As a teenager, Mike Vetter fell in love with the Lamborghini Countach. Like most teenagers, he couldn't afford one. But he did manage to scrape up $2,500 for a kit body, and another $1,700 for a used Pontiac Fiero. With no mechanical training—Vetter was working at a Burger King at the time--he taught himself to graft the kit body onto the Fiero and get it to run. It took 2,000 hours of labor, but a year and a half after he'd started, Vetter had the closest thing to a Lamborghini that he could afford.
By the time he'd completed the car, he'd spent $12,000, and was now working as a film projectionist (salary: $18,000). He put an ad in a car magazine offering the kit Lambo for sale, and wound up selling it for $28,000.
That was about 25 years ago. Vetter then started building more kit cars based on Ferraris and Lamborghinis, improving his skills and making enough profit with each to form his own shop. But as his reputation and sales grew, so too did legal scrutiny; lawyers representing the Italian carmakers began sending Vetter cease-and-desists. By the mid-2000s, it was no longer viable to produce exotic replicas.
Previously, Vetter had used his eyes and hands to ensure kit bodies designed by others looked right when grafted onto new underpinnings. With that no longer an option, Vetter then began designing and building his own car bodies, and grafting them onto used cars for the mechanicals. His first was the ETV (Extra Terrestrial Vehicle), which he wrapped around an old Chevy Cobalt:
Vetter built at least eight of these, selling them for six figures each to clients around the world.
Today he still builds them to order, and has done versions on gas, hybrid and electric powertrains. An air suspension raises the car up to clear speedbumps and driveways, and a comprehensive camera system provides all-around visibility for driving.
Over the years Vetter has continued designing and building custom creations, like the Moonraker:
One-off creations, or modifications of the existing seven "models" Vetter offers, are attractive to his client base. "Generally, my customer can buy a Lamborghini or Ferrari," Vetter told CNBC. "But they live in a neighborhood where all of their neighbors have Lamborghinis or Ferraris, and they want something unique and different."
You can read more details of Vetter's story here. And in the video feature below, Vetter breaks down the costs of one of his $250,000 cars, and also shows you his unusual home—a remodeled airplane hangar: