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."
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