Saturday, January 29, 2022
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Fort Worth’s Chupacabra roars to life

🕐 5 min read

Strickland Racing Inc.

9049 Stillwater Trail

Fort Worth


You go with what you know.

And Charley Strickland of Fort Worth knows cars, supported by a long and successful history as a chassis builder and team owner in National Hot Rod Association drag racing and NASCAR.

But four years ago his company, Strickland Racing Inc., turned its attention from race cars to developing a new street car. Enter – with a roar – the Chupacabra.

“This is going to change the way people look at small manufacturers,” Strickland said. “When it comes down to it, you buy cars for one reason only, to look cool pulling up to the valet.”

The “real” chupacabra is a mythical creature in the folklore of parts of the Americas, with its first purported sightings in Puerto Rico. The name comes from the animal’s reported habit of attacking and drinking the blood of livestock, including goats. Physical descriptions of the creature vary, but it is purportedly a heavy creature, the size of a small bear, with a row of spines reaching from the neck to the base of the tail.

The design for the Chupacabra automobile had been floating around on the internet for a while, Strickland said. It belonged to a man from Brazil named Flavio Adrianni, who came up with the original design. He and Strickland had a meeting, and now Strickland and his Fort Worth-based company are working to make the dream come to fruition.

“Flavio said, ‘You are the only person who has talked to me rationally. I’m going to have to trust someone,” Strickland said.

The idea to begin manufacturing his own street vehicle actually came from a friend years ago, he said.

“I thought, what would I call it?” he said. “Then we thought about A.J. Foyt having a car called the Coyote, Carroll Shelby has the Cobra, Jim Hall has the Chaparral. All of the cars out of Texas are based on animals that start with C.

“One night in the middle of the desert in Mexico about five years ago it came to me – Chupacabra.”

So Strickland began diversifying himself. While he continued to work with race cars in the Corona Series in Mexico for NASCAR, he also started on the Chupacabra project.

“I did a lot of due diligence on this, and at the end of three years I decided I had a lot of time and effort put in on the Chupacabra project,” he said. “I wanted to do both, but as I got more into Chupacabra, I became content with, for the first time in 27 years, not having a car on a track.”

Strickland’s decision was aided and influenced by the Low Volume Act, which became federal law in 2015. The act, which received bipartisan support in Congress, basically states that a small automobile manufacturer can build up to 1,000 cars per year and sell 325 of them in the U.S. market. The law is aimed at allowing small vehicle manufacturers to bring products to market without much of the overhead normally associated with bringing a car to market – as long as the car resembles a vehicle built over 25 years ago and the new manufacturer has a legal claim to the car.

Strickland Racing Inc. (SRI) legally claimed the rights to the Countach name from Lamborghini – to fulfill the requirement to resemble a vehicle built over 25 years ago – and work began. Eight complete running and driving chassis have been built and tested, the eighth one being the final product design. All the parts and components for the car have been engineered and sourced. All of the design work and construction technique is done.

Most of the components, including the SRI-designed aluminum composite monocoque chassis, are done in-house, which is the garage at his home, Strickland said. The 3-D modeling for the body, or “coachwork” in automotive jargon, was also done in-house, but the actual production of the coachwork is too overwhelming for a small company, he said.

So Strickland got help from some associates at Peterbilt, the famous 18-wheeler truck company. He said that at its facility in Denton the 3-D files are being turned into full-size plugs, and then molds, which are used to mass-produce the coachwork.

He said that once this step is complete, SRI is only about 60 days away from having the first cars finished.

“You have a lot of big guys and me in my two-car garage,” Strickland said. “If it doesn’t work, they go back to their other work. It’s life or death for me.”

Strickland said what makes the Chupacabra unique is the story behind it, and the fact that it’s a “driver’s car.”

“A friend said, ‘There’s not a plastic cover on this thing,” Strickland said, adding that the vehicle has no anti-locking brakes, is carburated, and has “creature comforts, but nothing fancy.”

Strickland said, “It’s a fast car,” noting the power-to-weight ratio is 6-1.

Strickland said he is now soliciting funds to help pay Peterbilt and for getting a small factory. He said that although he’s not launched a sales initiative, as many as 17 deposits have been made for the vehicle once it’s finished.

He said a Madison Avenue marketing firm estimated the car’s value at around $300,000. However, he doesn’t agree.

“I question that estimate with those brakes and that engine. I see it as around $80,000,” he said “Of course, the first several hundred will go to collectors and they will never see the light of day. That’s disappointing to a car guy like me.”

Strickland, who grew up in Wichita Falls, said he also hopes his new vehicle will bring further recognition to Fort Worth. He fell in love with the city after moving here many years ago.

“I’ve got no desire to ever live anywhere else,” he said. “And if this can help the city I love so much, that would be fantastic.

“Everybody’s got a widget or an app these days. I stand up and say I’ve got a brand new car, and everybody goes ‘Wow!'”

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