Make Your DIY Automotive Dreams Reality

If you’re an automotive enthusiast, you probably love supercars and other rare or unique models. But few of us can afford to actually buy (and run) such ultra-exclusive über-rides. The everyperson’s answer to unrequited supercar love could be a kit car.

Building a kit car from the ground up is not only a satisfying project but also gives you an awesome result that you can be stoked to drive. If you’re thinking of joining the kit cars club, we’ve got some inspiration for you.

Kit Cars Offer Affordable Exclusivity

Ranking The Best kit cars to build

Building your own car is a lot of work. Like car restoration projects, it’s a big job that can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are plenty of DIY car kits available to help make the job go as smoothly as possible.

If you want to build a kit car — whether it’s a replica of your favorite muscle car, a race car, or even a dune buggy — you can find a replica kit/component car to fit your desires.

Kit cars are sold as a set of parts the buyer assembles — or has the manufacturer or a third party assemble — into a functioning vehicle. They’re usually built around a “donor” engine, transmission, and sometimes a chassis from a regular production vehicle.

When assembled right, kit cars can be head-turning machines for a fraction of the price of a genuine exotic. Plus, if you’re working on a budget, you’ll also appreciate the lower running costs and reliability that mainstream contemporary engineering provides.

Broadly speaking, kit car designs fall into two categories. Replicas emulate famous supercars such as Lamborghinis, Ford GT40s, and Shelby Cobras. Originals, on the other hand, offer a truly unique look and feel all their own.

Buying a DIY Kit Car

When buying a kit car, be sure to do your homework. Many DIY kit car companies are long-established, international car manufacturers with substantial full-time staff.

Others, however, are one-man backyard body-kit operations with patchy reputations. Be sure to do your research before dropping your coin on one of these homemade beauties.

Also, remember that many kit cars rely on a “donor” car for at least the engine and running gear. Buying a crashed vehicle with a totaled body can work and save you a lot of money — provided the essential mechanical components you need are not damaged.

rolling-chassisrolling-chassis

You can also spread out your investment in the build over time, as most kit cars can be built in stages. If you want big power but can’t afford the performance upgrades today, you can start with a stock motor and upgrade later as finances allow.

Almost all DIY kit car manufacturers will provide or sell you an assembly manual prior to your purchase. This allows you to know what you’re getting into before you write them a big check.

Below are a few kit cars from manufacturers that are worth considering and that are impressive values.

16 Best Kit Cars

With so many flavors to choose from, which kit car do you want in your garage?

LB Specialist Cars STR

GP4-Round-Arch-STR-8GP4-Round-Arch-STR-8
(Photo/ LB Specialist Cars STR)

The Lancia Stratos, which dominated the World Rally Championships in the mid-1970s, is among the most gorgeously aggressive auto designs of all time. It’s rarer than an honest politician, though, with only 492 vehicles made. Today, the original Stratos can easily fetch over $400,000.

For a less-stress Stratos, try the mechanically and aesthetically convincing British-made LB Specialist Cars STR. The STR is available as a built car, but can only be imported into the United States as a kit, or as a “turn-key minus” sans engine and transmission.

The STR offers better interior space and dependability than the original Stratos, while still being plenty peppy. You can put a lot of different engines in the STR, but an Alfa Romeo V6 is a common option. Combined with the car’s light weight, this thing isn’t slow!

If you build the STR yourself, the kit and needed components will cost you around $35,000. An already-built STR will set you back around $65,000.

Though not the cheapest of the replica cars out there, this one is definitely worth its weight in gold if you want a replica from the golden age of Rally Racing.

Exomotive Exocet

Exomotive excosetExomotive excoset
(Photo/Exomotive)

The Exocet is a complete, lightweight sports car chassis and body designed to use 1990-2005 Mazda Miata running gear. This keeps costs down and offers a huge number of aftermarket upgrade options.

Exomotive has eliminated weak points, improved stiffness, and reduced weight through the use of the latest CAD software and extensive Finite Element Analysis (FEA). Each Exocet includes hand-laid composite body panels available in 188 gel coat colors, which don’t require paint and provide a high-gloss finish.

Enthusiasts looking for an exciting and inexpensive kit car will get a kick out of one of these. There are three Exomotive Exocet models on offer — Base, Sport, and Race/Off-Road — with prices ranging from $7,999 to $8,999, excluding the Miata donor car that you’ll need to get your kit car in action.

Ultima RS Kit CarUltima RS Kit Car
(Photo/Ultima Sports Ltd.)

Ultima Sports Ltd. is a British brand with a strong U.S. following. The company originally made a name for itself with the Ultima GTR supercar, which broke numerous world speed records when first introduced. The latest Ultima super kit car, the RS, promises even more insane performance and just as raw of a driving experience.

The Ultima RS is available as a complete car in much of the world, but just as a kit in the U.S. This Chevy small-block V8-powered, midengine, rear-wheel-drive supercar is a true head-turner in terms of looks and performance. The top-spec build will get you 1,200 horsepower, a 0-60 mph time of 2.3 seconds, and a top speed of over 250 mph.

Pricing will vary wildly depending on the drivetrain and other components like the level of interior refinement — also if you have someone else assemble it for you. Pricing on the Ultima RS starts around $80,000, with top-spec assembled builds topping out over $120,000.

Factory Five MK4RoadsterFactory Five MK4Roadster
(Photo/Factory Five Racing)

The Shelby Cobra is one of America’s most replicated cars and a favorite kit car to build. Massachusetts’ Factory Five makes one the best car Cobra replicas out there with its popular MK4Roadster. Factory Five claims that its MK4 Roadster is “the world’s best-selling replica” — a claim that is hard to dispute.

Real Shelby Cobras have sold for more than $5 million, but luckily for you, a Factory Five MK4 Roadster is considerably more affordable. You can build your own with a $14,990 Factory Five base kit, a 1987-2004 Ford Mustang donor car, and some wheels, tires, paint, patience, and elbow grease.

Caterham Seven 170

caterham seven 170caterham seven 170
(Photo/Caterham)

This entry-level Caterham DIY kit car is anything but basic. If you’re looking for a lightweight model that delivers a spirited ride, the Seven 170 delivers a fun, compact package.

This agile little kit car is great on the road or on the track, with a quick enough 0-60 mph time of around 6.9 seconds. Though not as flashy as some of the other replica models on the market, the Caterham 170 should be decidedly exhilarating to drive.

And, if you want a little more spice in your Lotus Super 7 replica, there are four other Seven models to choose from. The top-of-the-line supercharged Seven 620 should give horsepower fiends plenty to grin about. Kit pricing for the base model Seven 170 starts at about $37,000.

Beck Spyder kit carBeck Spyder kit car
(Photo/Beck)

Special Edition Inc. makes the Beck Spyder, and other kit cars, in its 30,000-square-foot facility in Northern Indiana.

Iconic 1950s Porsche 550 Spyder style is what the Beck Spyder is all about. The tube frame and fiberglass body open-top machine weighs very little (around 1,300 pounds) and is usually outfitted with around 150 horsepower and a four-speed manual transmission. That combination means you’ll not only want to be seen in this beautiful machine but also have some spirited canyon and track drives in it.

About $57,000 will get you a factory-built Beck Spyder with all the bells and whistles, minus an engine and transmission. A finished top-spec Beck Spyder will be close to $70,000. If you want to build a super-basic one yourself, you could probably do so for around $50,000, including engine and trans. The Beck Spyder is usually powered by an air-cooled VW motor or a Subaru boxer engine.

Have a look at the Porsche 550 Spyder Replica market on Classic.com, as it’s a good place to start if you want to get a Beck Spyder that’s already been built.

If you’re looking for a little piece of motoring history along with your kit car, RCR’s D-Type kit car hearkens back to Jaguar’s golden age of 1950s Le Mans victories. Race Car Replicas (RCR) is based in Michigan and has been producing impressive vehicles since 2003, alongside its sister company, Superlite Cars.

Like the original, the RCR D-Type has an aluminum monocoque chassis with bolt-on steel subframes. The body of the RCR is fiberglass. The original XK-series engine is an inexpensive and authentic drive-train option that you can find to finish out your replica.

And, you can choose from three different designs for your right-hand-drive kit car: a plain version, a version with rounded headrests, or a version with an iconic fin behind the driver. Kit pricing starts at around $36,750, which doesn’t include the powertrain.

DF Goblin

DF GoblinDF Goblin
(Photo/DF Kit Car)

The DF Goblin is a high-performance, midengine car you build yourself, using minimal tools, in your home garage. It has a full tube chassis, has minimal bodywork, and the running gear and accessories come from a 2005-2010 Chevrolet Cobalt donor car.

The Goblin is relatively easy to assemble because DF has engineered the car to use as much of the donor as possible. DF claims that in less than 100 hours, with a basic set of home garage tools and basic mechanical skills, anyone can turn a pile of parts into a midengine fun machine.

For as low as $10,000 and some sweat equity, you too can have a street-legal, midengine, lightweight, sports car. This little machine would also be amazing on a race track!

Backdraft RT4

Backdraft RT4Backdraft RT4
(Photo/Backdraft Racing)

If you’re in the market for a race-proven, high-performance sports car, look no further than this sleek Cobra roadster replica DIY kit car from Backdraft Racing. Its eye-catching ’60s styling is matched with modern suspension to create a very fun package for all the senses.

The kit comes as a “turnkey-minus rolling chassis” so you can build your personal dream car with the power train of your choice. When mated with a modern engine, the compact and lightweight RT4 is sure to become your go-to weekend fun machine.

Pricing for the RT4 starts at $52,000, with lots of options for personal customization, and excluding the drivetrain.

MNR Sportscars VortX RT Miata

Vortx RT MiataVortx RT Miata
(Photo/MNR Sports Cars Ltd.)

The MNR Sportscars VortX RT Miata kit car is a replica of the famously sporty Lotus 7. For this budget-friendly option, all the running gear for the car comes from a 1990-1997 Mazda Miata donor car.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that this kit car is slow or unexciting. The VortX RT is a track day supercar killer that is street-legal and ready for open-air motoring enjoyment.

The complete kit, without required donor Miata parts, will cost you a little over $12,000, and usable donor Miatas can be found for a few thousand dollars.

Aldino K/O

Aldino fiero kit carAldino fiero kit car
(Photo/Aldino Cars)

No kit car list would be complete without a Pontiac Fiero-based vehicle. Adino Car Company has managed to combine inspired designs from such legendary vehicles as the Ferrari Testarossa, Lamborgini Countach, and Muira to create the Aldino K/O kit car. Love it or hate it, it is a looker!

Aldino offers completed car builds, with prices starting at about $36,000, and DIY kits that start at about $9,000. It will take you 40-150 hours to build one of these, depending on your mechanical knowledge.

Smyth VW Jetta/Golf Ute

Smyth VW Jetta Golf UteSmyth VW Jetta Golf Ute
(Photo/Smyth Kit Cars)

Though not a from-scratch kit car build, these DIY car-to-truck conversion kits from Smyth are a fun way to take a run-of-the-mill ride and make it into something unique. Smyth’s bestselling kit converts a 1999.5-2010 VW Jetta or Golf into the perfect little pickup. What flair you add from there is up to you. Pricing for the kit starts at $3,590.

Smyth claims that its conversion kit is simple enough that even amateurs can make the conversion with a few weekends of elbow grease. With kit options ranging from Jeeps to Audis, if you’re looking for an easy project that will transform your vehicle into something unique, one of these conversion kits could be your ticket to small pickup stardom.

RCR 917

RCR 917RCR 917
(Photo/Race Car Replicas)

If you’ve always wanted to add an iconic Porsche race car to your stable, but don’t have the dough to drop on an original, this 917 replica from RCR should more than fit the bill. You can even finish it out in the eye-catching Gulf or Martini racing livery for added street cred.

With this RCR kit car, you get an aluminum monocoque center with a tube-frame front and rear. Or, you can order a complete tube frame chassis with a six-point race cage if you’re planning to take it to the track.

Plus, with its DOT-legal windshield and working headlights and taillights, you can legally take this 917 on the street. You can outfit it with a Porsche flat 12 or flat 6. But if you’re working on a budget, the chassis is also compatible with a Chevy LS-series engine — which can offer up even more ponies than the original 917. The kit price for the RCR 917 starts at $51,000, drivetrain not included.

40/41 Willys Coupe

Antique Collectible Autos 40 41 Willy's CoupeAntique Collectible Autos 40 41 Willy's Coupe
(Photo/Antique Collectible Autos)

Antique & Collectible Autos specializes in classic Ford, Chevy, and Willys kit cars and trucks, offering some of the more unique old-school classic kit cars on the market. This 40/41 Willys Coupe replica will certainly turn heads.

The body is made from hand-laid layers of fiberglass and is covered in a durable gel coat surface for high strength and superior surface quality. As no fiberglassing is required, the high-quality kit is easy to assemble, and you can choose from a couple of body, frame, and suspension options to get your hot rod set up just the way you want it.

Starting pricing for a rolling chassis with a body comes in at about $17,000. Interior, paint, and drivetrain will drive up that price considerably.

Speedway Motors 1927 Track-T Roadster

Speedway Motors 1927 Track-T RoadsterSpeedway Motors 1927 Track-T Roadster
(Photo/Speedway Motors)

Looking for more of a hot rod? The Speedway Motors 1927 Track-T Roadster kit car is a classic-looking, fun machine that is sure to turn heads.

The basic kit includes a reproduction Ford Model T Roadster body and a rigid tube steel chassis. The chassis is built to accommodate a traditional spring-over-tube axle front suspension with radius rods, and a solid rear axle with quarter-elliptic springs.

Speedway Motors suggests either a Ford 2300cc four-cylinder or 60-degree Chevy V6 engine, as both have lots of aftermarket performance support. As inexpensive replica cars go, this roadster offers heaps of cool customization with a very affordable price tag of about $23,000.

Tornado Sports Cars Ford GT40 Replica

Tornado Sports Cars GT40Tornado Sports Cars GT40
(Photo/Tornado Sports Cars)

With a U.K. base and stateside sales operation, Tornado Sports Cars (TSC) has been producing stunning Ford GT40 replicas for more than 25 years.

Only around 100 of the original GT40 were ever made, and survivors fetch seven figures. The TSC GT40 is quite the value, with the “basic component package” starting at around $11,000.

Using a Ford or Rover V8 powerplant, TSC’s version is also available as a turnkey car built to exact customer specifications. Turnkey cars come with modern conveniences like air conditioning, a central locking system, and safety options like a six-point roll cage.


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