To be frank, the Chevrolet Aveo was never an aspirational car. It was transportation selected more for its practicality than its passion.
Nor is it a car that would normally turn heads at a venue like the New York International Auto Show (running now through April 3). However, it’s a different story when its platform is the donor for the ETV, a car made by Mike Vetter’s Car Factory in Micco, Florida. In that case, it stops foot traffic among a typically jaded automotive media, with auto journalists stopping to wonder, “What is that?” It’s the first of eight in existence, and it’s a great-looking vehicle (even it does look like an over-stuffed ballet slipper from the side).
First there is the matter of its name. With the T between the E and V, the first instinct is to regard it as some kind of electric vehicle.
But it’s not. This exotic-looking coupe is powered by the 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine found in the 2008 Chevrolet Aveo. In case you’re wondering, that means it’s good for 103 horsepower.
And that made me ponder, why a Chevrolet Aveo? So I called Mike Vetter at his Florida shop. His frank assessment was he was more into looks than speed when he built the first one in 2008.
Since then, he has availed himself of different models, including a Chevy Cobalt, Toyota ECHO, Honda Insight, Toyota MR2, and Porsche Boxster. The Cobalt SS trim, Vetter said, is the right match for the ETV. He takes the ETV body, cuts it down the middle, and widens it by 3 inches to fit the Cobalt SS platform.
Vetter built the first ETV because, as a customizer, he wanted to be able to express his own design influences. Customers would drive him crazy on projects they commissioned, he said, with requests to change tires and wheels at the last minute, requiring further design modifications.
Hence the ETV, which stands for Extra-Terrestial Vehicle. It’s a stunning coupe in the flesh. Vetter makes his own laminated, tempered car glass, which allows for unique shapes. The sheet metal swirls along the roof from front to rear in ways not seen on other vehicles, especially 8-year-old Aveos.
Vetter said the ETV is street legal. John Mahoney, president of the Vintage Auto Museum, which is displaying the ETV among other cars at the New York Auto Show, has seen the car driven but won’t squeeze himself behind the wheel. The ETV sits flush with the ground when parked but rises 5 inches thanks to an air suspension.
Mahoney displayed the car with the passenger gull-wing door open. One quirk about this car–which makes it illegal to register in New Jersey–is that its doors can’t be opened from the outside. You need to open a small window via remote control and then reach in and tug a lever to pop the door.
Vetter will build a customer an ETV for $95,000. The price drops to $85,000 if a donor car is supplied. The next one he builds will be only the 9th.
When Vetter isn’t building ETVs, he does other car customizations, as well as creating vehicles for television and movie studios like MGM and Warner Bros. Ask him which films his work might be seen in and he answers, “There’s a big Warner Bros. movie coming up I can’t talk about in August.”
He can’t, but we can guess it might be “Suicide Squad,” which turns the bad guys of Gotham into action heroes when Batman is incapacitated. We’re kind of hoping that in addition to Ben Affleck, the ETV also makes a cameo.
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