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Articles Index > What are kit cars?
So what are kit cars then?

A kit car is a collection of mechanical and body components that are assembled by a professional or amateur to form a road worthy vehicle.

A kit can come in many variations, from basic to complete - which includes every last nut and bolt.

A basic kit, which most manufacturers offer, generally consists of the body and chassis components of the car with a few odds and ends thrown in for good measure to get you started.

If you purchase a basic kit from a manufacturer, you are then left to source the majority of the mechanical components yourself. This generally takes the form of purchasing a donor car.



On the whole the body will be constructed from GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic) also referred to as fibre glass ala TVR and Lotus (one time kit car manufacturers). Figure 1 shows a typical one piece body shell for a Cobra replica. The body is normally finished with gel coat. This sets hard and gives the smooth finish one would expect from a car body. Depending on what the manufacturer offers, the gel coat can come in many different colours which forms the finished surface. If you opt to spray the body then the gel coat will normally be grey.

figure 1.


The chassis is generally fabricated out of various profiles of metal of differing gauges. Some form sheet metal to create the chassis and some use a combination of both. Figure 2 shows a Mk2 Pilgrim sumo chassis which utilises the latter configuration.

figure 2.

Donor car

The donor car required will be specified by the manufacturer. Popular choices due to their availability are the range of Ford vehicles such as the Fiesta and Sierra, although the list of donor cars that are used generally spans the spectrum of popular mass produced cars. These cars normally donate (hence donor) a large proportion of their mechanical components such as engine, gearbox, suspension etc to be reconditioned and fitted into the newly purchased kit.


Kit car manufactures are normally small privately owned businesses run by people that are very enthusiastic about what they produce and sell to the likes of you and me.

A typical manufacturer would have designed and developed the car they are selling themselves. The fabrication of the kit (the body, chassis and other specialist components) is normally either done in-house or subcontracted out to specialist firms. Some kit manufacturers for instance make the GRP bodies for other kit manufactures.

Besides the Body and Chassis of the kit, manufacturers often supply a large proportion of the remaining items that are needed to complete the build. Some of the components are specific to that particular kit, so you generally have to purchase these items from the manufacturer. Other items are more general and you can pick and choose where to buy them from.

Most manufacturers offer complete kits which just leaves you to find the components supplied by the donor car. A lot of manufacturers can also supply reconditioned donor parts. It's really up to you as to how involved you want to get in the build of the car.



Various choices exist regarding the actual build of a kit car. One of the many reasons for wanting a kit car is the actual build itself. Many people find that this is the best part of the whole kit car ownership cycle - others would rather someone else did it.

It's entirely down to you how you want to play it. You can build it completely yourself, you can get someone else to build it such as a keen friend or a specialist build up company. The latter is going to cost you more due to the additional labour costs - your keen friend will probably be happy being paid in beers!

If you are going to attempt the build yourself then a good starting point for your new build is a clean dry garage. Better still would be a large, clean, dry garage with workbench and mains electrics and all the tools that every self respecting garage should contain.

Most people keep a record of the time it takes and the cost of the overall build. It's important that you keep all receipts of the build, right down to the last tin of paint, as the vehicle licensing office will want to see them when the time comes to register your new car.


Registering your new car All kit cars with four wheels or over have to pass a Single Vehicle Approval (SVA) test.

The SVA test involves a thorough examination of your completed vehicle at an authorised testing centre to check that it complies with the latest regulations.

The Vehicle Inspectorate website goes into more detail as to what is expected of a vehicle to get approval.

Do make sure before purchasing a kit that the manufacturer can provide proof that his car, if built properly will pass the SVA test. Avoid manufactures that employ tactics that enable the car 'to get round the SVA test'. This generally means that certain components are either missing from the car or are only on the car temporarily for the expressed purpose of passing the SVA test. These items are then removed afterwards. The SVA test is there to make our cars safe for you, me and the general populace. Comply with it fully, it's for all our benefit. Ask other owners how they got on with the test, do as much research as possible.


Enjoying your car

Now you've done all the hard graft (or not as the case may be!) you can relax and enjoy driving your new pride and joy. Soak up all the looks you'll get, take pride in the positive comments from passers by as they admire your handy work. This part of kit car ownership can be very rewarding. Your car will stand out from the crowd of the everyday hum drum motor cars. People appreciate this and generally tell you so.

If you haven't already, take the opportunity to join a club that is associated with your car. Clubs normally have their own social scene, can provide enormous help with tips and tricks regarding your build and can offer other incentives such as reduced insurance rates for members.

Go to some of the kit car shows throughout the year. This gives you the opportunity to see the latest offerings from the manufacturers and to meet other kit car owners.





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