The winter months can be trying times for car lovers. Some of you are better at finishing projects than I am, or maybe you recently sold your project car. Either way, for those of us in colder climates, this is the season where the driving stops—but the wrenching doesn’t have to. If you want to give yourself the gift of an ambitious project without the rust, hackery, or general mess that most old project cars can include, maybe you should look into building yourself a car from a kit. Here are six ideas.
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I helped my father build a Contemporary Cobra. That was fun, and the car was fantastic! Always had a great time in that machine... it helped you forget your troubles, for sure! Really fast, great looking and fun.
Then I built a '33 Ford Replica. Put in a Ford 460 and 5 speed manual, so it was a bit of an anomaly in the Hot Rod world. Great project, fun to drive, and looked fantastic! Sadly, both of those cars are gone on to new owners now, and I wish I had both back.
All that said, I wish you wouldn't call them "Kit Cars". That implies they come in a box full of parts and you assemble like a Lego. It's not like that. I spent many many hours hunting for parts, accessories, tools and more. The actual "kit" is just a starting point. It takes time, patience and skill to finish the project. It's rewarding and fun, but it's not a "kit". So, instead, call it a "Replica", "Hand Built" or "Custom" car. That's a more accurate way to state it.
SteveC you are 100% correct! You need a lot of tools and at least a dedicated 2-car garage to built it. Then there is the cost. Double or triple what you think it will cost and expect even more than that. I built a Lamborghini Diablo replica. I say it is a custom-built street rod that happens to look like a Lamborghini. It takes a LONG time to build and cost a lot to do it right.
I have a Smyth Performance Charger Ute. Easy kit to assemble to get a fun ride that is also usable as a light truck (or at least that is what you can tell the wife.)
It only took 25 years to build my Cobra (Everett-Morrison). It can be done in a winter if you have a full service garage, team of helpers, a purchasing agent, a painter...
My favorite, not listed here, is the Vincent MPH, a copy of a 30's era Riley. I've considered building a kit car, but the cost of them has gone through the roof. The Vincent (including engine, running gear and everything but painting) is over $21,000 and other kits will have a similar cost once you procure all the parts. Bearing in mind that getting the car painted will run in the neighborhood of $5,000 that's a lot to invest in something that may or may not run when I finish it. And regarding the DF Goblin, the Cobalt went out of production in 2010 and I suspect that any that were in wrecking yards have long since been crushed.
All these kits look tempting. However, I would be concerned about safety features like
ABS, stability control, air bags and crush zone characteristics.
Another note; Everyone seems to cherish the Cobra. My experience when speaking with Cobra kit owners is they are very pleased with acceleration, cornering capabilities and stoping power. But, they have no audio systems, no heaters, lots of buffeting at any speeds over 30mph and can be punishing to drive more than 50 miles at a time. Lastly, as a manual transmission driver, I have noticed most Cobra kits do not have any room just left of the clutch pedal. The result is the driver having to pull his leg back and placing his foot on the floor several inches in front of the clutch pedal. (One kit I have seen does have room left of the clutch pedal but, most do not.) What I am saying is, there is no room or allowance for a dead pedal - driving position is awkward. On the positive side; if this is how the original was built, then so be it.
Sometimes the memories and wanting are better than the owning.
For those brave souls that want a thrill ride, Speedway Motors sells a T-bucket kit that will take any V-8 you can fit between the frame rails. Rode in one, once. The angel that looks after me is still in therapy.
none of the above....
as a "regular" car, maybe a Beck or Thunder Ranch 550. For fun, a Cheetah, or RCR Lola T70 MkIII, or just about anything they have on offer (GT, D Type, XJ13, etc)
I did a "Factory 5" Cobra with my son two years ago. A "Westfield Lotus XI" last winter. Love them both. Now it's a 1946 Crosley pickup, (Not a kit) .....Jim.
“Everyone has a cobra”...I don’t think so.
The Cobra(Factory Five Mk4), hands down the best. The ease of build because of the instruction manual is second to none as well as the parts and build support. I built one of these and put a Coyote in it. I had only done brakes and oil changes before I built it. If Dave Smith were here, I’d hug him.
Although, if you want an instruction-less kit to be proud of, build a rat rod. You won’t hear the “Is it real?” question from people who have no idea how much hard work you put into building your “kit”. The FFR gave me the confidence to build the rat. Whatever you choose, build what you’ll love to drive and you’ll be proud of.
I did a Factory Five 33 Hot Rod. It took just over 1000 hours spread over 5 years and $43,000 in parts including finish bodywork and paint which I contracted out. 2200 lbs....425HP. 🤗
I have a Fiat X-1/9 and appreciate a small light car and the fun they can provide. My dream build is and always has been a Cobra Kit. Raw power and window rattling noise in an open roadster is heaven. But so far it's just a dream.
I always ....no really always wanted to build one of these "Kit Cars". Many of them, at least the ones I looked at used a VW Beetle Engine and Drive Train and other components (some entire frame). So; few years back I went out and found a 66 VW Beetle, full intentions to build a kit (MG). Beetle ended up being far too repairable to strip, cut up so I finished that and enjoyed the Beetle; in search for another for my "Kit Project". Found another, na far to nice, and another, and another; I'm now on my 5th (restored) Beetle. Never did do that "Kit Car". Like to find a finished one.
My friend Tim and I built a Caterham 310 S this past year and it was a wonderful respite from all the Covid fears. Looking retrospectively, what did we think of the experience?
In a nutshell, it was wonderful. It was just challenging enough to be invigorating and provide a real sense of achievement yet not so difficult that it became a chore. Well, except for a few things like the exhaust springs. And, the car itself is wonderful. It is quick enough to generate a tingle when you push the go pedal. It responds almost telepathically to inputs of steering or brakes – like a formula car for the street. It is amazingly comfortable for a car of such directness and immediacy but it is snug and feels vulnerable with all the big SUV tanks on the road, so deciding where to drive it is a real issue. On a rural canyon road, it is heaven on earth, in traffic or a multi lane freeway it is terrifying.
There is a real sense of pride for Tim in being able to say, “Yes, I built it myself” when at the local cars and coffee or the Little British Car group. And finally, it is just plain fun. Tim says the rest of the fleet of old British roadsters just don’t measure up anymore…it’s that good!
My covid project is a Factory Five '35 Ford pickup truck replica with a crate stroked SBC 383 and 700R4. I started on December 26, 2019 and have 830 hours in it so far. It has entertained me, occupied my time, gave the neighbors a reason for stopping by and gives me an opportunity to think what I will do tomorrow as I fall asleep today. All parts are new; no rust, no overhauling, no scrounging. Just pure joy putting it together exactly the way I want it. What a rush.
I already have the Cobra and the Lotus Seven in the garage . I really don't want to tear apart my daily driver Miata to start building number three on your list !
Been there already. Done it.
FF Cobra. I consider it to be the pinnacle of my car craziness. I know every nut bolt wire and brake line. There is nothing better than tearing down the highway in a car you did.
I felt like I was following Carrols journey. A car delivered less drivetrain and in the end a brutal beast 2000 lbs pushing 400 hp demands respect every second driven. Up need a replica build on you bucket list.
I want that Manx!
The Goblin on the right is so cool! Love it. The other looks like too much of an Atom copy.
As a kid I used to zip over to the magazine rack and look at VW magazines, Kit Car, Hot Rod, Street Rodder... and of course peak at the cover girls on the other magazines nearby...
I fantasized about building my own car, one of them was a Fiberform. Now I see a factory built Laser 917 by Elite Enterprises. I now realize that even though this example was built with a Corvair turbo 6. I'm sure this is apotent car, but with almost flat buckets reclined to almost 40 degrees, it is undoubtedly an uncomfortable cruiser.