I Have a Dream....Of Building a Kit Car

Ever since I was a kid I’ve wanted an A/C Cobra. Getting a real one is a little outside my price range, but a kit? Totally in striking range. If I could, I would love to build it myself. My question is this: Is it reasonable? I can be pretty handy, and I know a little bit about cars, but I’m far from an expert. Am I kidding myself here? Has anyone built a kit car? How much do you need to know before you start, and how much can you learn along the way? Last thing I want to do is build myself a death trap. What should I focus on learning and getting experience with before I tackle a project like this? Any insight and advice would be greatly appreciated!

Is cost your main concern? A used car is fairly cheap. I saw one last summer at event for 22k. Nice shape. Do u want to build it? It always takes more time and money than u plan. Do u have room. Do u live in snow area? Drive it in summer only? I have built several. The shine looses it luster real quick.

I have seen and rode in a Factory 5 Cobra kit car. You need a older 5 liter mustang donor. Just keep in mind you will never get out of it what you put into it, so if you tire of it and try to sell it in 5 years you will likely lose money. A kit is 20 grand with no options, and you need a donor car.

A kit car is never going to be as safe as a modern car IMHO. You will most certainly be riding in a death trap by today’s standards, that being said, alot of people drive classic cars around and they are still here.

My advice would be to look for complete one someone is selling and let them take the hit. There are many nice ones on ebay for around 30k.

If you do take it on yourself, be prepared to spend every weekend and most nights after work assembling and fabricating the car. This will go on for a few years. It takes a lot of time to build a kit car.

You will likely have to hire someone to paint it.

Do you have tools? You will need a good assortment of tools.

There are places where you can rent a Cobra Kit car. That’s what I would do, rent it and see if you really like it.

I know a guy who build a kit Cobra. There were several to choose from at the time. The problem he had was that - even though the Kit say it came complete…he still ended up buying a ton of stuff that the kit didn’t supply (Mostly electronic). A kit car would be a nice project. When I retire in few years I plan on either getting an older car and restoring it…or buying a kit. It’ll be something for me to do while I retire to keep me off the streets.

And do you have a good workspace? It’ll occupy all of one (and could be 2) car spaces in your garage for a long time. One secret I’ve read to getting it done (and not selling off the incomplete car in 3 years) is do something, anything, on it every day.


Like this one? I am the type of person that would never be able to complete a kit car.


Also, Make sure you can fit in it. They are not very big. I rode in one for about a half hour, and got to drive it for a bit. That was enough for me. The thing that got me was the shifter position was behind you, so the shift lever was at a weird angle towards the dash and everything else about it was uncomfortable to me.

The shifter reminded me of an old dodge van I had, the shifter was slightly behind you.

I would get a Miata. More fun to drive in my opinion, comfortable and reliable. I could drive a miata on a cross country trip, a cobra replica I would not.

I would try to find a Cobra “kit car” that was for sale. You may get a real deal if you look for a while. Kit cars take a lot of time and money to complete successfully. Just check out the vehicle for yourself and have a competent mechanic go over it carefully before you ever buy it. Make sure it can be legally titled and licensed if you find one that’s lacking these details.

I had a Dino copy. Drove it during winter in Midwest. Yep. True story. Had great heat. But I had heated garage too. Scraping snow off at work was no fun.

One of the things about kit cars is that they come with fiberglass bodies. The thing about fiberglass bodies is that no matter WHAT the makers of them tell you, they’re not gonna fit correctly out of the box. Depending on age, storage conditions, etc, fiberglass moves, sags, stretches, etc. You’ll be needing to modify, cut, fill, and sand (a lot!) to make things look right.

WHen you look at kit manufacturer’s videos about how “easy” their kits are to put together, remember that the people doing the work are employees who work with them every day and know all of the kit’s foibles. If they claim that the people in the vids are “everyday guys” I’ll happily call them liars to their faces.

If you’ve never worked extensively with mechanics, or cars in general before, I second other’s suggestion to perhaps find an uncompleted car instead, and begin with that. There are a lot of them out there. I once saw a statistic in a car magazine that stated only about 35% of kit cars are ever finished, and that seems about right to me.

It’s been a while since my last search on such a project but there seemed to be a great many, if not most of the kits sold became clutter in a garage and after many years the would be builder was willing to part with the ‘dream car’ for pennies on the dollar. Kits, donor car, spares and equipment were sold at junk prices. Quite a few kit cars have been built near me and 2 were Cobras. Both were impressive. Both began with buyouts from the original purchasers who found themselves over their heads.

For a beginner, you might want to start out with a more realistic goal. If I were building a kit car for the first time this is what I’d build:


You can buy the entire kit for $10k, minus the donor vehicle (Mazda Miata). Including the donor, you could finish under $15k, with a project you have a reasonable chance of completing as a beginner, without losing your shirt.

Since the odds of building a kit car (or kit airplane) leading to a divorce are pretty high, you might as well start with that and get it behind you first.

Once divorced a kit car will be far too expensive. A lobster dinner will be far too expensive. New shoes will require saving for. Damn my ex had a good lawyer…

Seriously, I think building a kit car is a great way to learn. But you’ll need a lot of disposable income, a good garage, a lot of time, a lot of patience, and good mechanical aptitude. Do some research and estimate the total cost with a long list, and then multiply by three. Then multiply by five the total time you think it’ll take.

Rod’s right, the majority of kit cars end up being sold as in-process builds before they ever get finished. Most discover they haven’t the time or budget, or they get tired of struggling after a few years and realize they’re in over their heads.

But of nobody ever finished one, there wouldn’t be so many great cars around. And if nobody ever had the courage to try, there wouldn’t be so many good experienced builders around. Even of you never finish it won’t be the end of the world. Many have given up, but many have also built great cars.

Check out the SL-C. It is a roller and should fit reasonably well. You disassemble it, install your drive train, and reassemble and torque it. If you buy all the parts (no engine or transmission) it should run you about $60,000. You might get it on the road for $75,000.

Or buy a mid sixties vette. They are easy to buy and sell. E en if u overpay, u can always find another buyer down the road. Lots of guys in their 50’s.