Why pay someone else to build you a gleaming, refined and reliable new car, when you can knock up a shoddy, chintzy and possibly lethal lash up on your own dime? Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of kit cars.
Actually, that isn't entirely fair. While a kit car will only be as good as the man that built it, the main attraction of doing it yourself, other than saving some cash of course, is the sheer variety and chutzpah of many of the kit cars your can buy. And there are some very well engineered kit cars out there.
Fancy a classic Cobra, something that looks like a refuge from the Le Mans 24h race, a million bucks' worth of classic Aston Martin or a dead ringer for that iconic supercar from your youth? All of this and more can be yours and often for the price of a family hatchback. For many, there really is no other way of getting into something seriously dramatic other than going the kit car route.
What's more, thanks to the latest aftermarket clobber, your jury-rigged DIY special can match and sometimes beat the big boys for in-car tech. Hooking up sat nav or fitting a tablet-based touchscreen is relatively straightforward, for instance.
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:
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 trackday.
- 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.
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.
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.