For the Novice: Thinking about Building a Kit Car? Read This First!

If you are new to car building or investigating building a kit car for the first time, this article might be helpful to you. One of our technicians put this information together in hopes it would facilitate a better experience for the beginners out there. Most experienced car builders will already know these things, although it never hurts to review the basics!

010915_Campbell-SpeedsterAn automobile is one of your most prized possessions, and building it yourself can give you a sense of accomplishment and pride every time you drive it and show it off. One of the best and most cost effective ways to build a car is to build a kit car. Kit cars often resemble unattainable, legendary cars that most of us could never afford, but these kits usually use parts from vehicles that are easy to find. Building a kit car is a great way to own the car of your dreams without spending your life savings.

Many kit car builders have success with their project by doing as much research as possible before and during their build. There are three important areas to research. You’ll need to know a lot of information about the kit and the vehicle its parts are based on, what parts to get and where to get them, and what demands that building the car will have on you, the builder.  

Kit Car Information

These days finding information on the internet is relatively easy, but knowing a few good websites will get you headed in the right direction. Speedsters.com has articles specifically for Porsche and Porsche kit car owners, and this site is very helpful for all information relating to 356 Speedsters. Also, www.speedsterowners.com, www.classic-kitcars.com, and www.about-kit-cars.co.uk all have great informational articles that are very helpful. Make sure you look at some of these sites to get a good grasp on what it takes to assemble one of these beautiful replica kit cars.

Car Parts to Support Your Build

When it comes to actually starting your build, you’ll want to know where to get parts that won’t break the bank. When you get your kit, it should come with instructions on how to fully assemble the car to completion. Most instructions should tell you what specific parts are needed. The cheapest way to acquire the parts you’ll need is to buy a donor car. A donor car ideally should be in good running condition, including the suspension, brakes, controls, steering and other parts.  The way that the donor looks doesn’t really matter because you won’t be using its paint and interior. So, look at the running gear closely before purchasing a donor car. A lot of different kit cars are based off of a VW beetle because it is very easy to separate the running gear from the body. And early Porsches used many of the same parts found on a VW pan making it the perfect choice for a Speedster.

Parts – Junkyards

Another good way to find parts is to shop at junkyards. Luckily, here in San Diego we have a huge selection of junkyards to choose, which makes part hunting fun and a lot easier than if you only have a couple to choose from. Some junkyards have half-off sale days that really help cut down on cost. When you’re at the junkyards, don’t just pull the first part you see. Walk around for a little while and look for newer parts that may have been replaced not too long ago. Look for dry clean parts that don’t look like they’ve been leaking or like they’ve been sitting in oil from other bad parts. Once you’ve gotten what you need, you can sandblast and paint the parts to look just like new again. It takes some time, but saves money over buying new parts.

Parts – Suppliers

If you can’t find a cheap donor and you don’t have any junkyards close to where you live, you’ll need to get your parts from a supplier. The first step is to try to find parts from an online parts supplier because they will be significantly cheaper than if you buy parts at a retail store. Make a list of the parts you need and then start searching the internet. One good way to find out where to buy is to do research in some kit car forums. Look up old conversations to find answers to questions you have, or just ask the question yourself. First search the forums to see if your question has already been discussed because you’ll be able to get your answer much faster that way. One good forum to look at is www.thesamba.com, which is focused toward the VW community. Also, look at www.rennlist.com, which is focused on the Porsche community, and www.madabout-kitcars.com/forum, which is a forum for kit car owners.

Builder Demands

Now that you know some good ways to start your kit car journey, you should understand the demands that this project will have on you, the builder/owner. First of all, do you have the space to start a kit car project? You will need at least enough space for your car and room to work around it. Also, you’ll need shelving to place the many different parts you’ll need to complete the effort. A garage is ideal, but a good covered area can work just as well. So before you get your new kit shipped to your house, make sure you’ve made adequate space for it.

Tools

You’ll also need a good tool set. Most of the tools needed are just basic hand tools, but along the way you’ll find you need items that are much more specific to a portion of the job. Ideally, you should have all the tools required, but if you’ve got friends that have the tools you need, ask to use them. Maybe your buddy will loan them to you, and if you are lucky, they may just want to help you work on the project, which makes the building process that much more fun.

Patience and Persistence

Last but not least on the list of demands for the builder is patience. Building a kit car is challenging, which is why you’ll get so much satisfaction and enjoyment completing and driving your new ride. Persistence is important also, as some kit cars never get finished by the original purchaser because the owner didn’t continue through the tough spots. Along the build you’ll run into many different issues that take thought and research, but with the help of the internet you’ll have access to the right sites that will help you tremendously.  You can do this!

Get Started

Kit cars are awesome and they get noticed everywhere they go. It’s an accomplishment. It’s a check off on the ol’ bucket list and, to some, a dream come true. Learn where to look for specific information or where to ask important questions. Then figure out a way to source parts.  Make sure you have some space and tools.  Stay on track, keep up the momentum, and don’t let your project stall out. Work on that patience and persistence. With this knowledge, you’ll be ahead of many builders trying to construct the car of their dreams. Owning a car that you’ve built will all be worth it in the end.