What started out as a father and son project to build a replica of a Lamborghini out of their garage, has not only captured the imagination of people from around the world but also attracted the attention of the supercar maker itself.
As a follow up to its 2018 “Real Lamborghini Lover” Christmas video, Automobili Lamborghini chose to feature Sterling Backus with his 12-year old son Xander, and their 3D-printed life-sized replica of an Aventador SV called the “Interceptor” in its 2019 Christmas video.
In the video, Sterling talks about the work that goes into his remarkable home-built creation and what inspired it, while Lamborghini treated the family to a surprise Christmas present by slipping a real Aventador S into the garage and letting the family experience the real deal for themselves for a few days.
“When I got the phone call from Lamborghini to do a feature, I was completely blown away, it was epic,” said Backus to WhichCar. “It was like getting a call from the Pope, and he wants to come for dinner!
“Consider this, in my job designing optics and lasers for research, I deal with a lot of Nobel Laureates and relatively intelligent folk that are known around the world, and when Lamborghini called me, I was very nervous. And to this day I’m still starstruck when I talk to them.
“Ever since I was a child, I’ve always dreamt of having one, and this is was a way to realise that childhood dream and at the same time use it as an educational tool. It is something me and my family will never forget.”
The project, which was inspired by a Forza Horizon 3 gaming session, has been ongoing for nearly two years, with all the CAD (computer-aided design) work, 3D-printing and its construction being carried out from the Backus’ family home in Erie, Colorado.
The Interceptor’s construction was based around a 1/10th scale CAD model Backus sourced from the internet. Using the wheelbase and track width measurements of the real car as reference points, Backus scaled up the drawing in Solidworks, filled in details to refine the model further, and printed the panels using three 3D printers he bought off Amazon.
The story, which our sister publication MOTOR initially reported back in July, did attract commentators who questioned the legal issues surrounding replica supercar builds, which was a topic of discussion at the time.
Lamborghini still maintains that, while the company is against any attempt at counterfeiting its cars, it has made an exception in Backus’ case. Seeing that is is evident that Backus has no intention of making a sale from his creation and built the Interceptor purely out of the family’s passion for Lamborghini cars, the company deemed his efforts “a true story of authentic passion that deserves to be featured.”
Despite the international attention his project has attracted, it hasn’t fazed the father of three, who is a research scientist with Thorlabs and holds an appointment in the Colorado State University. “I’ve met new people who are very interested in the project that I’m doing, but besides that, things haven’t changed a whole lot of me, which is good.”
Even so, Backus has soldiered on, building the Interceptor part by part and keeping his three original 3D printers rather busy, one of which has been printing panels non-stop for the past 15 months.
“The big reason for having the printers running is that we have had a lot of failures, this is part of the scientific process. You fail, but you learn from your failures, which is the important part,” Backus said.
Despite learning a lot of the methods used in the Interceptor’s build, such as 3D printing and encapsulating the printed panels in carbon fibre, by himself, Backus has managed to get his creation close to a roadworthy condition. Two months ago, Backus fired up its Corvette-sourced 5.7-litre V8 engine and drove it under its own power, albeit for a short distance.
“It runs and drives, we had some hiccups that we are still working out, and we are still finishing up the panels, the electrics and the interior,” he added. “We still have a way to go to make it roadworthy.”
Even his optimistic early budget of making the car under $20,000 USD has been surpassed, as he managed to source used Aventador interior trim pieces to furnish the interior and make it more like the real supercar.
“Looking at it right now, I think it will probably end up somewhere in the region of $25,000 or $27,000 (~$36,000 - $39,000 AUD). We are car guys, and we are always going to blow our budget for our passion!” Backus laughs.
That being said, Backus’ project isn’t destined for the local car meet or a track day, instead, he wants to get it on the road and drive it to the local school.
“We hope to get it on the road by October next year. I want to drive it to school, to show and draw the kids in and start a conversation on the importance of education in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math), how it goes into a machine like this, and tell them why they are learning and how important it is!” said Backus.
For Backus, a finished product isn’t the only lesson he wants others to take from this endeavour.
“Failure is part of success. That is the main talking point here. I think a lot of children these days are under pressure to succeed but they also need to learn how to fail as well,” he said.
“It is what you do after you fail that matters, do you learn from the process or do you repeat it? Things are not going to work the way you wanted to, you will be frustrated, but it is what you do afterwards.”
What will Backus do when it is finally made roadworthy? To him, he doesn’t see a point where he would comfortably put down his tools and pack away his printers and say “enough”.
“I think the Interceptor will never really be completed as a project, it is going to evolve, I will always find something to tinker and improve on, maybe drop in a V12 some day,” he muses. “One thing is certain, if I were to do another car like this, it will be a Lamborghini, I’m head over heels for Lamborghini cars.”