Best Kit Car 2024: Jump Menu
The list in brief ↴
1. Best overall: Caterham Seven 170
2. Best American Muscle: Factory Five '33 Hot Rod
3. Best GT style: Factory Five Type 65
4. Best Supercar: Ultima Evolution Coupe
5. Best Cobra style: Dax 427
6. Best classic: Ronart W152
7. Best DIY option: Westfield SDV
8. Best Lotus replica: Westfield XI
9. Best non-kit car: Caterham 620R
10. How to choose
11. How we test
Kit cars are a unique breed. These unconventional autos range from replicas of classic motors to wildly modified hypercars. For the owners, the beauty of them is as much in the construction as the final drive – and often more so. Like a giant Lego set, some of these kits provide a simple step-by-step process, while others require a bit more technical knowledge.
If you've always dreamed of building your own car, the process of putting together a kit car in your garage over months or years can be hugely rewarding. It means you can decide on the exact specification, down to those nuts and bolts, and even save a bit of cash compared to buying a factory-built model.
Those savings mean that you can often build something for the price of a regular family saloon that would normally be way out of your price range. Always wanted a hypercar but have a 'regular car' budget? A kit car is the answer. You'll find replicas of classic Cobras, hot rods and even vintage Lotus models are there for the taking.
While some models are full kits, many rely on donor cars for parts such as the engine and drive train. This often requires a bit more skill to break down the original car, but if you're comfortable with trips to the scrap yard, it can keep the cost down.
T3's top 3 kit cars
While there are a wide range of kit cars on the market, if you want the very best, these are the three to consider. Caterham remains the quintessential name in the kit car market, but there are other options to suit your personal style.
The best Overall
Going back to basics seems like a redundant notion for one of the simplest, purest sports cars you can buy. But that's exactly the thinking behind the entry-level Caterham Seven 170. The interesting bit is that they've achieved it with some surprisingly modern tech. The engine is a teeny three-pot 660cc turbo affair borrowed from Suzuki. It only knocks out 84hp. But then the 170 only weighs 440kg. So it's good enough to hit 60mph in just 6.9 seconds.
Price: £28,990 | Caterham
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Best for American Muscle
The best for American Muscle
Hot Rods have always been beautiful machines with disappointing performance and handling, Factory Five has tried to design a car that drives as good as it looks. The '33 Hot Rod looks like something out of a film, and blends the retro and modern to create something truly stunning. Everything is designed and built in the USA, but there are European dealers for UK petrol heads as well.
Price: $20,990 | Factory Five
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Best for GT Style
The best for GT style
Fancy driving an iconic race car to pick up the kids after school? The Type 65 Coupe was designed to be an accurate replica of the original 1965 World Championship coupe - capturing the look and feel of original 200mph GT cars, but using modern engineering to make it more reliable and comfortable.
Price: $22,990 | Factory Five
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The best kit cars we recommend in 2023
Why you can trust T3
The best kit car overall
Buy it if
✅ You want a project: If building your kit car is the part that interests you, Caterham offers a comprehensive kit with everything you need.
✅ You're new to kit cars: The Caterham kit has everything you need, making it relatively easy to build, even for first time kit builders.
✅ You want a great drive: The beauty of the 170 is that it doesn't just look the part. This is one of the most fun cars to drive in existence, so you'll not get bored of it.
Don't buy it if:
❌ You want a year-round driver: The canvas roof and small cabin make this a great car for summer drives but less so in the cold and wet.
❌ You're on a tight budget: Though one a cheap option, the 170kit is now only slightly cheaper than the pre-built option and requires a considerable tool collection.
❌ You're on the larger side: The standard cabin on the 170 is pretty tight, so if you don't have the build of a racing driver, you might want to consider the 360 in the larger chassis.
The bottom line
🔎 Caterham Seven 170 Not only is the 170 a great kit car, it's a great driver's car. If you are looking for a project, the kit form provides an achievable build for those new to car building. However, if you just want to drive it, you might be better buying pre-built. ★★★★★
Caterham cars are based on the original Lotus Seven Mark 3 sports car and have remained relatively unchanged since its inception in 1974. The 170 is the entry-level model in the Caterham range and is a replacement for the former 160 model.
While it produces just 84bhp from the 660cc engine, it weighs just 440kg. This means that it produces around 170bhp per tonne – hence the name. It's that lightweight, bare-bones chassis that makes this car so much fun to drive. It also makes the Caterham a relatively easy kit to put together.
There used to be a significant difference in price between buying the car in kit form and having the factory build it for you. Today though it represents a relatively small difference. So while enthusiasts will enjoy the building process, it's not the money saver it once was.
Building: The Caterham kits come with everything you need to put them together and will walk you through the process. You can even buy the Draper tool kit as part of the package to help you put it together if you've not already got a decent set. You will still need an IVA inspection, registration and plates before it can go on the road.
Driving: The selling point of the Caterham 170 is that it's so much fun to drive, and even more rewarding if you've built it yourself. It's a down-to-earth sports car with little frills or luxuries, and that's part of its charm. You feel at one with the road and with the car when you drive it.
Read more: Caterham Seven 170R review
The best Kit Car for American Muscle
Buy it if
✅ You love Hot Rods: Hot Rods are the original modified cars. They were traditionally classic American cars that had been stripped down and upgraded with bigger engines.
✅ You want a custom project: While the kit is described as complete, you can add in your own choice of engine, brakes, wheels and more to get the car you want.
✅ This isn't your first rodeo: This kit is more involved than some as you need to supply some of your own parts. So a more extensive knowledge of cars is required to get this one underway.
Don't buy it if:
❌ You want a complete kit: Tough it's described as a complete kit, you need to add your own engine, wheels, tyres, rear brakes, fuel pump, battery and paint.
❌ You're short on time: The expected build time for this car is around 300 hours, plus body and paintwork. If you're doing this in your spare time, think of that in months.
❌ You're new to car maintenance: Being a custom project you can change up parts, but that means you need to know how things go together – and it won't always be straight forward.
The bottom line
🔎 Factory Five '33 Hot Rod If you've always wanted a Hot Rod, this is a great project option that makes it relatively easy to build. However, due to the nature of the kit, you'll need to know what you're doing. ★★★★
Hot Rods were used by bootleggers in the US to cover distances at speed and avoid being caught by the police. Today, they are more at home on drag circuits, providing serious straight-line power for that quarter mile.
If you're a fan of the genre, the Factory Five 33' Hot Rod kit is a great way to get your very own Hot Rod with relative ease. The kits are made in the USA, but can be shipped globally, and there are also companies in the UK who can take care of that for you.
This is a modern interpretation, so the car is a lot more drivable than traditional Hot Rods – it will go around corners and everything. However, the exact performance comes down to the engine you put in it. Though it's described as a complete kit, the engine along with some other key parts don't come with it.
That's worth bearing in mind when it comes to the price too. Expect to add another £5-10k to buy all your other bits, unless you can salvage them from other vehicles.
Building: The kit comes complete with a detailed assembly manual including pictures, diagrams and drawings. However, as some of the parts must be sourced yourself, there is an element of extra knowledge required to put this project together.
Driving: While this is a replica of a 1930s Ford Hot Rod, it uses modern equipment to provide sports car performance and modern ride quality. This is a much more useable car than most Hot Rods, with both front and rear suspension arms and an aluminium cockpit.
The best Kit Car for GT Style
Buy it if
✅ You want the best-looking car on the block: There's no denying, the Type 65 is a stunner. This Daytona Coupe replica is based on the cars built for the 1965 FIA World Championship for America and there aren't many like them.
✅ You've got time on your hands: This is an intricate kit and comes with a build manual that's over 200 pages long. Expect a longer build time than the Hot Rod, and also factor in any customisations in the project.
✅ You have a bigger budget: The kit cost might be fairly reasonable but many of the extra parts need to come from a fairly high-performance car, so look to double the cost on extras.
Don't buy it if:
❌ You're new to kit building: Yes, this comes with a complete manual and with time and plenty of patience you can probably work it out, but this is no Ikea project.
❌ You're uncomfortable driving a left-hand drive: This kit is set up for the original left-hand drive positioning and isn't adjustable to a right-hand drive for UK or Australian use.
❌ You're on the bigger side: This is a car designed for racing drivers, so the seats and cabin don't have a lot of room. If you're taller than 6'3" or bigger built you may need to make some alterations to the build.
The bottom line
🔎 Factory Five Type 65 Coupe Cars don't get much better looking than a 60s GT, and the Type 65 embodies the very best of that style. While it may not have the refinement of a modern sports car, if you have the patience to build it, it's a fraction of the price and a lot of fun. ★★★★
The Type 65 Coupe is based on a car created for the 1965 FIA World Championship for America. Only six of these cars were originally made, making this replica almost as rare but a great deal cheaper to buy.
The design of the car is a complete classic, with elements of the AC Cobra it was based on thrown in. Whether you finish it with all the racing livery is down to you but it really does complete the look.
This kit is now in its third generation and comes in two version. The first requires a Ford Mustang GT as the donor, while the second requires only the engine, transmission and rear end (with rear brakes) adding – plus wheels, battery and fuel pump.
Remember to factor in the price of the donor vehicle or at least the extra parts needed to put all this together. If you're building this in the UK you may need some extra work to get this road legal too.
Building: Opting for the complete kit means that aside from that engine block, transmission, rear end, wheels and paint, the rest is included. The bound assembly manual is over 200 pages long and takes you through the whole process. However, as this still requires quite a fw donor parts, you'll need to have a fair bit of motor knowledge to do it.
Driving: Depending on the engine and transmission you use, this coupe should run more like a Mustang than a 60s AC. The kits are designed to be more liveable than the original track cars but don't expect too many home comforts inside.
The best Hyper (kit) car
None other than McLaren used an Ultima GTR as a development mule when they were knocking up the legendary F1 supercar. In many ways, that's all you need to know about the Ultima cars. It's a pukka bit of kit. Today, it remains one of the very fastest cars money can buy. It'll just cost you a lot less money than the likes of a million-dollar Bugatti Veyron or any of the new hybrid hypercar brigade from Porsche, Ferrari and, yes, McLaren.
The best Cobra style kit car
Dax is perhaps the best-known for its Cobra kits. The Dax 427, once known as the Tojeiro, is a combination of sinuous British bodywork and brutish power from a Yankee V8. That's the classic Cobra combo. Engine options are extensive; you can have classic Ford and Chevy pushrod V8s. Or maybe something more modern and multi-valve like a Jaguar lump. Either way, the performance levels are going to be utterly terrifying.
The nice thing about the Dax kits is that you can buy it in stages, with each pack starting from under £1000. The total cost is likely to be around £25k, on top of that V8 engine.
The best classic kit car
Thought kit cars were a bit uncouth? Then you obviously haven't heard of the positively aristocratic Ronart W152. The period bodywork hides high-quality Jaguar components, including straight-six and V8 engines. There's even a terrifying 500hp Jaguar V12 option. Either, as you sail past all those ghastly oiks in their modern motors, the very last thing they'll be thinking as they get a taste of your tailpipes is there goes a shoddy kit car.
The best DIY kit car
Spiritually related to Caterham's Seven 160, the Westfield SDV is the more intensively DIY option. The idea here is to combine the kit with a single donor vehicle (hence 'SDV') to produce the home-spun sportster of your dreams. In this case, we're talking gen one Mazda MX-5 giving up its soul so that you might drive something seriously exciting. The Mazda's 1.6-litre lump knocks out over 100hp, which is serious power something as flyweight as a Westfield.
The classic Lotus 11 replica
While Westfield offers its own Lotus 7 replica, like Caterham, it's the Lotus Eleven design that the company is really known for. The curvaceous bodywork looks as impressive on the road today as the original did back in the late 1950s. Originals of the Lotus are extremely rare but this Westfield IX can be built with the help of a donor car for under £24k.
A new 2024 version is now in production with an improved build quality, as well as modern additions such as a 5-speed gearbox option and better brake kits.
The best non-kit kit car
Mention kit cars and one brand comes to mind – Caterham. The Caterham Seven is almost legendary, and its ultimate form is the 620 R. It features a mind-boggling 310bhp, has a top speed of 155 mph and can accelerate to 60 in 2.79 seconds - that's roughly on par with a McLaren P1 and Nissan GT-R! At the heart of the 620 R is a supercharged 2.0-litre Ford Duratec engine, as Caterham put it, "we have done the automotive equivalent of attaching a rocket to a missile" - sounds fun (and slightly terrifying).
The 620 R is actually the only car from Caterham you can't buy in kit form, but it still represents back-to-basics (yet extreme) motoring.
How to choose the best kit car for you:
Interested in building yourself a kit car but haven't the foggiest where to start? Here are some top tips from the Chief Motorsport and Technical Officer of Caterham, Simon Lambert:
Know what you are buying. A Caterham is a complete car in kit form – just add fluids. Most other 'kits' need the buyer to source some parts from somewhere else or even make them, hence so many unfinished projects hidden away in garages.
What goes up, must come down. It's all very well lifting a bare chassis up onto some high stands to make it easy to build, but how do you plan to get it down afterwards? Even Caterham customers forget this and have to find a clever way of getting their newly finished car of stands much higher than their jack can reach.
Be generous with your deadline. Best will in the world, your car may be short of a part or two and the IVA/registration process can take longer than expected. Don't plan to get it and have it on the road a week later because you've booked a track day
Let the professionals take care of IVA. The IVA test is no fun. Allowing Caterham (or other manufacturer) to prepare your finished car for IVA and get it through the process will be worth every penny and ensure your memories are of an enjoyable build only.
Love your garage. Why would you want to spend any time in a cold, dark place full of spiders? If you garage isn't a bright and pleasant place to be, you'll find yourself rushing or working in inadequate light. A garage should be clean, well lit and insulated if you're going to be in it when it is cold (the ten months between September and June). But why stop there? Specialist garage floor tiles mean you can walk around in socks and sit on it to do jobs without getting filthy. A decent sound system, TV and beer fridge are top of the essentials list. Having WiFi and something to access it with in the garage are very handy, as the internet will be your friend when you are stuck.
The quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten. Buying something that needs assembling is essentially an excuse gateway for buying more tools. Quality tools last a lifetime and having the right tool for the job will make all the difference and ensure skin remains on your fingers and nuts and screws can be undone again in the future.
Did I torque that up? Putting a mark across a nut or bolt with a sharpie is a good way of reminding yourself which fixings are torqued tight and which still need doing
How we tested kit cars
How we test the best kit cars
We've taken the views and opinions of industry experts, enthusiasts and novice car-builders into consideration to compile our list of the best kit cars. Building a kit car takes hundreds of hours, which can amount to months if not years if you're doing it as a hobby. For that reason, we can't review every car. However, our experts have driven many of them over the years.