Carl Rice was given a 2001 Chrysler Sebring by his grandfather, which I think may be the most common way anyone ends up owning a Sebring. An accident on one of California's Hobbesian freeways led him to converting it into a post-apocalyptic survival machine.
Here's how and why he did it.
The Sebring stayed a normal, anonymous transportation appliance until Rice found himself in a seven-way accident on a Los Angeles highway. An accident where, alarmingly, not a single participant had insurance, so everyone just agreed to keep their mouths shut and get the hell out of there.
The Sebring's damage wasn't too terrible, being mostly localized to the front and rear bumpers. Rice looked into buying new bumper caps, but then thought "there's no way in hell I'm spending that much on a big piece of plastic." And that's the moment everything changed.
See, Rice is (along with river rafting instructor, mentor at a mental health center, and photographer) a stuntman and stunt driver. He works for a company which encourages a certain amount of liberties to be taken with cars, which is exactly what happened. Like a true Car Hacker, Rice realized that a boring car doesn't have to be a sentence for automotive ennui— rather, it's better thought of as a blank canvas for whatever the hell you want. And what Rice wanted was a Mad Max-style post-apocalypticmobile.
He started by getting some scrap metal and welding big replacement bumpers out of round steel stock and perforated mesh. He then began the surprisingly laborious process of getting rid of all the car's paint. Some of which he used chemical paint removers, but most with a power sander. The goal was to get it down to the bare metal so the car would develop a nice overall patina of surface rust, and it's well on its way to that goal.
The hood, trunk, and roof all got raised platforms that Rice uses for strapping oversized cargo and items, which vastly increases the car's usability. Inside, the car has the front passenger seat removed and replaced with a long camping mattress, proving either sleeping accommodations or what may be the most comfortable passenger seat setup I've ever been in.
There's a good bit of whimsical mechanical fakery on the car, from the fake hood scoops and butterfly valves, the fake supercharger pulley, and the fake flame-throwers on the sides, complete with spark plugs and wires. Rice has considered making them functional, but for him that's not really worth the effort.
Planned future "upgrades" include swapping out the stock lighting system for custom units, as well as a full light bar on top.
The "Rolls-Rice" — as Rice has dubbed the car — may not be the most careful or refined custom, or even the most original. But that doesn't really matter. It's just fun. Kids love the car, and people always stop to photograph it or look at it, two things I'm pretty damn sure never, ever happen to a stock Sebring.
Rice says he has had some negative reactions as well— the owners of the house across from the mental health facility he works at asked him not to park it in front of their house, and he has heard people call it a "travesty," which makes one wonder if those people have ever seen a stock Sebring.
In Los Angeles, Rice has very little problem with police, but once he leaves the weird-car friendly bubble of LA, things change. Every time he drives out to Joshua Tree, for example, he's stopped by cops, who always ask "Do you have guns or drugs in your car?" Carrying anything more illegal than a mis-stamped letter in a car like this seems like a profoundly terrible idea— who's that stupid?
Rice claims he actually gets better mileage out of the car than he did when it was stock, thanks to all the crap he removed, so for those of your considering this sort of treatment for your car, there's a good argument to sell the idea to your spouse. He'd also like to start a gathering/rally for Mad Max-style cars around Southern California, so let us know in the comments if you loons are out there. There's so much good desert in the area, a dozen or so of these things could really convince an onlooker that civilized society had ended.
I know there will be people in the comments deriding this as just some guy who welded a bunch of crap to his car. But that's not the case. This is a guy who made a boring car his own, and wasn't afraid to try something. And then drives it every day. It's not always about doing things perfectly— sometimes, it's just about doing it. So, for all you folks stuck with a boring car you just don't like, take heart. It's a blank slate. It's freedom. Time to go nuts, and then send me some pictures.