Kit cars have a certain stigma—a stigma that they're ugly, ungainly, wimpy at best to drive, and generally sucky to own. And that’s if the owner isn’t trying to pass off a re-bodied VW Bug as an Aventador. But while many kit cars are worthy of these thoughts, a few rise above and beyond to, in some situations, even present a better option for an enthusiast looking for a car than something they could pick up at a normal automaker’s showroom. Some of these cars are painfully authentic replicas of the great racers of old, literally pulling their bodywork from the same molds as the originals and having every bolt and part underneath that bodywork made exactly to the original car’s specifications. But for every one of these masterpieces, there are a dozen companies who sell a badly made chintzy bodyshell built to drop over a chassis from a car undeserving of being made worse by said bodyshell.
Original VW Beetles were the original massively popular base for these bodies, but more recently, other cars like the Fiero and even the MR2 and the Boxter have been used. Yet, even when there are many creating monstrosities out of formerly good cars—or at least not painfully ugly ones—there are a few whose kits will redefine what many think they can build. Anyone can buy a car from a showroom, but few will build one in their garage. That pride—and a notable cost savings—draws many to kit cars.
19 Sick: Factory Five 818
A mid-engine all-wheel-drive sports car is normally a very expensive proposition if you can get your hands on one at all. The layout is so cumbersome to design for mass production that only supercars and ground-up homologation racing machines tend to utilize it. But there's a reason those supercars do it that way: for a performance car with an internal combustion engine, it's the best layout, period. While Factory Five has been selling proper kits of V8-engined muscle cars for years, when it came time to release something for the new generation, they decided to take a WRX and put it backward into a mid-engined all-wheel-drive sports car for less than 20 grand.
18 Sick: Factory Five Roadster
Most of Factory Five's throughput isn't for sports cars of their design but well-built muscle car kits resembling the greats of yesteryear while outperforming them.
The Roadster is Factory Five's take on the infamous Shelby Cobra, a car built with the simple ethos of the biggest engine in the smallest car.
The originals were downright dangerous machines, but thanks to modern suspension, brakes, and tires, the Roadster can keep itself on the road with much more ease. Not to mention, the selection of modern Ford V8s available to put in it is much easier to live with than the solid lifter lumps of the old days.
17 Sick: Factory Five GTM
Perhaps the most obvious positive of kit cars compared with standard production cars is the ridiculously low cost. The 818C, a rough analog to something like a Porsche Cayman, could set you back less than twenty thousand dollars all in, including the Impreza donor car. A Cayman is well over three times that cost, and if one is willing to crank up the boost and spend the money to modify the 818, the cost-to-car ratio just gets better. The GTM is perhaps the extreme of this concept, as it's a bonafide supercar that can be ready to go for thirty grand.
16 Sick: Factory Five Hot Rod Truck
Showing the breadth of what one of the world's best kit car manufacturer does, they build not only a four-wheel-drive mid-engined sports car, a modern take on an old-school legend and an LS-powered mid-engined supercar but also the beauty you see above: a hot rod truck with a modern tube chassis for rigidity and light-weight.
The former cars are designed the way they are for performance; this muscle truck is just meant to be undeniably cool.
That said, at under 2,400 lbs and with a Coyote engine of over 400 horsepower, getting up and going isn't going to be a problem.
15 Sick: Factory Five Type 65 R
Perhaps more than any other Factory Five kit, the Type 65-R means business on track. With a body originally based on the Shelby Daytona Coupes that raced and won on the world stage back when racecars were pretty, the 65-R incorporates an aero kit with parts and effects unimaginable with a GT car in the '60s. This, coupled with modern chassis components, enduring lightweight, and modern brakes and tires, means this is a racecar with old looks that'll surpass many modern machines. Not bad for a kit people can buy for less than the cost of an up-optioned Honda Civic and can build themselves in their garage.
14 Makes No Sense: Fiero Enzo
But one has to remember, for every pristine Factory Five, there are several companies that sell kits like what you see above.
What's really sad about kits like the above isn't just that they ruin what were perfectly fine donor cars but also that their owners often want to pass them off as the real thing.
If they're actually similar to the real thing in any way, there's something mildly impressive about that, but obviously, the car above is more than a little bit divorced from a Ferrari Enzo by looks alone. Let's hope this car was a teachable moment for its owner.
13 Makes No Sense: EasyRods Belaro
If you already have a Camaro, however, EasyRods will sell you a kit to make it kinda look like a Bel Air—"kinda," of course, being the operative term. The original Chevy Bel Air is a classic hunk of chromed and finned artwork, a study in cool.
The Belaro is a catfish Camaro with pointy bits stuck to either end.
To those who aren't car people, they might actually be initially fooled but, even at a distance, will notice something amiss even if they couldn't put their finger on it. Those of us in the know would know a Belaro was a badly made fake instantly but perhaps would take a while to figure out what the actual car underneath the knockoff fiberglass was.
12 Make No Sense: EasyRods Ford kit
Speaking of knockoff fiberglass, EasyRods doesn't just produce displeasing kits for catfish Camaros but ones for '90s Thunderbirds as well. What's somewhat interesting about this kit is that it appears to take the front much more seriously than the back in terms of authenticity. The front clip kit is actually quite close in mimicking a classic Ford's body while on the frame of a malaise-era Ford Thunderbird. But the kit ends at the pillar and the distinctly square body shape of the Thunderbird are pretty hard to mistake for anything else. At least this kit comes closer to making an improvement on its donor car's looks than the Belaro does.
11 Makes No Sense: 2CV-based Burton
The Burton seen here doesn't look that bad. It's a cute little '50s style roadster—certainly not everyone's taste but could be far worse. The problem this time is not with the kit but the donor car. Underneath that cutesy shell is a 2CV.
The 2CV is a little French number whose name is a reference to "two horsepower."
The actual car made about nine, which makes the later versions that presumably power this roadster sound monstrously powerful at 30 horsepower. That's pretty crazy—in a bad way. The engine, of course, wasn't the only dismal part of these little boxes of poverty, as the power plant alone is a good reason not to build another car around a 2CV.
10 Sick: Ultima Evolution
But while some continue to put their bodywork on other people's already terrible cars, some are simply interested in going as fast around a track as possible for as little money as possible, preferably while street legal. That's what Ultima exists for, and the tiny British company has been succeeding in that front for a very long time now. Their recent model is the Evolution, a car making a step forward from the 720 and 1020 models that each had that amount of horsepower, respectively. That kind of power in a car that weighs less than an original Miata is absolutely terrifying in all the best ways possible. And thanks to its mid-engine layout, some of that power might actually be usable.
9 Sick: Evo200
Motorsport replicas are one of the best types of kit cars, and if one buys from the right company, one can get not only a hot deal but also a scorching car.
The car in question with the Evo200 kit is the RS200, the famous Group B rally car that continued to dominate rallycross races after the series it was built for was shut down due to excessive death and destruction.
The Evo200 is essentially the same car underneath the bodywork pulled from only slightly modified molds, meaning this is a four-wheel-drive mid-engine rally car—tube chassis, jump-capable suspension, and all.
8 Sick: Gelscoe Motorsport GT40
The high end of motorsport replicas is a more than a slightly harrowing place. The real versions of these cars are often worth millions, so even at what would be the equivalent of a kit car level for anything else, the prices are still what one would pay for a medium-sized house. What one gets for that price, however, is essentially a GT40 that was built yesterday. Every panel, frame rail, tire tread, tail light, side mirror, window, and of course engine component is identical to the original racers in every way. As track machines, buying and having one of these built makes a lot more sense than racing something not old in technology but old physically.
7 Sick: RCR917
Similar to buyers of the Gelscoe GT40s, pretty much everyone who buys an RCR917 is a vintage racer. These guys were generally fanboys back in the day when these monsters actually roamed racetracks looking for their next victory and since have grown up and gotten the cash to do it themselves. Ironically, it's often cheaper to build a car superior to the original with modern technology with the original body draped over the top than to rebuild everything exactly as it was before. That's essentially what RCR have done with their 917 replica, making it safer and stronger while just as fast.
6 Sick: Lister Bell
The Lister Bell is another kit car replica that's far and above the better car when compared to the original.
Besides having the original Lancia Stratos's gorgeous looks kept completely intact, the Bell has a new chassis setup with modern parts, is far more reliable and safe, and even has the glorious yet cheap and plentiful 2GR Toyota V6 as a powerplant.
This is the same engine used in various high-performance Lotus cars, for example, and is often swapped into MR2s whose owners want real power without turbo lag. 300 horsepower in a 2,000-pound car sounds pretty good.
5 Makes No Sense: Midas Cortez
While some kit cars sound like an incredibly good idea even before getting into the details, some illicit concern well before anything serious actually happens. The Cortez is the latter. The stumpy, ugly look of the exterior is less than reassuring, and the company's website is missing supposedly easily accessible details for engines, performance, and so on. The entire enterprise seems just a bit shady, referencing glowing reviews that talk in incredible general language. No part of the company's press seems to give solid numbers for anything besides that their cars can be equipped with engines from 1.1 to 1.8 liters and cost less than 5,000 pounds to start.
4 Makes No Sense: Dio40 Pickup
This is yet another kit that probably doesn't improve on the look of the donor vehicle.
Those who built the kit likely were already of age when the boxy '80s S10 was introduced and so see it as just a boring shape.
Many of us since see it as a classic, though—a rugged and clean design that harkens back to low-budget street racers making it work. The '40s Ford Coupe front end lookalike is a strange addition to a General Motors truck, but the thing about kit cars is that literally anything can be done, and most of it has been done.
3 Makes No Sense: MTV Concepts ETV
If the people at MTV concepts were looking to create the most ludicrous-looking vehicle they could, they probably succeeded. The problem, of course, is that in succeeding at that, they probably blind half the people who look at this car simply for how ugly it is. MTV is an interesting company that builds vehicles for movies, including the Joker's car from Suicide Squad. Their expertise in building things that look just good enough to pass muster in a five-second clip of a movie isn't questioned, but their taste probably should be. At least their other cars aren't so bad.
2 Makes No Sense: March Hare
This is much worse—perhaps the perfect example of a kit car whose designer just should've stopped their imagination before it gave rise to this. It's certainly an attention getter, butterfly doors and all, but the attention a March Hare's owner would draw is likely fifty percent curiosity and fifty percent revulsion.
At the very least, it's most certainly original, but originality and beauty are very different things.
The body shape isn't even practical because the car is rear engined. Most of the space in the back is taken up for no reason but extra ugliness.
1 Makes No Sense: Fereday Cars Vario
The Vario isn't the worse car on this list, but it's far from the best, even considering its low cost. The car is actually pretty decent looking and a definite improvement over its dowdy Fiat Uno donor car. But unfortunately, the donor car is the problem. Weight was low, but power was lower—in most cases, less than 90 hp ever left the engine bay, and the slowest versions of the poor car didn't even make forty horsepower at the crank, let alone the wheels. Power certainly isn't everything but is often an indicator of a car that's better off left alone.