More people are fulfilling the dream to build their own car
Most car firms are battling a pandemic-led hit, but the kit car scene is booming
When the extent of the pandemic lockdown became apparent, understandably there were concerns among the kit car community about the effect it would have on the long-standing industry. Manufacturers, too, were anxious about customers cancelling orders or not making them at all.
As it turns out, the kit car industry has been one of the few to prosper this year. What actually happened was that we ‘garagistas’ got busy in our workshops and cracked on with modifications, repairs and builds. People who were thinking about buying a kit car ‘one day’ found they had much more time and bit the bullet.
As a result, the industry is currently flat out. Some manufacturers have waiting lists of over two years for fully built cars, and kit packages could take six months for delivery in some cases.
It might surprise you to learn that there are well over 100 kit car manufacturers in the UK, so narrowing down this round-up to seven was extremely tricky. We’ve omitted household names Caterham and Westfield (which now also produces the popular Chesil Speedster replica), which both also have strong order books. So, in no order of importance, here are seven worth checking out.
AK Sports Cars
This Peterborough-based, family-run company has been making its glorious AK427 AC Cobra replica since 1991. The firm can build a car for you if you don’t fancy doing it yourself and its product is first class. Power mainly comes from General Motors LS V8s, although many other V8s can be used. A more recent launch is the AKSS, a recreation of the iconic Jaguar XKSS from 1957 powered by Jaguar’s 4.2-litre AJ V8.
Gardner Douglas Sports Cars
Located in Grantham, Lincolnshire, Gardner Douglas celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2020. The pandemic certainly hasn’t put the brakes on its order book: as with AK’s Cobra replica, it will take you a couple of years to take delivery of a GD427. LS V8s are again the usual choice of power these days. Alongside the Cobra replicas, Gardner Douglas also makes a stunning Lola T70 Spyder replica that puts out 450bhp in stock LS3 V8 form.
Great British Sports Cars
GBS is a proper industry success story. It can trace its lineage back to famous 1980s kit car firm Robin Hood Engineering, although it’s a separate entity. Its main product is a Lotus Seven-inspired sports car that can be powered by Ford motors, the Vauxhall ‘Redtop’ and even a Honda S2000 engine. Motorcycle engines or even rotary engines can be specially installed, too. The Nottinghamshire firm will also fabricate all sorts of hardware with CNC machines.
East Sussex-based Hawk Cars has been supplying a range of classic replicas for nearly 40 years. As well as being well known for its 289 Cobra replicas, made in standard or FIA racing forms and with glassfibre or aluminium bodies, it is also the only company to produce an AC Ace replica.
Perhaps its most famed kit, however, is its Lancia Stratos replica, known for its appearance on Top Gear. Sales show no sign of slowing down, with a very healthy order book.
Gloucestershire-based MEV gives people what they want to build at an affordable price with its Mazda MX-5-based original design, the Exocet. You can build one for well below £10k, although £12,000 will get you a top-spec car.
The company is alone here in not selling turnkeys (fully built cars), although such is the volume of kits it sells every month that it doesn’t have the resources to do so.
Based in deepest Norfolk and producing its superlative three-wheeler since 1978, Triking has a unique but hugely popular offering, for which the waiting list is approaching three years.
Weighing just 360kg, the modern Triking usually has a Moto Guzzi engine, which, even with a relatively modest 120bhp, makes it feel more than sprightly. A Triking holds its value but, trust me, you won’t ever want to sell it.
Gordon Murray, whose firm is using a modified Ultima bodyshell for development of his T50 supercar, said: “I can’t believe they’re still making them!” Indeed, the Hinckley-based firm is still producing kit-form supercars of a superlative nature. The recipe hasn’t changed much, but they’ve refined and honed it substantially over 35 years.