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Kit Cars

Updated on September 5, 2014

Kit cars are real, road legal vehicles that you assemble yourself. They can range from simple cosmetic body shells right up to a full rolling chassis that bears absolutely no resemblance to the original donor car.

Because there is such a wide range of kit cars, from the ultra sporty Ultima GTR through classic cobra replicas and on to fun dune buggies...and anything you could possibly imagine in between! A kit car could also make an ideal base vehicle for a DIY electric car conversion.

Choosing A Kit Car

There are a number of considerations that you need to bear in mind before you can get out your toolkit and start building the kit car of your dreams.

The first thing you need to do is work out how much you are willing to spend on your completed car. I say 'completed car' as buying the kit is just a small part of the overall cost. The donor car will also have to be sourced and bought and then any extras such as chrome or fancy trim will bump up the price considerably. So you need to set a realistic budget and then stick to it.

Then visit the kit car manufacturers websites or better still, go to shows to take a look at the many owner built cars look when they're finished. Grab hold of the manufacturers brochures and leaflets while you are there to give you a broad overview of the cars you like.

With so many kit cars to build you will need to narrow down your list to two or three favorites, then you can visit the factory and see their cars up close and personal.

Kit Car Shows

Shows are an ideal first look at the sheer diversity of kits available and you should add at least one of the main shows in your area to your diary.

If you have your heart set on a particular vehicle style such as a Cobra replica or a Lotus Seven clone then you have the opportunity to check out a range of manufacturers offerings, enabling you to compare and contrast kit options almost side by side.

Be sure to take a notebook and pen (yes, I know that's very old fashioned now!) so that you can jot down snippets of information as you tour the exhibition. A camera will also prove invaluable for when your attention is drawn to items worth researching further when you get home.

Unfortunately, many manufacturers are still in the dark ages when it comes to technology, but the few that offer QR codes by their products are worth grabbing with your smartphones QR code reader for further investigation.

Donington Kit Car Show

The GTM Owners Club at the Donington Kit Show
The GTM Owners Club at the Donington Kit Show

When you visit a kit car show you get to see a wide variety of vehicles of all shapes and sizes. Some you will like and some you won't.

But as a kit buyer, you also get access to the owners clubs which are a valuable source of information on the particular models that catch your eye. Make maximum use of this opportunity to find out about their cars, not only the advantages of owning one, but the potential pitfalls you will come across as you build one.

The Kitcar Manual

The Kitcar Manual: The complete guide to choosing, buying and building British and Amercan kit cars
The Kitcar Manual: The complete guide to choosing, buying and building British and Amercan kit cars

The kit car industry has increased in size over the past few years, in both the UK and US. A growing number of enthusiasts are attracted by the prospect of driving a car that they have built themselves, and the huge range of designs available guarantees that there is a vehicle to suit all tastes, from replica classic sports cars to specialist track-day machines. This book, written in a humorous, down-to-earth style, provides all the information required to choose a suitable kit and complete it successfully to produce a safe, roadworthy car.


Kit Options

Your choice of kit will ultimately fall into three main categories that are fairly evenly split, with only minor differences either side of the Atlantic:

Cobra Replicas

The Cobra replica, often referred to affectionately as a "Fake Snake" is the mainstay of the US kit car market, proving just as popular now as they ever were. They are the iconic muscle car, often on show with ridiculously huge engines shoehorned into what is little more than a lightweight frame covered in a glass fiber skin. This makes for a very powerful and responsive vehicle that perfoms as well as it looks.

A Stunning Cobra Replica
A Stunning Cobra Replica

Lotus Sevens

The Lotus Seven brand is owned by Caterham, however the style has spawned dozens of copies ranging from almost exact replicas right through to some that can be loosely described as "inspired by" the marque. The Seven is possibly a little more popular on the European side of the pond where motorcycle engines are often fitted to give outrageous power and acceleration due to very high rev limits.

Tiger Racing Owners Club
Tiger Racing Owners Club

Everything Else

The final group consists of the classic tourers and roadsters, three wheelers and pretty much every type of replica you can imagine. Love old Jaguars? Check out the Autotune Aristocat. Have a taste for Porsche 356 Speedsters? Look at the Chesil.

Here's a few you may like:

GTM Libra

The GTM Libra is a bit of a wolf in sheeps clothing. On the outside it is fairly relaxed and understated...while under the hood, there beats the heart of a tiger!

The Libra is one of the rare breed of kit cars that's equally at home driving round town in the rain...or screaming around the racetrack.

Stick in a 2.5 litre Rover engine and the mild mannered Libra powers from 0-60 in around 5 seconds, and then on to a blistering 150mph. Get the GTM Libra on the track and watch it embarrass many Lotus Clone boy racers!

As kit cars go, the GTM Libra has it all. It's stylish good looks coupled with its pacey performance would appeal to anyone wanting something other than a Cobra or Lotus Seven clone.

Grinnall Scorpion

Grinnall Kit Cars have produced the sleek and very sporty looking Scorpion 3. Based around a BMW K Series motorcycle engine, it offers stunning performance and usable power.

The Grinnall Scorpion is one of a handful of manufacturers who get engines direct from BMW as OEM units, thanks to the high quality of their finished cars.

With its squat, wide profile, the Scorpion hugs the bends while it's wide single rear tire bites into the tarmac for maximum grip.

Put the Scorpion on the road or track and you will immediately appreciate the low, squat center of gravity and wide front tires as the power through the driveshaft forces the single rear wheel to bite hard into the tarmac. Whatever your perceptions of three wheel cars, you will be forced to reconsider after even a few minutes behind the wheel of the sporty Grinnall.

Once you slip into your seat you immediately feel part of the vehicle as the swooping bodywork curves around you. You don't just drive a Grinnall, you become part of one!

While a three wheeled car may not be everyones cup of tea, the sporty Grinnall has coupled a sporty and stylish design with a very low center of gravity that ensures excellent handling as well as a very real sense of speed as the road flashes by just inches below you.

Kit Car Insurance

Building your own car can be a significant expense, so it makes sense to get the right insurance cover as you assemble your automotive masterpiece.

Once on the road, there are a number of companies that can provide competitivekit car insurance and as always, it pays to shop around as there are plenty of bargains to be had.


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