It's a wedge-shaped sports car from the late 1970s that once had a role in a popular science-fiction movie.

But despite its futuristic styling, it never achieved much popularity.

No, it's not the DeLorean DMC-12. It's the Urba Centurion, a diesel-powered kit car that it's still possible for you to build today.

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The car uses a Triumph Spitfire chassis and an 18-horsepower, three-cylinder Kubota diesel engine.

It was originally designed to achieve 128 mpg and--thanks to that futuristic styling--had a cameo in the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Total Recall.

While many companies have marketed kit cars that marry a custom body with an existing chassis, building a Centurion is a little more involved.

Urba Centurion (photo by owner Jerry Bartlett)

Urba Centurion (photo by owner Jerry Bartlett)

The only thing provided to a prospective builder is a set of relatively detailed plans.

From there, Urba fabricators must source all of the required parts--Spitfire chassis may be harder to come by these days--and then create the fiberglass body from scratch.

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If that sounds appealing to you, the plans are still available for $95, through a company called Robert Q. Riley Enterprises.

And those plans made it possibly for one dedicated enthusiast to complete a Centurion roughly 30 years after first seeing one.

Urba Centurion (photo by owner Jerry Bartlett)

Urba Centurion (photo by owner Jerry Bartlett)

Inspired by the 1982 article in Mechanix Illustrated that originally introduced the car to a wide audience, Jerry Bartlett built a Centurion of his own, a process detailed along with other projects on his website.

The Centurion was originally billed as capable of 128 mpg, but Bartlett has achieved over 200 mpg at the Toyota Green Grand Prix, a fuel-efficiency competition held at the Watkins Glen race track in upstate New York.

Bartlett believes there are only three Centurions in existence: his car, the Total Recall movie car, and a fully-restored example at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.

According to the museum, the Centurion's 128-mpg figure only applies to constant driving at 35 mph. Staffers say they've averaged 40 mpg in real-world driving.

Urba Centurion

Urba Centurion

The Urba does present a few drawbacks, however. For one, its 1960s Triumph Spitfire platform makes for a very small car--so small that it's dwarfed by modern subcompacts.

The Centurion stands just 41 inches tall, and the driver sits just four inches above the pavement.

Despite the petite proportions, the three-cylinder diesel engine can't exactly muster blinding acceleration either. Top speed is just 55 mph.

Still, anyone with the patience to build an entire car from a set of blueprints can probably handle some leisurely cruising.

[hat tip: Rick Feibusch]


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