Monday, January 20, 2014

So I'm Going to Build a Kit Car

I bought a kit car a few weeks ago.  Or more precisely, I put a deposit down on a kit I will build into a car inside my two car garage that is two car sized in legal definition only.  Not in the more common definition where a person could actually fit two cars and other garage related stuff inside and close the door. 

The car is an Exocet and it’s made by Exomotive.  The kit is Miata based and the company is out of Atlanta.  I happen to own a Miata and also live in suburban Atlanta.  I’ll take alignment of stars for a thousand Alex.

I had been threatening to buy a kit for a while and made the final decision right before the end of last year.   Several reasons finally pushed me over the edge but it really came down to the fact the car roulette wheel was pointing to “kit car” when the music stopped.  Yes I do understand the difference between musical chairs and roulette, and also recognize music is not used in the playing of one of them.  But let me explain.
My car hobby life can be pretty accurately be explained by the Automotive Wheel of Chance.  The Automotive Wheel of Chance works like this:

Imagine a wheel divided into four roughly equal quarters like one of those child size pizzas where the pepperoni looks like pencil erasers instead of normal pepperoni.   The wheel rotates and at a certain speed.  Sometimes it rotates quickly and sometimes it rotates slowly.  Music plays as it rotates just because.
One slice reads “Maintain the same course”.  Which means keep doing what I’m doing.  I’ve spent most of my car life doing just that whether it’s been autocrossing or attending track days or just working on the same car.  There’s nothing wrong with the wheel spending some time in this quadrant, it’s how I learned to be a better mechanic, trouble shooter and driver.

Another slice on the Automotive Wheel of Chance, or AWC as I like to call it, (actually I just made that up right now.)  reads “Air Cooled Porsche 911”.   The Porsche 911 is the “it” car for me.  I like Ferraris and think Corvettes are pretty neat but the 911 is the car I fell in love with as a 13 year old boy reading car magazines and it’s attraction has stuck with me.  I’ve been in the – I’m going to buy a 911 come hell or high water – phase several times over the past 15 years.  As far as I know none of the three have happened.

In terms of good, solid 1980s Porsche 911 buying tips known by guys who haven’t actually ever looked at a 911 for sale my knowledge has to put me in the top three in the country.  Books, web forums, or bulletin boards as they used to call them (I’m looking at you Pelican Parts), car shows, even a PCA track day or two (in my non Porsche), I’ve spent time with them all learning and preparing.  One of these days the music will stop and the AWC will be pointing to air cooled 911.  And I’ll be ready.

The third slice of the Wheel says “Build a Kit Car”.  Which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who read the first paragraph.  There is something about assembling a car in a garage from a bare frame to a running automobile that appeals to me.  Back before the internet was the cornucopia of information it is today, and people read enthusiast magazines to get information about the interest they were enthusiastic about, I read an article in a car magazine detailing the assembly of a Caterham 7.  I knew of Caterham and I knew of how they bought the rights to manufacture and sell kits of the famed Lotus 7, but I hadn’t really paid much attention beyond that.  After reading that article I was convinced I had to build a kit car.  After a little searching I discovered the existence of several other companies making Lotus 7 type clones.  I also discovered all these companies had two things in common; the types of cars their kits assembled into, and price.  As in they are all expensive.

Since then my interest in Kit cars has remained and the internet has become more useful.  Every once in a while I’d fire up the Google and look at kit cars.  Each and every time I’d reach the same conclusion: “These things are awesome, but for 30 grand I’m just going to go buy a 911”.  And then I’d immediately start looking at 911s for sale. 

So I won’t deny affordability played a big part in the decision.  The fact Exomotive builds a kit that is affordable, allows me to use all my Miata go fast stuff from wheels to shocks to aluminum fly wheel, heck it even allows the use the aftermarket  sway bar end links currently on the car, really made it an easy decision.  Plus I can sell a bunch of stuff I’ve accumulated over the years to help subsidize the build.  Anyone need a black hard top?  How about a roll bar?  Doors?  Fenders?  Anyone?

I’d like to think by this time next year I will be most of the way through the build, maybe even ready to wade through the registration process.  Or maybe I’ll still have a pile of parts in the garage.  Hopefully  it is the former.

Oh yeah, the fourth section on the Automotive Wheel of Chance is actually divided up into several smaller slices within the quadrant.  Things like:

Sell everything and go kart racing.  It can’t be as expensive as everyone says.  The dang things don’t even have suspension!

Muscle cars are awesome.  I should buy one.  They can go pretty fast in a straight line.  And really, how hard could body work and rust repair be?

Classic British roadsters are practically a rite of passage in the sports car world.  What’s a little oil fire and electrical short now and again?

Oh, and one more thing.  To my friend Kyle, who lives in southern California and owns a 1973 911T,  I’m sorry.   I know you wanted me to get an SC or Carrera.  I did too, but the music kept playing.  I’ll have to live vicariously through you for my 911 fix for a while.