Tractor & Construction Plant Wiki

Fiberfab FT Bonito, a kit-car on a VW Beetle chassis.

Locost frame and body panels.

1972 Sterling Nova, Eurika, Eagle.

A kit car, also known as a "component car", is an automobile that is available as a set of parts that a manufacturer sells and the buyer then either assembles into a car themselves, or retains a third party to do part or all of the work on their behalf. Usually, many of the major mechanical systems such as the engine and transmission are sourced from donor vehicles or purchased from other vendors new. Kits vary in completeness ranging from as little as a book of plans to a complete set with all components included.

There is a sub-set of kit cars, commonly referred to as a "re-body" in which a commercially manufactured vehicle has a new (often fiberglass) body put on the running chassis. Most times, the existing drive gear and interior is retained. These kits require less technical knowledge from the builder and as the chassis and mechanical systems were designed, built and tested by a major automotive manufacturer can also lead to a much higher degree of safety and reliability.

The definition of a kit car usually indicates that a manufacturer constructs multiple kits of the same vehicle which they then in turn sell. This should not be confused with 'hand built cars' or 'Special' cars, which are typically built from scratch by an individual.


Replica of Porsche 550 Spyder made from a kit

Kit cars have been around from the earliest days of the automobile. In 1896 the Englishman Thomas Hyler White developed a design for a car that could be assembled at home and technical designs were published in a magazine called The English Mechanic.[1] In the United States the Lad's Car of 1912 could be bought for US$160 ($3000 equivalent in 2006) fully assembled or US$140 ($2600 in 2006) in kit form.[2]

It was not until the 1950s that the idea really took off. Car production had increased considerably and with rust proofing in its infancy many older vehicles were being sent to breaker yards as their bodywork was beyond economic repair. An industry grew up supplying new bodies and chassis to take the components from these cars and convert them into new vehicles, particularly into sports cars. Fiber reinforced plastic (aka "GRP," or "fiberglass") was coming into general usage and made limited-scale production of automobile body components much more economical.[3] Also, in the UK up to the mid 1970s, kit cars were sometimes normal production vehicles that were partially assembled as this avoided the imposition of purchase tax as the kits were assessed as components and not vehicles. The Lotus Elan, for example, was available in this form. It was often claimed that the kits could be taken home and completed in only a weekend.

During the 1970s many kits had bodies styled as sports cars that were designed to bolt directly to VW Beetle chassis. This was popular as the old body could be easily separated from the chassis leaving virtually all mechanical components attached to the chassis and a GRP-body from the kit supplier shop fitted. This made the Beetle one of the most popular "donor" vehicles of all time.[4] Examples of this conversion include the Bradley GT, Sterling, and Sebring which were made by the thousands and many are still around today. Volkswagen based dune buggies also appeared in relatively large numbers in the 1960s and 1970s based usually on a shortened floor pan.

Current kit cars are frequently replicas of well-known and often expensive classics and are designed so that anyone with a measure of technical skill can build them at home to a standard where they can be driven on the public roads. These replicas are in general appearance like the original, but their bodies are often made of fiberglass mats soaked in polyester resin instead of the original sheet metal. The AC Cobra and the Lotus 7 are particularly popular examples, the right to manufacture the Lotus 7 now being owned by Caterham Cars who bought the rights to the car from Lotus founder Colin Chapman in 1973. Replica kit cars enable enthusiasts to possess a vehicle of a type that because of scarcity they may not be able to afford, and at the same time take advantage of modern technology.

Many people react sceptically when they first hear about kit cars as it appears to them to be technically impossible to assemble a car at home and license it for public roads. They may also be worried that such a car would not subsequently pass the mandatory quality control (road worthiness test) that is required in most countries. For example, to obtain permission to use a kit car in Germany, every such vehicle with a speed over 6 km/h without a general operating license (ABE) or an EC type permission (EC-TG) has to undergo, as per the § 21 of Road traffic licensing regulations (STVZO), a technical inspection by an officially recognized expert of a Technical Inspection Authority. In the United Kingdom it is necessary to meet the requirements of the IVA (Individual vehicle Approval) regulations. In the United States SEMA has gone state by state to set up legal ways for states to register kit cars and speciality vehicles for inspection and plates.

A survey of nearly 600 kit car owners in the USA, England and Germany, carried out by Dr. Ingo Stüben, showed that typically 100–1,500 hours are required to build a kit car, depending upon the model and the completeness of the kit.[5] However, as the complexity of the kits offered continues to increase, build times have increased as well.

Several sports car producers such as Lotus and TVR started as kit car makers.

Kit car manufacturers


An Elfin Type 3 Clubman kit car.

  • Alpha Sports
  • Bolwell
  • Pellandini Cars
  • PRB
  • Purvis Eureka
  • Elfin Sports Cars
  • Bushrangie


  • Apal


  • Spex Design Corporation

Czech Republic

  • Kaipan


  • ESTfield
  • Rexer


To obtain permission to use a kit car in Germany, every such vehicle with a speed over 6 km/h without a general operating license (ABE) or an EC type permission (EC-TG) has to undergo, as per the § 21 of Road traffic licensing regulations (STVZO), a technical inspection by an officially recognized expert of a Technical Inspection Authority.

  • Apal
  • Michalak Design
  • Hoffmann 2CV


  • Unidiseño Mastretta

New Zealand

  • Chevron Engineering Ltd
  • De Joux
  • Fraser Cars Ltd


Dala 7, is a sevenesque kit-car made in Stora Skedvi, close to Säter in Dalarna.

Technically, kit cars are not allowed in Sweden, but provided that most of the components and material are sourced by the builder personally it is possible to register them as amateur built vehicles. Before the law requiring a mandatory crash test in 1970 there was a booming kit car industry in Sweden with most companies basing their kits on the VW Beetle chassis. When amateur built vehicles again were allowed in 1982 all kit car companies in Sweden had disappeared.

The inspection (SVA equivalent) in Sweden is handled by the car builder's association SFRO who makes two inspections; one when the car has reached the rolling chassis stage and the second when the car is finished. Amateur built cars are currently limited to 15 kW (20 PS) per 100 kg. Earlier the limit was 10 kW (10 PS) per 100 kg, so for very light cars (like a Lotus 7 type car) it was a problem to find a suitable engine.

  • Boes Motor & Mekanik
  • Dala7
  • Esther
  • GOX Teknik
  • Hult Healey
  • Mania Spyder
  • Mascot
  • Ockelbo
  • Pagano
  • Racing Plast Burträsk (RPB)
  • Roadline, Porsche Speedster and Porsche Boxer RS replicas

United Kingdom

Dutton Sierra kit car chassis and GRP bodywork prior to installation of mechanical components.

Vehicle regulations in the UK allow the production of up to 200 vehicles a year without the extensive regulation and testing requirements applied to mass-market vehicles. This has led to an expanding industry of small producers capable of offering partial and complete kits, some for export, and finished vehicles for domestic use.

The DVLA regulate kit cars in the UK, which helps to ensure that vehicles used on the road are safe and suitable for the purpose. The current test for this is Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA), which has replaced Single Vehicle Approval (SVA). When SVA was first introduced in 1998, many believed this would kill off the kit car market, but in reality it has made the kit car market stronger, as the vehicles produced now have to meet a minimum standard. IVA was introduced in summer 2009 and it is too early to tell what impact this will have on the industry.

Many, but not all, kit cars are given a 'Q' registration plate which signifies a vehicle of unknown or mixed age. All kit cars are subject to a Vehicle Identity Check, VIC, by the DVLA to determine the registration mark a kit car is assigned. This will be either, a new, current year, registration; an 'age-related' registration; or a 'Q' plate. Once a kit car has been correctly registered, a V5C, or log book, will be assigned and then a kit car is treated in exactly the same way as a production car, from any larger manufacturer. A kit car must pass it's MOT test and have a valid road fund license, or have a valid Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN) declaration.

According to figures given to the magazine Kit Car (The UK's Top Selling Kit Car Magazine) the most popular kit in the United Kingdom in 2005 was made by Robin Hood Sportscars who sell 700 kits a year.[6]

  • Aeon
  • AKS Continental
  • Arkley SS
  • Ashley Laminates
  • ADD Nova
  • Banham Conversions
  • Beauford automobiles
  • Buckler Cars
  • Burlington Cars
  • Car Craft Cars
  • Caterham Cars
  • Carlton Automotive
  • Cavallo
  • Clan
  • Covin
  • Dakar 4x4
  • Dax
  • Davrian
  • Diva
  • Dutton Cars
  • Eagle (SS)
  • Elva
  • Fairthorpe Cars
  • Falcon Shells
  • Fisher Sports Cars
  • GCS Hawke
  • Gentry Cars
  • Ginetta Cars
  • GKD
  • Great British Sports Cars
  • GTM Cars
  • Heron Plastics
  • Hustler
  • Jago
  • JBA Cars
  • JZR Trikes
  • Kougar
  • Locost
  • Locust
  • Lomax
  • Marcos
  • Mills Extreme Vehicles
  • McCoy
  • Marlin
  • Midas Cars
  • MK Sportscars
  • NG sports cars
  • Onyx Sports Cars
  • Opperman
  • Peel
  • Peerless / Warwick
  • Pilgrim Cars
  • Piper Cars
  • Quantum Sports Cars
  • Raw Engineering
  • Robin Hood
  • Rochdale
  • Scamp
  • Sylva
  • Spartan Cars
  • Tiger Racing
  • Tornado
  • Trident
  • Turner
  • Ultima Sports
  • Unipower
  • Westfield Sportscars
  • West Mains Automotive
  • Dwornik Engineering Vincent MPH Riley MPH replica

Manufacturers in the UK are actively supported by Owners Clubs, some being marque specific, while others follow a specific type, such as Cobra replicas and others are area related.

  • Quantum Owners Club

United States

A Bernardi roadster, from the Blakely Auto Works

A glider kit is a term used in the United States for a kit used to restore or reconstruct a wrecked or dismantled vehicle. Glider kits include a chassis (frame), front axle, and body (cab). The kit may also contain other optional components.

A motor vehicle constructed from a glider kit is titled as a new vehicle.

Examples of kit cars and glider kits include:

  • Blakely Auto Works
  • Bradley Automotive
  • DDR Motorsport
  • Devin Cars
  • Factory Five Racing - markets an AC Cobra replica and a design of their own, a GTM 200
  • Fiberfab
  • Frese Motorcars
  • Hi-Tech motorsports
  • Sterling Sports Cars
  • La Bala
  • La Dawri
  • Lad's Car
  • McBurnie
  • Meyers Manx
  • Brunton Automotive - V6 Roadster originally based on the Chevy S10.
  • Superformance - markets a Shelby-licensed AC Cobra replica

Kit vehicle

A kit vehicle is a wider concept than a kit car. A kit vehicle is a motor vehicle (car, truck or motorcycle) that is built by an individual instead of a manufacturer.[7]

See also

References / sources

  1. Alan Sutton, "Mr White and his Motor Cars", The Automobile, June 1986
  2. Georgano, Nick (Editor). Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile. ISBN 1-57958-293-1. 
  3. The Big Guide to Kit and Specialty Cars, Harold Pace, 2002
  4. The Big Kit Car Buyer's Guide, Harold Pace and Jim Youngs, 2002
  5. Published in: Bausatzkraftfahrzeuge (Kit Cars) als ein Beispiel technischer Freizeit- und Mobilitätsinnovation, Tectum Verlag, Marburg 2000
  6. List of the top ten selling UK Kit Cars in 2005
  7. Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles : Salvage

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Smallwikipedialogo.png This page uses some content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Kit car. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Tractor & Construction Plant Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons by Attribution License and/or GNU Free Documentation License. Please check page history for when the original article was copied to Wikia