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Building Your Own Kit Car

Updated on February 2, 2015

The Kit Car Story

A Sterling Sports Car Company kit car.
A Sterling Sports Car Company kit car.

A kit car is one of the newest forms of automobiles that allows customers to buy and build their own car from a set of parts. A relatively new fad that’s picking up amongst automobile enthusiasts, kit cars are all about building your own car with your own hands. Most enthusiasts, looking to build kit cars, need to have a complete set of tools that can help them manoeuvre across all obstacles. That, and an excellent knowledge of cars, may help you build your very own car in your own garage.

The primary definition of a kit car is an automobile that has picked up spare parts from a particular manufacturer and put them on sale. Most manufacturers tend to sell off a complete set of spare parts required to build a complete car. These models can be built at home, with the help of a detailed instruction manual. That can guide you through every step of the process.

Kit cars, by nature, are almost as good as production cars. However, they are never considered in the same bracket as their safety and efficiency is largely dependent on the person putting them together. While the first kit car was one designed by Englishman Thomas Hyler White, in 1896, the format took a while to get started.

By the 1950s, kit cars finally went into second gear and production was considerably increased. As rust-proofing was yet to take a complete hold of the car-making industry, many old vehicles, with fully functioning parts, would be sent to the scrap-yards. Working components, from these cars, were taken out and placed on brand new chassis and bodies, especially sports cars.

In the 1970s, a revolution began in the UK where manufacturers provided semi-assembled cars to avoid a purchase tax. Kit cars were not considered to be vehicles, but merely components. This revolution launched models like the Lotus Elan, which could be taken home and built over a weekend without paying any purchase tax.

Most modern kit cars are merely replicas of famous cars of the mid-20th century. With bodies made primarily out of fibreglass mats soaked in polyester instead of sheet metal bodies, these cars are made to be lighter and easier to handle than the average production vehicle.

What to Expect in the Kit Car Box

Famous kit cars.
Famous kit cars.

If you are thinking, “This is insane!” then think again.

Every year, thousands of kit cars are sold around the world and that means as you read this article, some bloke is sitting in his garage, after work, burning his midnight oil and building himself his very own car. Kit cars are cheap. For under $3,000 you can usually find something that can be made road-legal within a couple of weeks or so.

Most kit car companies expect you to come and collect the kit car on specific collection days. This can be anywhere between 1 to 10 days in a year, depending on the company you are buying from. Most people love to come in long transit vans and you might need something big as well, if you plan to take your car pieces back home with you.

Regardless which model you end up buying, you will end up with a chassis, body work, and the under-bonnet parts like the engine, radiators, transmission, clutch assembly, brakes, and shocks. The kit comes with a huge bag of nuts and bolts, as well as other parts that are dependent on the type of car you buy. There are too many parts that look similar to each other, so unless you have the manual, it could be hard to figure out what goes where just by looking at it.

Once you have all the parts and pieces lined up, you need to get out the instruction manual. The manual will help you get through each and every step, to the smallest detail. Most kits also come with their own video instructions so you can watch someone put the car together, right before you, in real time.

If that is not enough for you to get your car together, you can always consult with other kit car makers over the Internet or, better still, in your own city. Chances are you will find the task more enjoyable if you have people to share it with. This is the recommended option, if you are looking to make a kit car for the first time ever in your life.

Kit Car Manufacturers in Australia and the U.K.

One of the best value kit cars
One of the best value kit cars

If you have built your own kit car and are ready to get onto the road with it, you have to wait a bit longer. It isn’t so easy for someone to just pick up a kit car and head out onto the street. First, you will need to get it validated by the local road transport authorities to ensure that the car is road-legal.

The process is quite simple. Many countries provide provisions for kit cars. You need to take your car to the local authority who will give it a thorough test. If your home-made car manages to qualify through these tests, you are still given a special license plate that marks your car as an “Unknown”.

However, that shouldn’t keep you from building it. In fact, standing out of the crowd with your own hand-made car should make you feel proud of yourself. The primary issue standing against it is that kit cars cannot be crash tested. In countries like Sweden, kit cars were immensely popular before car-manufacturing regulations made it mandatory to have crash tests, starting 1970.

The Volkswagen Beetle chassis was considered the ideal chassis for all kit cars primarily due to its shape and size. This made the Beetle more popular amongst car lovers, especially those waiting for one to break down so that they could nip the chassis and build their own kit car.

Ultima Kit Cars

Today, there is a host of companies that provide kit car supplies and, depending on the part of the world where you are, you can get your hands on some amazing kits. Here are some of the major manufacturers listed according to their countries.

  • Australia Alpha Sports, Bolwell, Pellandini Cars, PRB, Purvis Eureka, Elfin Sports Cars, and Bushrangie.

These companies are amongst the most popular in the world, producing some incredible kits for on- or off-road models. However, compared to the UK, there are very few companies around the world. The UK is one of the best places to be in if kit cars are your thing. Not only do you get a lot of variety, you find a huge number of manufacturers offering you a wider range of kit cars than ever before.

  • UK Arkley SS, Banham Conversions, Burlington Cars, Caterham Cars, Dakar 4x4, Diva, Ginetta Cars, GTM Cars, JEB Cars, Lomax, Marcos, Marlin, Midas Cars, Onyx Sports Cars, Peerless/Warwick, Quantum Sports Cars, Robin Hood, Spartan Cars, Tornado, Ultima Sports, Westfield Sports Cars

There are many more manufacturers in the UK, but listing them all here would not be possible. In the UK, there is a 200 car limit on the sale of kit cars as that is the safety limit for vehicles that do not have regulation or testing requirements like regular production versions.

Robin Hood is the most popular kit car manufacturers, providing partial or complete kits to over 700 customers a year around the world. If you are looking for a reliable source for kit cars, you might want to check them out.

Kit Car Manufacturers in the U.S.

Texas Cobra Club Spring Meet Kit Car Event
Texas Cobra Club Spring Meet Kit Car Event
  • United States of America Blakely Auto Works, Bradley Automotive, DDR Motorsport, Factory Five Racing, Fiberfab, Frese Motorcars, Sterling Sports Cars, McBurnie, Brunton Automotive, Superformance

In the United States, the Shelby Cobra is one of the most popular models that are replicated by kit car manufacturers. Another popular model is the Bernardi Roadster, manufactured by Bradley Automotive. That car is truly one of the most impressive pieces in the American kit car industry.

If you are looking for something that can truly make your love for cars come alive, kit cars are the thing for you. They are beautiful to look at, powerful to drive, and they carry your signature on every single part. What’s not to like? Next time you feel like going out there and getting yourself a car, think about how much fun it would be to build your own and get a kit car instead!

Westfield Kit Car Build

locost kitcar


Submit a Comment

  • profile image

    rorshak sobchak 

    7 years ago

    Nice write up!!!

    rorshak sobchak


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