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Karma, Re-engineered

Dave Chaborek's Karma

By Dean Larson

After helping the owner dig through clutter for 15 minutes, Dave Chaborek finally got a look at the back end of the Karma. It had been sitting in a small garage for 24 years. He bought the car on the spot, not knowing he would spend the next six years re-engineering and building the car from the ground up.

Dave and the Karma were a perfect match; he wanted to move away from VW based builds, and half of the Karma’s VW parts were beyond repair. A new chassis of Dave’s design was built from .120 and .90 wall steel with a trussed center section. Up front, a modified Mustang II front suspension was used with larger disc brakes. Dave designed and fabricated the rear suspension at home, building an unequal length A-arm design from DOM tubing with Mercury Cougar XR2 hubs and brakes. 

The fiberglass body obviously had some bumps and bruises from being a garage shelf for 24 years, so Dave spent three months making it perfect. He custom mixed the color and sprayed it at home in his driveway... talk about homebuilt. The body was finished with aluminum floors and flat belly pan under two-thirds of the car.

To power the Karma, Dave went back to the Mercury Cougar and took its 1.6-liter DOHC four-cylinder, which is turbocharged and intercooled in XR2 trim. Dave upped the fun factor of the 1.6-liter by increasing the boost, adding a chip and reworking the intake and exhaust – even fabbing his own muffler. 

The finishing details of a build always take the most time, and we have no doubt Dave paid his dues. The seats were his design, but the final upholstery was left to the professionals. The final result is a fresh take on a vintage look. A GPS speedometer and gauge set from Speedhut, an A/C unit from Southern Rods and a chrome tilt wheel accent an interior that’s otherwise all business. Under the hood, Dave fitted Wilwood master cylinders and an oversized radiator with an electric fan.

Dave couldn’t be any happier with the finished product. He knows his weights - the car comes in at about 2,200 pounds with a full tank of gas, tools, jack and a 38-pound spare. He says the car drives even better than it looks, and will even return 30 mpg. While he enjoys driving the car every chance he gets, Dave built the Karma to drive down Route 66 with his father, who drives a 1972 Triumph GT6 that Dave also built. 

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