show you a country that has 100% record of recycling old cars (hint: they’ll be the same country).

  10. You dont know the realities in Brasil.

    (I am a brazilian).

    You CANT buy a car with U$450. Thats circa R$800 and wont buy you anything worthwhile.

    The minimal entry point for a (working) used car here is circa R$4000 or US$2000.

    On the other hand is quite plausible that he was homeless.

    Our social divide is too big.

    Thats quite a strange country, we can even reach the space and place sattelites there, we can build complete fighter planes down to radars (if the government wanted really hard to do).

    But we cannot still solve the social problems properly…

  11. @CutThroughStuffGuy

    Go watch “pimp my ride” show.
    You demonstrate that you don’t know other reality than that.
    “We need a new engine, ohhh! There’s, Ford sent a new one to us” [pretty cool huh?]

    1st: you dont have the hacking spirit;
    2nd: you dont know brazilian social and economic reality;
    3rd: your life must be very easy to dont understand how difficult is to reach your dreams when you have nothing.

    To others Hackaday readers, sorry about this.

  12. I think it’s pretty cool, and would like to drive it, if the guy would let me!
    I spent a few years building a wheeled ROV, however it was my job that provided most of the off the shelf parts, and fabricating facilities to boot.
    This guy built a car using primitive (by comparison)tools and techniques, exhibiting an incredible amount of resourcefulness, has a working machine as the outcome, and people are actually going out of their way to bash it/him or both? Like analysis of his life kinda stuff?


    I see nothing negative about the project or the builder and applaud the efforts that brought about the results if it suits the builder.

    Look, when I start bashing the content that is the POINT OF THE WEB SITE I take that as a sign that I’m not into the web site anymore and I go and find a web site that features something I can feel positive about.

    I would invite several of my fellow commenters to consider the same.

  13. maths maths maths. Pretty sure the car situation in Brazil isn’t worse than in Peru. $1200 buys a running 87 passat (two weeks ago). Non-running could be had for $800. So two years of “normal” working could get you something fixable in that size, or a volvo that runs. “I did it because they said I couldn’t” still applies, but let’s not pretend the dude is a paradigm of efficiency.

  14. @Sowee, you may be right. It seems the most intelligent and resourceful of us tend to get sued into the ground because they did something that someone with more money than intelligence disagreed with. Natural selection in this country favors the gullible and impressionable, free and intelligent thought is frowned upon and punished at every turn. In the USA such a feat as building a car from junk would undoubtedly result in the inability to use or register it, because one has to prove origin of the components. If it is not a restored factory built car one must prove origin of the vehicle and register as a manufacturer to legally issue a certificate of origin. Once that is sorted out the vehicle is considered a current model year and in many states must pass the same emissions and safety tests that brand new cars do.
    If this man had built his car here it would have been an expensive up hill legal battle if he ever wished to drive it.

    I think the attitude of some of the posters here is simply a reflection of the way we are forced to solve problems. In the USA, it’s “buy it or GTFO”.Hell, I bought my current car for $175 and it runs great and gets me where I need to go. Were I to build it from junk… I couldn’t buy the SCRAP for that price, nevermind the 4 new tires it came with.

    So in Brazil, things are different. I applaud the efforts of this man and the generosity of the people that gave him the junk for free. But to those bashing those who are pointing out how they in their country would have solved this problem.. we solve problems. Thats what we do. And the rules are different everywhere.

  15. People that say a homeless person should “get a job” are completely ignorant. Some obvious points:

    To have a job you need an address for employment forms and tax reasons otherwise you cannot be paid.

    They need some kind of stable accomodation first to store clothes, shower and keep work tools/documents.

    –Hence a car being a good idea–if they cannot afford rent or to buy a house a car gives shelter and means to travel to find help, future work etc

    They may have had a job and lost home due to rent increase, eviction, natural disaster, injury…
    There are many reasons a person could be homeless.
    Not because of “bad lifestyle”

    Efforts like this are amazing against such stigma, adversity and ignorance found with some people in society.

    5) If you are still doubting on the subject try gaining employment while unable to provide an address or as a homeless person and see how many companies would hire you.

    People should consider that before thinking this was a waste of time.

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