The government makes it hard to sell cars in the United States, but they’ve left open one huge loophole for cars you build yourself — i.e. kit cars.
10.) Caterham 7
Why It’s Cool: Along with the myriad Cobra variants out there, the Lotus 7 is the granddaddy of kit cars. When it was originally introduced in 1957 it was offered in England as a kit car in order to avoid the new car tax; since production shifted from Lotus to Caterham in 1973, the option to build your own 7 remains. In the United States Caterhams are only sold as kits, though those of us who are less mechanically inclined can pay a dealer or recommended local builder to put them together. However you get yours on the road, there’s no substitute. A Caterham, at any trim or performance level, is an experience.
9.) Manta Montage
Why It’s Cool: Edited together from Beetle bits, the Montage was one of a million different takes on bug-based kit cars of the 1970s. They weren’t particularly quick, or comfortable, but man did they look cool. If you really wanted something that almost sort of looked just like a McLaren M8B, the Montage was for you.
8.) SDR V-Storm WR3
Why It’s Cool: What looks like an Ariel Atom, but is built in a shed, and seats three? If you said the SDR V-Storm, you’re right! The V-Storm gets its go from either an Aprilia RSV1000 v-twin or unnamed Subaru motor in the back, and enough room for you and two of your closest friends (literally) up front. I’d be willing to bet that the V-Storm is one quick little car. If you grew up playing with Erector sets, snapping one together should be fairly straightforward.
7.) Noble M12
Why It’s Cool: Nobles were mostly assembled in South Africa, and then shipped here in a big box without a mechanical heart. All you have to do to make it road legal is to drop in a Ford Duratec V6 engine and maybe add a supercharger or two. This is the snap-together model of kit cars. Little skill needed for maximum fun.
6.) Bradley GT
Why It’s Cool: Like so many of its counterparts, the Bradley GT took a swoopy fiberglass body and wrapped it around either Beetle or Corvair mehanical bits. It had either gullwing doors or T-tops, and almost resembled a De Tomaso Pantera from the front. A little. If you squint. Later in the company’s life, the Bradley would become an electric kit car, but the company folded and production stopped in 1981.
Why It’s Cool: The neon-colored official Nova history page suggests “Ferrari-status motoring at mini-car prices.” And while I don’t doubt that these can be had for very little money, I do doubt a little performance claims like that from a Volkswagen powertrain. That’s not so say a Nova wouldn’t be a fun car- quite the contrary. Who wouldn’t have fun stepping out of that spaceship-looking canopy or tossing around what I’m sure is a very light car on some twisty roads? The Nova proved so popular that its creators licensed the design out for kit production in a ton of different countries under a ton of different names. The Stirling kit car here in America is the same as the Nova in England, and is the same as the Australian Purvis Eureka, and the Tarantula in Zimbabwe.
4.) Meyers Manx
Why It’s Cool: When his Volkswagen-birthed creation proved too popular for Bruce Meyers to keep up with demand, he took the newly-minted imitators to court. The judge ruled against him, and now Manx-inspired vehicles number in the hundreds of thousands. But there’s only one company making originals and newly-cerated variations on the theme. Meyers now make a couple of different Manx-inspired models, but the original is still by far the best.
3.) Factory Five Cobra
Why It’s Cool: Cobras are sweet. The pride that comes from building your own car is sweet. Why not combine the two? Factory Five has been selling kits and turnkey assembled cars for years now, and they’re one of the best in the business. Their Cobras look good, can take pretty much any engine ever in them, and are always ridiculously quick.
2.) Ultima GTR
Why It’s Cool: If outright speed and outrageous handling is what you’re into though, look no further than the Ultima. This thing holds all kinds of speed records and lap records, and looks like a mini Le Mans prototype (from the last decade, but who’s gonna care?) to boot. Just add engine.
1.) Local Motors Rally Fighter
Why It’s Cool: The Local Motors Rally Fighter changes everything we know about building a kit car. The Local Motors folks have you come to their factory in Arizona, where you go through an intensive six-day build assisted by their trained specialists on site. The factory looks beautiful, there’s a huge assortment of every tool you’d need, and at the end of the process, you get a custom DVD of yourself running around the chassis bolting things on. And then, when it’s all done, you get an off-road monster with a clean-burning diesel BMW engine or a giant American 6.2 liter V8 producing 430 horsepower. Awesome.