17th February 2014

Kit Car Conundrum

17 February, 2014

Kit cars get a bad press. Shoddy, built by amateurs, ugly and prone to falling apart. That's the truth isn't it? Well, not entirely, no.

For sure, there are some lashed-together heaps out there, but sadly the same can be true of restored classics too. For some, kit cars represent a freedom that mass-produced cars just can't provide. According to Mark Greenwood of the Southern Kit Cars club: “Some build their own car through curiosity and dogged determination to make something unique, seeing it either as a challenge or hobby, to create a car of their dreams. Others buy a kit car to break away from the constraints of mass produced metal, to enjoy driving a car where handling and style outweigh the need for modern day conformity.”

Mark, who drives a Tiger R6, sees kit car owners falling into two categories. “Many builders are not that fussed about driving. The guys that buy second hand generally are the keener drivers and appreciate the uniqueness of their car or the rawness of the motoring.” Kit cars often produce staggering performance, due to light weight and an uncompromising stance when it comes to comfort. The majority of kit cars, such as Westfields and the Cobra/Lola-themed kits of GD Cars, offer performance approaching supercar levels, for the cost of a decent classic car.

Not that you need exotic power to have fun. Peter White's Jeffrey (pictured) provides plenty of entertainment using mere Morris Minor power. Says Peter: “I was looking for something to tinker with and wasn't sure what. I saw the advert, looked at the car and it seemed to tick the boxes. It needed some work that was within my capabilities. It was unusual, quirky and rare. I have yet to see another.”

As with buying any classic car, the key with kits is make sure you're buying something finished to a good standard. Wiring hanging down everywhere and clonks and bangs on a test drive suggest the level of finish is not something you'll want to live with – though if you like making improvements, the option is clearly there to pull it apart and start again! As Mark Greenwood says: “It never ceases to amaze me that two kit cars can appear the same but be so different to drive.”

When it comes to running costs, the lack of exotic powerplants – most still use humble family saloon car engines – and light weight mean fuel costs can be surprisingly low. Many classic insurance companies will happily provide kit car insurance too. Premiums may be slightly higher than for regular classic cars, but will certainly be cheaper than for a modern car.

If you're starting with a fresh kit car build, perhaps the biggest advantage is that aside from parts taken from other cars, everything is so clean! It's a very different world to that facing the classic car restorer. If you fancy a new project to tinker with, you might do well to consider opting for a kit and having the freedom to build it however you like.

Caption - A Morris Minor revisited

Written Guest Blogger Ian Seabrook.