How To Plan A Kit Car Project

How To Plan A Kit Car Project – Paul Pollock

Lets face it, when you compare kit cars to conventional automobiles you soon realize you’re working with a severe handicap. Buying a conventional car at a dealership is one of the easiest things Americans can do. Money isn’t necessarily a problem. All that is required is the ability to pay back the loan and a good credit rating, then you’re all set.

You may get writer’s cramp from signing all the papers as well as a stroke when you find out the interest rate, but the point is that the Dreammobile GT in your hands and that night you’re showing it off to your friends like a proud papa.

Compare all that to a kit car project and you’ve got quite a contrast. First of all, the financing is not nearly as easy to obtain for a kit car as it is for a conventional automobile. Even more important is the time and work required to put a kit car on the road. To put it another way, it’s sometimes hard to get excitied about a car that’s nothing but a collection of parts and problems. Thi is where a lot of novice builders fold.

The solution? First, the kit car builder had to have a full understanding of the task ahead. This might sound pretty basic, yet many first time builders aren’t honest with themselves when it comes to estimating the time or expense involved. In most case, far more time, money, and effort is needed to complete the car than the builder originally estimates.

How To Plan A Kit Car Project

white mini mark kit car

Cost Estimating

Many builders make up a budget of some sort before they start their project. This is a good idea, and if it’s done right, will allow a builder with limited funds to manage costs. The trick here is to include everything. For example, everyone includes the cost of wheels and tires in their preliminary estimates.

Do not however, forget that mounting and balancing all for corners can be a significant amount of change. Be sure to include chassis preparation; if you’re using a VW chassis, you’ll want to do some worked on the pan. Dond forget that bushings, rubber parts, ball joints, and brakes often need to be overhauled.

Lowering the chassis is important, too; the VW chassis alost always requires lowering at least the front end for proper ride height. Be sure to include the cost of parts and installation for the front end adjusters.

Other costs that might be a part of the budget include tools, shifter, special exhaust system, and gauges. What really hits some budgets hard are the little things that add up, such as trips to the store for paint, hardware, and other supplies.

Try to install as much fluorescent lighting as possible. If you do it right you won’t be forced to use a trouble light as often. Also, be sure to plan enough bench space and shelf space. Once all that is done, indulge in a few items that can make the car building hours more bearable. Some builders will argue that this doesn’t have much to do with the nuts and bolts of car building, but they’re wrong. If your work surroundings are part of your kit car building problems, then quality of the car will suffer.

Sterling Kit Car Project in Texas


When General Motors builds a car, the paperwork behind it is mind boggling. Kit car building is simpler, of course, so you don’t need a giant papermill. There are, however, some items you will want to record. One is the amount of money spent. All that’s really necessary is an envelope in which yo put the receipts as you get them. More ambitious builders may want to keep a running log of the expenses as they proceed.

Not only will these receipts help you keep track of costs for your own personal interests, they they are required in many states when the time comes to register your newly built kit car.

There are two more lists which you will find to be extremely useful. One is a “to do” list and the other is a “to buy” list. Together they can make your car building life easier. As you’re building the machine, add things to the appropriate list when you think of them. Often the two lists will be similar. For example, the “to buy” list might say, VW speedo cable (48in or longer)and the “to do” list might say install VW cable.

You’ll want to take the “to buy” list with you on those Saturday trips to various parts stores or junk yards. . Most car builders rely on their memory to keep track of their project. Writing things down is a lot more efficient and can eliminate many frustrations.

Aztec 7 project car

Take A Break

If your kit car project is a long term one. You will probably find yourself taking “leaves of absence.” Many builders take time off from building for a couple of weeks or a month. This coincides with a basic car building rule: Work on your car only when you enjoy doing so. If you’re project can be classified as a major (100 hours or more), frustrations are certain to occur. By taking time off, you’ll be in a better frame of mind when you return and more inclined to enjoy the project. Enjoy building a kit car? Some of you make think I’ve been around the parts cleaning solvent too long. Thank may be true. But I still insist that building a kit car is more than just an inexpensive way to drive something distinctive. If you don’t honestly enjoy the work, the quality of the car Is shire to suffer.


So Why We Do It

For many people. A kit car is the affordable way to drive something exciting and different. Its an opportunity to exercise a craft. And depending on how much of a cynic you are, some people say ego is involved.

Whatever your reasons, if you do see it all the way though, the results make all the hours and hassles worthwhile. With a kit car, a certain satisfaction is achieved that just isn’t possible with other cars. This because a kit car reflects the builders abilities, both creative and mechanical . That’s your trump card when a Porsche, Ferrari, or other car owners implies that what you have is not a “real” car. A factory car may be better then your it car in one or two categories, but this will always be the case whenever two cars are compared.

The point is that a conventional car, whatever positive elements it has, relies entirely on someone els’s talents. Your kit car, if you’ve done a good job, owes its success solely to you, the builder. That can make a world of difference .


I’LL Sell It For A Profit

Be careful here, as its and easy trap in which to get caught. The fact is, the profit angle rarely works out. One reason is the way costs rise in an almost uncontrollable fashion. If you’re trying to make yout car a business proposition , all costs must be included. Everything from the $2 brochure to the interest on the money you’ve tied up in the project. Also, be sure to include your labor; Its worth something and much be considered one of the costs of kit car building.

The other problem is the “Sale-Ablity” of completed cars. To the vast majority of Americans, exotic cars are like elephants, wonderful to look at, but you wouldn’t want to own one. This means that even tough your kit car is well made, you’re going to have to work very hard to get a fair and reasonable price for it.

Despite all these drawbacks, the build-for-profit approach remains popular. One reason is that some kit car builders are interested in building the cars but aren’t interesting in owning them. If you’re still planning on selling the kit car, you’ll have to take a different approach. This means you’ll have to build the car to please someone else. At the same time, you want to make money (or at least minimize your losses)

When you do spend money for extras, make sure you’ll at least recoup the additional costs when you sell the car. It’s questionable, for example, if money for exotic drive trains is worthwhile. Super stereo systems may be, however, since everybody wants one.

Whats most important is how the car looks. The colors of interior, wheels, and other incidentals you choose can be critical, especially in a car where exotic styling is important. Good, thorough detail work (which is more time consuming than expensive) can also pay off.

The chances of selling your kit car will depend on how much exposure you can give it. A few lines in a classified ad just doesn’t have the impact of actually seeing the kit car. Take it to as many shows and events attended by interested people as possible. Another option is to put the car on consignment in an exotic or high dollar car dealership. This gives you the distinct advantage of having a constant flow of people looking at your car, something that wont happen as long as its sitting in our garage.

Be careful about to whom you entrust your pride and joy. Make sure the dealer actively tries to sell the kit car and doesn’t just ignore it r use to sell other cars. Also, don’t let your car get in the hands of someone who abuses it, that means no joy rides. You’re better off with a dealer who leaves your kit car indoors. Even if the weather is good, the elements will take their toll on a kit car that sits outside.

If you’ve been unsure about building a kit car because the project seems out of your league, perhaps you’ll find the guidelines we’ve offered worthwhile. For most of us, building or own car represents one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in the automotive world, and the whole project will go smoothly if you take the time to plan it out in advance.

This is a reprint from the January 1983 issue of Kit Car The Specialty Car Magazine. Article titles How To Plan A Kit Car Project – Paul Pollock