So you want to build a kit car? Part 1

Over the years I have received countless emails asking about Kit Cars, how to build them , what does it cost, who is the best manufacture, etc.

I began to notice that my responses were pretty much the same so I thought I would put down some of my thoughts.

First of all, these are just my observations and my opinions. These have been shaped with my experience and the knowledge that I have gained building cars and working with other builders over the past years. My thoughts are not necessarily the only way to do things or maybe even the right way. Please take what you like and ignore the rest.

If you have never built a “Kit Car”, you really need to do lots and lots of research. Initially most people think these are similar to a model car that they built as a youngster, only it comes in a bigger box and costs more money. The more money part is right but that’s where it ends. A Lamborghini Diablo kit is probably one of the most complex kits to build. If you have ever done a restoration on a car and feel that would be a good starting point, it may be of some benefit, but probably not. Restorations involve removing factory parts and repairing or replacing them. All you need to do is line up the bolt holes and put it back together. There are no bolt holes on kit cars. You have to make your own.

At a car show in California, one of the builders stated that only 3% of the people who start these ever finish them. While I have nothing to confirm that, my time in the industry has seen that there are a lot more project are abandoned than finished. Why is that?

There are numerous reasons. First everyone wants to have the image of a $250,000 – $300,000 car for less than $15,000 total investment. While admirable to want to achieve this, it simply is not reality. The second part is that this is something that they would like to start in the Spring and be driving by the Fall. If these are being built as a hobby, plan on 4 to 6 years to finish it. If you are in a relationship and your partner does not support your efforts, take the time to evaluate your decision. I know of more than one builder who has had a relationship end because of these projects. If they do support it, plan on funding the new living room or bedroom suite as part of your cost. Speaking of costs, these projects are money pits. No matter what you budget, it is never enough.

Next look at your skill set and where you are going to build this. What kind of space do you have? If you are going to use a two car garage, it will be filled with parts and unusable to park the family vehicle for many years to come. Do you know how to weld? Do you know how to plumb a car? This means brakes, cooling, gas lines, hydraulic lines, A/C lines, air lines, solenoids etc. What about your electrical skills? Can you splice a wiring harness to a different engine? Can you install relays and diodes? What about working with fiberglass? Can you bond a metal frame to a piece of fiberglass? Have you ever worked with Duraglass?

Now let’s talk about engineering. Most kits come with limited instructions and you are inspired to engineer a solution. Where do you mount your air tank for you compressor? How do you put this together so that it is serviceable should something break? While in this phase you will begin to find that while you are walking though a Home Depot and spot the Gutter guard, you have an epiphany that those could be used for grills for the vent openings. Next you begin to look at third brake lights on everything that is in front of you when you are stuck in traffic. You look at the 300ZX that is coming toward you and trying to figure out is the small bulb on when they have the high beams on? You begin to look at taillights and wonder could I mold that in to the body to make something special?

And lets not even think about colors. The possibilities are endless.

Now, having said all that, everybody has to start somewhere. The point is that you need to set realistic expectations.

Just because you don’t have the skills doesn’t mean that you can’t learn. If your budget is limited, you need to think about doing this in stages and planning it out. You also need to plan time for your family.

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8 Responses

  1. Excellent post. I have known several people through the years who have begun kit car projects having no idea what they were getting into. Their projects usually just ended up partially completely and collecting dust in their garages. People really should research this stuff before they get into it.

  2. I seen lots of kit car’s in my town and they poorly put together. I agree that you really should plan out your build before you get into it. Or you will end up with a kit car that won’t be fooling anyone.

  3. Cool post, informative! I always have this passion for model cars. Your article inspires me to go on. I order online from http://www.modelcars.net, really satisfied.

  4. Hey can you email me, I’m somewhat young so I’m open to spending a good 3-5 years on this. I want to make a sports car myself and I’d like to do it because it interests me and not only am I a car enthusiast but I love a challenge. Could you email me because I don’t know how to start. I was going to purchase a kit for the Lamborghini, but I’d like to save money and build the frame and everything myself!

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