The winter months can be trying times for car lovers. Some of you are better at finishing projects than I am, or maybe you recently sold your project car. Either way, for those of us in colder climates, this is the season where the driving stops—but the wrenching doesn’t have to. If you want to give yourself the gift of an ambitious project without the rust, hackery, or general mess that most old project cars can include, maybe you should look into building yourself a car from a kit. Here are six ideas.
The Shelby Cobra is timelessly cool, but sadly there’s a limited supply of the cars that were built by ol’ Carroll. Luckily for the rest of us there’s a whole industry dedicated to producing replicas. Some kit Cobras are more authentic than others, but when assembled properly they all capture the overpowered roadster spirit. Just don’t get too carried away when building your engine; we promise you don’t need 600 horsepower in a fiberglass shell to scare yourself. A well-built 289 is fun, reliable, easy to service, and affordable. Look at Superformance, Factory Five Racing, or ERA to start your venomous journey.
Lotus 7 Replica
The Lotus 7 might be the most recognizable iteration of Colin Chapman’s “simplify and add lightness” mantra: a tube chassis fitted with the bare minimum needed to be a functional car. Because of the lithe construction, the engine doesn’t need a bozo horsepower number to be an absolute blast to drive. The most popular 7 replicas are produced by Caterham cars and have less than 200 horsepower. Again, with just 1100 pounds to push around, those 200 horses can propel you to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds. Not bad.
Vintage-inspired ride not your thing? The Exocet is likely just up your alley. This kit is a tube chassis and tub that you complete by using the guts of a Mazda Miata. There are hundreds of thousands of Mazda Miatas out in the wild, and while the best are commanding prices that might not make them ideal donor cars, there remains an entire subset of Miatas with crash damage, neglect, or general wear and tear that makes a perfect base for this kit. Exomotive claims that it requires an average of 100 hours of time to build an Exocet, so if you set aside 6–8 hours a week for the entire winter you should be done. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
An old favorite that still lives. Bruce Meyers hit a special chord when he made the shape of the Manx, and the design to use the VW Beetle as the chassis was and is perfect. New Manx bodies can be sourced for just $2400, but there’s an options list that can take that number up, along with sourcing the parts from a donor Beetle. Luckily, with all the love for VWs there’s a lot of support for reproduction parts—including the floorpans you need. If you really wanted to, you could build a Meyers Manx from all brand-new parts. That sounds like a challenge to us.
Factory Five 818
Not enough modern power on this list for ya? The 818 is a sleek and sharp car that keeps the focus on less weight but uses a modern Subaru Impreza WRX for running gear. The configuration of the build puts the Subaru boxer-four midship and powers the rear wheels. Three variations can be purchased, with varying degrees of track or street focus.
The Ariel Atom is a dream car for those in the hunt for bare-bones, go-fast cars. However, Ariel Atoms can be hard to get stateside, and even more difficult to get street legal. If you are willing to put in the time and build your own, take a look at the DF Goblin. A tube-chassis powered by an EcoTech four-cylinder sourced from a Chevrolet Cobalt, the Goblin is sold as a no-weld, no-cut, no-drill kit, meaning you don’t have to be a fabricator to have a solid finished product. We’ll take ours built with the turbocharged Cobalt SS engine, please.