Donington Park circuit played host to myriad kit car clubs and manufacturers, including Westfield, Gardner Douglas and XCS

The National Kit and Performance Car show, which took place at Donington Park race circuit at the weekend, offered visitors an eclectic mix of kit and sports car activities.

The event, organised by Performance Publishing, which produces Complete Kit Car magazine, has been running for a number of years.

Ian Stent, editor of Complete Kit Car magazine, said: "We've got the big guns of the UK kit car industry here – like Gardner Douglas, Hawk, Great British Sports Cars and Westfield – as well as plenty of parts suppliers.

"What we try to do is take full advantage of the circuit, with racing going on all weekend, as well as offering a mix of displays and demonstrations."

Of particular interest on the Gardner Douglas Sports Cars stand was the T70moda, a car that takes inspiration from the CanAm-winning Lola T70. The beautifully presented example packs a 602bhp 7.0-litre LS7 engine, a Porsche GT2 six-speed transaxle and weighs 950kg.

Great British Sports Cars was also drawing much attention, with the likes of its 'Zero' kit appealing to many buyers. Prices for its small Seven-alike kit start at £2345, and include key components like the chassis, wishbones and body panels, with the remainder of the running gear primarily coming from a Ford donor vehicle.

Many more modern-engined kits were on display too, reflecting the adoption of more recent and common donors as older options, such as the Ford Crossflow, become harder and more expensive to source and maintain.

Engine options offered – and in some cases complete powertrain and suspension set-ups – included those from Mazda MX-5s, the Honda S2000 and the E36 and E46 generation of M3. Numerous Chevrolet V8-engined cars featured too.

Around the show, and in the owner's exhibition field outside, were myriad replicas of supercars and sports cars, including Ferrari 360s and Lamborghini Countachs.

"For many it's about the running costs," notes Stent. "We've had people coming from the real cars into replicas because they couldn't justify spending the money on insuring and servicing them.

"With a replica there are compromises but you can service it yourself, get the bits easily and you don't have to worry about where you leave it at the end of the day.

"There are quite a lot of cars here that aren't replicas or standalone kits as well," adds Stent. "The other side of the industry that we see a lot more of now is companies offering panel kits, like the Bertini."

These new panel kits allow builders to rapidly finish a project and end up in a position where they can immediately drive the car. The changes are only cosmetic so the car doesn't require a costly IVA – Individual Vehicle Approval – test.

In the case of the £3750 Bertini, buyers simply replace the body panels on the BMW Z3 base car to end up with a dramatically different looking car. As well as being easier, this kind of project is also typically cheaper than many complete kits.

Similarly, Turismo UK unveiled its Avalanche GT kit for the Mk3 Toyota MR2 roadster at the show. The panel kit, which simply bolts on to the MR2, results in a much more aggressive-looking and distinctive car.

"It's been tough for the industry recently, with the pressures of an ageing population, the recession and the legislative challenges," says Stent. "We can accommodate and adapt to it though – and the right companies are doing big business, and on increasingly expensive cars too."

This fact is borne out by the fact that many of the high-end replicas and kits command significant price tags – a Fusion XCS 427 Cobra, for example, will set you back more than £80,000 in turn-key form. Several of the Cobra replica manufacturers have waiting lists more than a year long, further demonstrating the popularity of such cars.

"Part of the difficulty the industry has is its identity," says Stent. "There are cars here that cost £2000 and those that cost £100,000. It appeals to many different people but that by its nature causes problems for the manufacturers when it comes to promoting and understanding their market."

One key argument for building a kit car – in order to get yourself a fast, affordable car – appears long dead too, further making business challenging.

"People used to build Duttons because they couldn't afford an expensive sports car," says Stent. "They'd get a Cortina, take all the bits off it and have something that went really quite fast. Nowadays you can buy a Porsche Boxster for £5000 or a Subaru Impreza for £1500.

"What the industry is about today is a hobby. The argument for spending £10,000 on a Seven-style car for performance reasons is nowhere near as strong as it used to be. But if it's your hobby and you do it because you enjoy it, learn new skills, go touring, attend meets and so on, then the money doesn't matter.

"This is why you'd most likely spend money on a kit car now; for a leisure-time activity and a hobby – not a means to an end, to get a fast car, like it would have been previously."

Get the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below:

Our Verdict

Caterham Seven 160

Caterham’s new entry-level model aims for simplicity and value

Join the debate

Comments
12

1 September 2014
Great article, loverly photographs, kit cars, the stuff of dreams in my youth ! Bet Ferrari love the California replica, the 250SWB looks impressive at first glance, the windscreen isn't quite right, suppose that comes from the donor ?

1 September 2014
I find it surprising that there are so many Countach replicas varying from quite ghastly to pretty good when to me the shape is pretty dated now, yet no one seems to do a Muira. (I couldn't be bothered to look at all the photos so apologies if I missed one) To be honest I think most kit cars are pretty horrible, but if I had the time and space and money I would love to build a Caterham, and if I had time and space and more money I'd build a Cobra with a Jag V12.

 

2 September 2014
I'm guessing the kit car community hasn't got the refinement to a high enough quality to be worth re-creating most classics, hence the focus on stuff that's unachievable or wildly impractical.

2 September 2014
about owners p/x ing their super cars for the kits "because of running costs." Yeah right. You've got a genuine Lambo worth loads that you run 1,000 miles a year and watch the value shoot up each year and then think "you know what, that last service cost me a grand - I think I'll get out of this and spend £35k on a load of old crap - save me a fortune that."
Some of the kits - esp. Stratos - look fantastic and I'd love one. Would I move on a real one to do that? Not in a million.

2 September 2014
johnfaganwilliams wrote:

about owners p/x ing their super cars for the kits "because of running costs." Yeah right. You've got a genuine Lambo worth loads that you run 1,000 miles a year and watch the value shoot up each year and then think "you know what, that last service cost me a grand - I think I'll get out of this and spend £35k on a load of old crap - save me a fortune that."
Some of the kits - esp. Stratos - look fantastic and I'd love one. Would I move on a real one to do that? Not in a million.

If you pour over the forums on various kits like I do (I want a Lister Bell Stratos btw) then you would be surprised how many people have various kits that they have built themselves alongside genuine cars. Lamborghinis, Ferraris etc etc. The reasons are quite genuine. Then there are people like me who always loved the Stratos but the genuine article costs hundereds of thousands and in reality is not that great to drive. I agree that some kits are utter garbage though. A shame as the genuinely good cars are often tarred with the same brush.

2 September 2014
Yes, all very good,but, i've never seen any on the road!

Peter Cavellini.

2 September 2014
I just clicked thru ALL the pics (quiet lunchbreak!).
As a biker i completely get the smiles per quid of the lightweight road racers & the engineering of Hawk, GD etc is frankly better than some of the originals...
But false Brembos? A Beetle pretending to be a 911?? etc.
In a sane world that would automatically cause your driving license to explode - oops forgot you probs don't have one anyway.
For fox sake.

Saddos.

...viewing the car world through cola-bottle lenses.

2 September 2014
Thats a mk3 MR2 with the avalanche kit. Details details.

2 September 2014
Indeed it is dukebox9reg, many thanks for the correction.

2 September 2014
Hi Lewis

It is great to see that kit car shows are making it into main pages, but there is an error on your description of photo 37, this car is not an AMG Murtaya. Whilst it is a Murtaya and I am sure an AMG powered version would be an interesting beast to handle and many people would be interested in seeing it, this is a Subaru Powered Car.

It is good to see the Arden Automotive built vehicle in print however.

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lexus LC500
    Car review
    20 October 2017
    Futuristic Lexus LC coupé mixes the latest technology with an old-school atmospheric V8
  • Maserati Levante S GranSport
    First Drive
    20 October 2017
    Get ready to trade in your diesels: Maserati’s luxury SUV finally gets the engine it’s always needed
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK