What Is A Kit Car?

Ever come across the term “kit car”? Wonder what they are? Are they toys or real, driveable vehicles? Just what is a Kit Car?

Kit cars are component vehicles. Some kits contain all the components necessary to complete the car, except the fluids. Other times, the “kit” from the manufacturer will require a donor vehicle. Manufacturers will make it clear to the purchaser ahead of time if a donor vehicle will be necessary.

What Are Kit Cars Like

Once completed, a kit car is just like any other vehicle. When completed, the motor vehicle department for the builder’s state will need to inspect the vehicle to verify it conforms to the motor vehicle code in the locality. Then, it can be daily driven as necessary, or as restricted by the purchaser’s insurance carrier. 

818 Kit from Factory Five Racing
Factory Five Racing 818 Kit Car | Factory Five Racing

Aside from the fact that it was built in somebody’s garage or shop, as opposed to a production line somewhere, it is no different than other vehicles on the road. There is one exception, though. Depending on the state it is registered, some safety systems on the kit cars may not be required, such as airbags.  

How Do I Find a Kit Car?

There is actually a whole industry that has existed to support kit car manufacturers and builders. There are magazines, websites, and television shows that highlight kit cars. For example, the old Miami Vice television show from the 1980s used to have a Ferrari Daytona replica kit car in it. That vehicle was based on a Chevrolet Corvette. So, it’s not that hard to research kit cars. It is not uncommon also to find one or more at a local car show. 

Dune Buggy
Dune Buggy Kit Car | Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Tommy Hilfiger

The Myers Manx dune buggy has been a popular kit car from the 1960s. Factory Five Racing makes a popular Shelby Cobra replica. Want to build an Auburn Boattail Speedster replica, a Willys replica, a Lamborghini replica? There are just too many companies and types of vehicles to list here. But, you can find a list by clicking here

How Long Does It Take To Build A Kit Car?

Some of these kits are simpler as compared to others. A lot of the build time, however, depends on the purchaser’s available time and how handy he or she is. Kits from Smyth Performance can be put together in a couple of weekends by people that consider themselves shade-tree mechanics. However, the same kit could take longer for novices as they learn the skills and acquire the tools. Likewise, more complex kits will take more time to complete. Some may take months or years to complete.

Turnkey Kit Cars

There are kits available that are “turnkey.” This means that the kit has already been put together. All a purchaser has to do is turn the key. Some manufacturers offer turnkeys directly from them. Others will refer the purchaser to a specific builder. That builder will complete the kit on behalf of the purchaser.

How Much Do Kit Cars Cost?

Charger Ute by Smyth Performance
Dodge Charger Ute Kit Offered By Smyth Performance | Smyth Performance

Kit cars vary in pricing dramatically. Keep in mind, if a donor vehicle is needed, that pricing is separate from the kit itself. But, depending on how extensive the kit is, kits can start from just a few thousand dollars and go up to the tens of thousands. It really depends on what type of vehicle the purchaser wants.

Currently, a Smyth Performace Ute kit will begin under $3,000 without the donor vehicle. A Factory Five Racing MK4 complete kit (Shelby Cobra replica) will start at $19,990. And,… way on the other end of finances, the Auburn Boattail Speedster is listed at $300,000. 

As a footnote, a kit car might be the perfect project for someone who is trapped in their home for a quarantine period due to Coronavirus. Binge-watching on Netflix only goes so far.