Sunday, May 04, 2014

Kitty Car

Another away trip this weekend.

We met up at the sister's place, objective : Stoneleigh. The National Kit Car Show is hosted there, definitely the mecca for kit cars in the UK, possibly the mecca for kit cars in the world. Most of the attraction is seeing the cars built by tonnes of owners as they come together at the show. It's a chance for them to hear the adoring words of the public.

First car we saw - a Lamborghini Countach replica, all in white. And not just the bodyshell, the pristine whiteness was continued within to white leather seats and white backing for the instruments. Absolutely beautiful. Not a car I'd be interested in having but gorgeous nonetheless.

There's a few different classes of kit car, which accommodate what your taste is in body shell type, the intended role of the car and how ambitious you want to be with the mechanicals. Here's a few of them :

Firstly, the ubiquitous Cobra replica. The AC Cobra was a car born in 1962 and was built until 1967. It had a 289 cubic inch (4.7 litre) V8 and later, a 427 cubic inch (7 litre) engine. Truely a muscle car but wrapped up in lovely curves. The replicas repeat that wonderful bodyshell but hide within engines like the old Rover V8 (3.5 litre), Jaguar V12's and big V8's from America.

There will also be Cobras with more modern 4 cylinders like you'd see in road cars, just rather heavily developed to get performance out of them. The 4 cylinder Ford Zetec engine will be in a lot of kit cars. It would start out with maybe 130bhp in a 2 litre Focus or Mondeo and can be tuned up to maybe 200bhp ish. And that's on a modern design with all that extra reliability. The Cobra shell has the advantage of lots of room to add things like superchargers and/or turbochargers for extra likelihood of Brown Trouser moments.

Here's another :

Hmm - another couple !

The two above are both Seven Style cars, which are about as simple as you can get. They're the lower end of the market, although that term "lower" is misleading. They're cheap and simple to build and use lower spec engines. Something like that 2 litre Zetec might be a bit large for these, although the Rhocar Robin Hood Engineering car up top has had a 6 litre Jaguar V12 squeezed into it (I've seen it, there was barely room for a shoehorn in there!).

The Seven is simplicity itself, it's just an engine in that tubular bay up front, there's a couple of seats behind and four wheels bolted on at the corners. Depending on the kit, there's not much provision for creature comforts. Some don't even have a windscreen. This is where the intentions come in :

The Locost and Robin Hood were both aimed at getting something fun on the road within a very tight budget. The Robin Hood did that through being mass produced, the Locost did it by depending on the skills of the builder. That frame of metal on the bottom left ? Welded from plans by a craftsman.

There's also the higher end 7's from Caterham and Westfield. You can get turn key kits from these that have everything in, it just needs you to put them together. No sourcing of bits and pieces from scrapyards.

And there's the track cars from people like Sylva and Tiger. They're built to go round race tracks fast.

Another pic ?
These are based around old vintage cars. They look great don't they ? It would be awesome turning up at a Grand Prix or Le Mans in one of these. Again, not much with the creature comforts but that's what funny hats with lots of ear muff padding are for :-). The car above is the type that my dad might enjoy putting together.

Hmm. I think this weekend may have given him ideas. Uhoh !

Oh - one advantage of the kit cars over vintage cars is the chassis. We owned a Triumph Spitfire, which I refused to have much to do with. One of the reasons was its chassis ... It was dangerous. Kit cars tend to be more race bred with suspension that will keep the wheels parallel to the ground (where intended), instead of tucking under like with that Spitfire. But yeah, instead of renovating something that's partially rotten (and how do you know how much is rotten ?), you're working with good steel with modern anti corrosion techniques.

But what would I actually build ? I like :


Here we go :
They're Minari Road Sports. It has an engine at the front from an Alfa Romeo, mated to a unique chassis. Oh ! Oh ! Oh ! It's still available ... I thought this design died ! Here's a link. It might be hard to find a donor car to rob bits from though.

What would I actually look for ?
Yellow one. In the middle. Me Want.

Actually - why would you go kit car ?

For me, it's uniqueness. Yeah, you could go and get a Mazda MX-5* and have a lot of fun with it. But. Tonnes of other people have them and they don't have that magic "I made this" factor where you know every nut and bolt. If I was to build one of these, I'd want to pick a theme to build the look of the car around. To make it uniquely mine. There'd be wood, there'd be electronics fitting in, there'd be shinies.

*(I picked MX-5 cos they are the best example of a mass produced car that shares most with a kit car)

Will I build one ? I hope so. But there's a few things that need to be in place :

New house with facilities to build one. A garage is essential and I don't have one.
Money ! Most of my cash is tied up with my Lexus ;-)

And that Lexus got lots of admiring drooling at it this weekend too. But kit cars are way more charming. I've not mentioned cars like the Sebring which is based on the Austin Healey 3000. It smiles. As does the Sprite, of which there was one smiling away at the show today. There's fast car replicas too, like the ones turning fast road cars into Lamborghini's and Ferrari's. But those fail that uniqueness test.

Gimme the Fury :-)


  1. Always good to have a dream. I want a house big enough for a proper library in it. [grin]

  2. Be curious to see how good a race car I'd build, although my reactions aren't up to race driving these days. I've lost half a second or so.


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