Pros and cons of kit cars

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Shelby Cobra replica

Kit cars and replica cars are cool, but there are some things people should know before diving in. Photo Credit: Brian Snelson/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY

A few oddballs out there have always wondered whether or not to get a kit car, for various reasons. However, for those who might consider taking the plunge, there are some pros and cons to kit cars that should be considered.

Cars built in sheds

Kit cars are a bit of a curiosity. They aren’t subject to nearly the same amount of regulation as the typical road car, such as emissions or crash safety, but there is a certain mysticism. Some are complete custom creations and some are replicas or even complete reproductions of older cars and almost all are of the sports car variety.

However, almost all of them have something in common, in that few come fully assembled. The buyer has to put in some time with some wrenches putting it together, though the amount of labor ranges. Some require a donor car to be sourced, completely stripped and then re-put together; some merely require an engine to be installed. However, there are some things an interested person should bear in mind before taking the plunge.

Daunting task

It is estimated, according to a 2004 article in Car and Driver, that roughly 3,000 people purchase a kit car per year, of whom 2,700 complete the project. Obviously it isn’t for everyone and putting one together can task the abilities of the person assembling the car. Hundreds of man-hours are easily spent in the process.

[Don’t feel bad if you purchased used auto; many are great]

Assuming the buyer is doing the assembly, as Car and Driver also points out, the quality of the build rests squarely upon their shoulders. A person loathe to turn their own wrenches should probably look at buying a finished car being sold by the owner or a “turn-key” car from the factory, in other words completely built.


The costs can range from small to enough to buy a small house to put a kit car together. Many are reasonable; that’s why the Factory Five Racing replica of the Shelby Cobra, branded the Mark IV Roadster for legal reasons, is the best-selling kit car in the nation. The base kit starts just under $13,000. To complete it, one needs to buy a 1987 to 2004 Ford Mustang, which has to be cannibalized for parts. The car can easily be completed at or close to $20,000 and the manufacturer has a reputation for quality.

There is also the Meyers-Manx dune buggy kits. The most expensive variant, the Manxter Dual-Sport, starts at $8,250, minus the drivetrain and a 1968 to 1978 Volkswagen Beetle chassis and, of course, assembly. It’s street legal, too. However, kit cars can cost much more. The Superformance GT40, for instance, is a nearly-complete reproduction of the Ford GT40 race car. According to listings from GT40Racing and Gear6Performance, Superformance dealers listed on the company’s website, a kit minus engine and transmission will run about $90,000. Turn-key, with all components installed, will come to more than $130,000.

Also, buying and assembling a kit car comes before state registration, emissions testing and purchasing insurance, which is a whole other can of worms.


Car and Driver

Factory Five Racing

Car and Driver





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