The 5 Best High Performance Kit Cars You Can Buy In America
Despite their reputation as purveyors of low-quality replicas of much more expensive vehicles, there are a host of kit car companies that have risen well above crowd in order to deliver fantastic automobiles that fill niches mainstream brands have traditionally ignored.
Much of the time these vehicles take the shape of exotic-looking performance cars, or stunning 'copies' of time-tested classic designs that have been fully modernized in order to take advantage of the years of technological improvements separating today from their point of origin. Still other kit car manufacturers strip everything down to the basics and provide a pure driving experience that's almost disappeared from today's market.
Which ones are worth your time and money? The following models represent the best kit cars you can buy today in America.
Factory Five Mk4 Roadster
The Shelby Cobra is one of the most iconic sports car designs of all time, so it's no surprise that it's perhaps the most copied in kit form. Out all of the various interpretations of the Cobra offered to those keen on building their own piece of racing history in their garage at home, the Factory Five Mk4 Roadster stands out as one of the best.
Of Factory Five's three Cobra designs, the Mk4 Roadster is the one that works to balance the demands of both the street and the track. For roughly $19k, the MK4 base kit requires the running gear and drive train from a Ford Mustang (1987-2004, encompassing the Fox and SN95 generations) to be completed, which gives you freedom to build either a 5.0 pushrod V8 or a 4.6-liter / 5.4-liter DOHC edition of the vehicle.
For an additional $7k you can get what Factory Five calls the 'complete kit,' which still requires a donor engine and transmission but comes with all the other bits—computer, driveshaft, fan shroud, etc.—that you would have had to source yourself with the less expensive setup. If you want a near-turnkey experience, Factory Five will also sell you a fully-warrantied motor (3 years, 50,000 miles) from BluePrint Engines that's ready to drop in and go.
Factory Five kits are known for the large community of builders supporting them, their high quality reproduction sheet metal, and their well-designed chassis. If you're looking for a classic racer with a roof, the company also offers its Type 65 coupe, which uses the same platform to replicate the look and feel of the Shelby Daytona.
Ultima Evolution Coupe
Is it possible to put together a supercar on your own? That's a question that Ultima has been answering for more than two decades. The British company's history is replete with models like the GTR, which was modeled after Le Mans prototype race cars, and with expanded operations in the United States the current go-to is the Ultima Evolution Coupe.
This mid-engine marvel features exotic body work and exceptional performance at well under $100k, especially if you chose to build it yourself rather than have Ultima ship you a pre-assembled (excluding the engine) kit.
The Evolution Coupe is intended to accept Chevrolet LS V8 engines tuned from between 350 to just over 1,000hp, making possible a 0-60 time in the three second range. With the option to build your own engine to your own specific budget and preferences, the Ultima is a versatile track car that won't cost you more than a standard European sport sedan once all is said and done.
Cobras aren't the only vintage cars that have long attracted kit car fans seeking to put together a vintage vibe. The Caterham Seven's modest mechanical underpinnings and sleek style have also made it a favorite for builders on a budget, especially those seeking to sample a near-open wheel experience on public roads.
The Caterham Seven is a licensed modernization of the classic Lotus Seven, which was one of the first sports cars produced by automotive genius Colin Chapman. Since the '70s, Caterham has been continuously improving the Seven's design without touching the original spirit of the car, which offers some of the most direct steering and handling on the market thanks to its ultra-lightweight design (nearly 1,000 lbs less than a Mazda Miata).
You'll spend roughly $40k for the Caterham Seven kit, which provides around 135hp from a Ford-based 1.6L four-cylinder engine in entry-level models.
If you want to go crazy, there's a lot of room for improvement on the Caterham's power output (with some motorcycle-powered models pushing past 60-mph in under three seconds), but you'll want to make sure that you preserve the fine balance of its excellent chassis. The Seven 620 model currently topping the US market range offers just over 300hp from a 2.0L supercharged Ford motor.
Factory Five 818 S
Of all the vehicles on this list of the best kit cars ever made, Factory Five's second entry is perhaps the most unique. The 818 S takes the Subaru WRX's turbocharged boxer engine and turns it on its ear, creating a mid-mounted rear-wheel drive roadster where once existed an all-wheel drive rally sedan.
With a sub-$10k kit price, the Factory Five 818 S is intended to appeal to high performance fans on a budget—and with so many rusting Subarus out there in the Northeast happy to give up their still-churning drivetrains, the donor vehicle required to complete the build isn't all that expensive, either.
Factory Five provides the frame and body, and relies on either a 2002-2007 WRX or a more lowly Impreza for its suspension, engine, transmission brakes, and much of the interior (which can be filled out with Subaru parts to the taste of the buyer).
Two other variants of the 818 (the C, which is a coupe intended for street/track use, and the R, which is track-only) are also available, and they follow the same basic formula.
If you're ready to strip down to just the bare essentials—and if you've ever though that your MX-5 simply had way too much sheet metal—then the Exomotive Exocet is aimed right at you.
For a mere $6,999, you get an all-new chassis that resembles nothing more than a roll cage with wheels, into which you can stick a Mazda Miata's four-cylinder engine and seats and then head out onto the street to terrify the person sitting beside you at the traffic light.
There are actually three different levels of Exocet kit, with pricing rising to $8,299 if you're looking for a cage that meets SCCA/FIA requirements as well as additional safety gear to give you at least the illusion that you'll walk away from a shunt. Although technically road legal if registered as the Miata from which its running gear was lifted, Exomotor's creations thrive on the race track due to their miniscule mass and go-kart-like handling.
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