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Top 10 kit cars

Fancy a classic Ferrari, Cobra or a dead ringer for a Le Mans racer but don’t have bottomless pockets?

All of this could be yours for the price of a family hatchback – if you’re willing, and able, to build it yourself.

Kit cars have long been a rich part of the motoring scene, their growth initially fuelled by their exemption from purchase tax, and they remain popular today for those prepared to put in long hours in the garage.

Here’s our list of the top 10 kit cars.

No.10Tribute MX250

As the name suggests, Dorset-based Tribute Automotive produce a range of kit car body conversations for readily-available donor cars like the Mazda MX-5 and BMW Z3.

So if you’re hankering after a Ferrari 250 GTO but don’t have a spare £50m, you could do worse than hand over less than 0.01% of that price for an MX250 bodykit and donor car.

Just swap over the MX-5’s body panels and off you go.

No.9CAV GT

It’s unlikely that a Le Mans-winning car has inspired as much love at the Ford GT40, which took on and beat Ferrari at its own game.

Unless you’re a millionaire, however, you’ll never get your hands on an original. But, fortunately, that’s where the South African-built CAV GT comes in.

The company describes its car as the “most comfortable, user-friendly and unique GT40 replica in the world today”, bringing the ‘60s legend into the modern age while retaining the classic driving experience.

In truth, it’s not a full kit car – it comes either complete or as a rolling chassis minus engine and drivetrain – but it’s too good to leave off this list.

The sole UK distributor is Autostore just south of Cambridge.

No.8Deco Rides Boattail Speedster

If you’re looking for something completely different, then how about the outrageously beautiful 1930s-style Boattail Speedster by Deco Rides?

Based on the Auburn Speedster and featuring four large pontoon-style fenders inspired by a Figoni and Falaschi Delahaye from 1936, the Boattail combines art deco and hot rod themes to stunning effect.

The Boattail isn’t all show either, with plenty of go from either a Dodge Viper V10, a Maserati V8 or a BMW V12.

Gorgeous.

No.7Ultima Evolution

If it’s hypercar speed and Le Mans-style looks you’re after, look no further than the Ultima Evolution, an upgrade on the company’s successful Ultima GTR and a car described by EVO magazine as “the most under-rated car on the planet”.

Available in coupe and convertible bodies, the top-spec LS V8 offers a shattering 1020bhp from its supercharged 6800cc Chevrolet engine, propelling the car to 60mph in just 2.3 seconds and on to more than 240mph.

If that sounds a little too much, the LS3 offers a mere 480bhp and a 0-60 time of a sluggish 3.1 seconds, while the mid-range (!) 700bhp LS7 is quicker than a Lamborghini Aventador Coupe S.

Gulp.

No.6V-Storm WR3

What would happen if you crossed an Ariel Atom with a McLaren F1? You’d probably end up with something a lot like the V-Storm WR3.

The only kit car on the market with a central driving position and flanked McLaren-style by two set-back passenger seats, the WR3 is ultra light weight thanks to its exoskeleton chassis.

Power is provided by a turbo-charged Subaru flat four, and if you fit a tuned 2-litre unit from a 3000 STi, expect breathtaking acceleration, and roadholding to match.

Perfect if you want an Atom but have more than one friend…

No.5Westfield Eleven

Based on another historic Lotus, the sleek Eleven became Colin Chapman’s most successful race car design between 1956 and 1958, taking seventh overall at Le Mans and clocking a class world record 143mph for a lap of Sebring in the hands of Stirling Moss.

Westfield, also well-known for its Seven recreation, started making its XI in 1983 and still makes small batches of five kits to satisfy ongoing demand, starting at just £10,999.

The kit uses components from the 1275 MG Midget or Austin-Healey Sprite, together with bespoke parts and panels manufactured by Westfield.

If you’re after a car that oozes ‘50s nostalgia, with a driving experience to match, the Eleven is the one to go for.

No.4Lister Bell STR (Lancia Stratos)

A Lancia like no other, the Stratos was designed for one thing and one thing only – to win the World Rally Championship.

Untouchable in competition between 1974 and 1976, only 492 were made of the roadgoing Stratos Stradale, with a detuned version of the 2.4-litre Ferrari Dino V6.

Original examples command stratospheric prices, but kit versions have been available since the late 1980s, with the Lister Bell STR available in body variations from Stradale to Group 4.

Even today, Bertone’s barely possible wedged-shaped design looks outrageous – a squat, aggressive piece of automotive art.

The STR is designed for an Alfa V6 engine, but the STR-M is designed for the 3-litre or 3.2-litre Ferrari V8 from the Mondial.

No.3MEV Exocet

Billed as the “cheapest and easiest to build kit car in the world”, the Exocet by Mills Extreme Vehicles (MEV) is one of a number of kits based on the ever-popular – and, importantly, plentiful – Mazda MX-5.

A full basic kit costs less than £3000 (plus VAT), and the only major work required to turn a Mazda donor car into a lightweight Exocet is to remove the MX-5 monocoque and replace it with the supplied G-Type chassis and GRP body panels.

What you’re left with is one of the world’s most accomplished sports cars, with a bullet-proof engine, but with a weight loss of about a third.

Donor cars can be a 1.6-litre or 1.8-litre mark I or II, or a mark 2.5 with a VVT engine and, with a wealth of after-market tuning options for the Mazda, the Exocet is a blast on the road or track.

No.2Cobra replica

Along with the Caterham 7, the legendary AC Cobra is the most copied car around available in kit form.

The first Cobra was created by American racing driver and car designer Carroll Shelby in 1962, who had written to AC asking if they would build him a car modified to accept a V8 engine.

The British car company obliged and, although production of the series III Cobra 427 ended in 1967, a host of replicas have kept the car alive to this day.

In the UK, the Pilgrim Sumo is one of the biggest-selling kits, with good support from the company and online.

Designed to cope with huge American engines, there are few more thrilling drives around if it’s raw V8 power combined with an iconic design you’re after.

No.1Caterham 7

The granddaddy of kit cars, the Seven has been in production since 1957 when Colin Chapman’s stripped-back Lotus 7 was made available as a kit to avoid new car tax.

Caterham took on the licence in 1973 and still produces cars based on the original series 3 model, either in kit or factory built form.

A host of other companies have produced kit-form Sevens over the years, with Westfield the most popular.

Whether you go for the entry-level, 80bhp Caterham 160 or the, frankly insane, 310bhp 620S, a Caterham is still the very essence of fun more than 60 years after Chapman’s original.

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