Kit Car Guide

Kit cars can be quite a confusing phenomena for the uninitiated. Essentially, clients buy parts and then assemble the car themselves, rather than buying car already made. A lot of the time, major car parts such as the engine and transmission are sourced from several different vehicles. The kits can vary in their level of assembly.

8000996611_dab375e40f_bPhoto courtesy of Martin Pettitt

Why not take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions:

  • What is a kit car?

A kit car is simply the phrase used to denote a collection of body parts and mechanical components that can be used as the building blocks to create a safe vehicle for the road. They can be as simple or advanced as you like, as long as there’s a semblance of a vehicle that is fit for road use.

  • What basic components make up a kit car?

The most basic kit car will consist of the body of the car and the chassis, as well as a small number of basic components to allow the car to function. An enthusiast should consult with a manufacturer and private vendors to find appropriate parts. Visiting a classic car vendor could also help uncover any missing components that you might need.

  • How should I treat the body and chassis of a kit car?

The body can be constructed from Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP), or fibreglass as it is more commonly known. Take the appropriate amount of care when you are restoring the body – a gel coat will help to offer a smooth finish. The chassis will generally be made out of form sheet metal; however other materials can be used – it’s best to consider which chassis option is best the individual project.

Aside from the body and chassis, extra parts will have to be found independently, which can often be part of the fun.

  • Should I buy a donor car?

In most cases, this is an essential requirement for anyone building a kit car. Consult with the manufacturer to find the specified donor car. Most donor cars will stem from mass produced manufacturers (think Ford, VW etc). These provide plenty of the necessary mechanical components that are needed to construct the car.

  • Should I build the kit car myself?

Opinions can vary – the way you approach the building will be dependent on your level of experience with car restoration and mechanics. Some people prefer not to carry out the actual building of the car themselves, and leave it to more knowledgeable classic car enthusiasts – it really depends on your levels of confidence regarding the build.

If you are taking the plunge and building the car yourself, ensure you have a clean, dry working environment in which to start the process. You’ll also need to invest in some high quality garage tools in order to do the job properly. However, the most important factor you’ll need to consider with the build is budgeting – can you meet the costs and timing involved in the build to make a success of the project? If so, keep a record of the amount of time and money spent whilst working.

  • What are the legal requirements to make my kit car roadworthy?

In the UK the DVLA is responsible for the regulation of kit cars and must make sure that these classic cars are totally roadworthy. The IVA test (Individual Vehicle Approval) has been in effect since 2009 and is designed to ensure that the car is safe and meets modern environmental standards.

As well as this, kit cars for sale must undergo a Vehicle Identity Check (VIC). Most kit cars will have a ‘Q’ registration plate, which shows that the vehicle has an unknown or mixture of ages. When this has been completed the V5C log book will be assigned, and from then on, the car is treated as any other mass-produced vehicle would be. This means it still requires an MOT and road tax.

Top American Muscle Cars

American muscle cars are often viewed as Marmite in the UK; you either love them or hate them. These cars, also known as muscle cars, are often quite crude, can’t really go round corners and are a bit unrefined, on the flip side of this though, muscle cars are extremely fast in a straight line, are very loud, and have looks that turn heads everywhere. Whether you love or hate American classic cars, read on to find out more about three of the most famous muscle cars in the world.

 

Ford Mustang

classic ford mustang Photo courtesy of Steve Arnold

The Ford Mustang has been in production in various forms for over forty years and are some of the most loved cars out there. The first models were introduced in 1964, that said however, the models from the 1970’s until the latest fifth generation model in 2005 have been considered by many as substandard. The most desirable models of all were produced in the 1960’s, and arguably the most desirable Ford Mustang is the 390GT Fastback. It was this model that featured in popular films such as Bullitt and Gone in 60 Seconds.

Over the years, every Ford Mustang produced has featured a V8 engine of varying displacement and power, and all have been rear-wheel drive. The Ford Mustang is one of the most desirable American classic cars on both sides of the Atlantic, and good models can easily fetch upwards of £30k.

 

Dodge Charger

1968 Dodge ChargerPhoto courtesy of Richard Wadd

 

The Dodge Charger was the contemporary of the legendary Ford Mustang and always lived somewhat it its shadow. That said however, these muscle cars still have a huge following, and still offer some of the same thrills in terms of power and pantomime as the Ford Mustang. These two muscle cars were introduced around the same time as each other, and as such were often seen as rivals. The Dodge Charger found fame in films such as Bullitt and its most famous role as the General Lee in The Dukes of Hazzard.

These muscle cars were some of the first to focus on being sporty and having two doors rather than accommodating families (something which the recent models have not done). Available in several engines sizes to begin with, the largest being a 6.3L Hemi V8. A six cylinder engine was introduced at a later date.

 

Pontiac GTO

1969 Pontiac GTOPhoto courtesy of Chad Horwedel

The Pontiac GTO is one of the original muscle cars and slightly pre-dates its rivals. In some ways it set the way for cars at the time. Both UK and US enthusiasts consider these classic cars to be the highest quality, and as such are in quite high demand. Like the Ford Mustang, the Pontiac GTO has been in production for over forty years but it is the early versions that are the most sought after. Like all American classic cars of this ilk, the Pontiac has a powerful V8 engine and offers good straight line performance. Prices for these cars in good condition are very similar to those of the Ford Mustang, and buyers should expect to pay more than £30k.

Classic Car Auctions

Auctions are excellent places to buy classic cars, if you understand what you’re doing you can really bag yourself a bargain. You will inevitably come across some cars that may need a bit of work, but they will make for fantastic assets once they have been given some tender loving care. Not many people are brave enough to buy a classic car at auction, which means you have a great chance to get a great deal. According to British Car Auctions (BCA), the Easter period is a fantastic time to visit an auction.

classic car auctionsPhoto courtesy of Joe Ross

How to Buy at Auction – Tips

Take a classic car value guide with you. This will give you a guide price of the vehicles on show, so you can make sure you are not paying over the market value.

Attend as early as you can and do not leave until the auction is over. You never know what is going to turn up, so it is best that you stay to see all of the lots. Being early is essential, as this is the only time you get to look over the cars before you start bidding.

You should always do your research before buying a classic car. Know what you want to buy before you attend the auction to avoid any impulse buys you might regret later on.

Turn up early so that you can look closely at what’s on offer and ask the owners about their history and condition. You should know what the cars are worth before you go arrive, so you do not pay over the odds.

Check both the interior and exterior. It is essential that, if you do not know a lot about cars  you bring someone with you who does.

Set a budget before you go to auction and stick to it. The stress and excitement should not stop you from bidding at the correct price.

Once you have singled out the lots you are interested in, ask the owner about its history.

Lastly, it is vitally important to check the premium that is added to the price of the car when bought at auction. You will need to check the terms and conditions of the auction house before you make any bids. The premium might be a set percentage of the buying price or a set amount before bidding begins.

How to Maintain a Classic Car

It is a well known fact that classic cars require a lot more maintenance than an up to date model. Even if your old car has a full MOT it is always best to give it a thorough checking over to make sure everything is as it should be. This comprehensive guide will offer advice on how to maintain your old car so that it can become a reliable daily run around.

Cars which have not seen regular use are often are less worn out mechanically than newer models. However, you will find that classic cars will need more servicing in order to get them up to scratch and make them reliable. If you are driving a classic car for the first time, be patient, they can take a few attempts to get used to. Always leave extra time for your journey, as they usually travel at a slower pace and you always run the risk of a breakdown.

Braking distances are much longer with most classic cars, so you need to ensure you are always reading the road ahead, further than you would in a modern car. Heating systems were rarely fitted in classic cars and if they were they are known for being notoriously bad; if it is a frosty morning you should be prepared to scrape ice off the windows manually.

You might find when driving that you get harassed by others driving close to your bumper but you should ignore this behaviour and drive within your old cars safe limits. A lot of classic cars have dainty indicators which stick out from their flanks, not all drivers will notice you are indicating so you should always make sure the driver behind has noticed and slowed down.

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Photo courtesy of PortoBay Events 

Maintenance Guide: An Overview

Classic car shows are the best places to see a range of old cars of all makes and years. For a classic car fanatic, it’s fantastic to see all of these beautiful cars in one place. If you are the proud owner of an old car then you will know how important it is to maintain it properly.

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Maintenance Tips:

  • First and foremost, driving your car regularly is key to keeping it in good condition. You should never leave an old car to sit for long periods of time, they have to be driven. Tyres, seals and lubricants will break or dry out if you leave classic cars sitting un-driven. Aim to drive once or twice a month to keep it up and running.
  • Before driving, it is important to warm the car up before you hit the open road.
  • To protect the paintwork, and keep it in good condition you will need to wash it. If you allow dirt and dust to build up it will start to destroy the exterior. Do wax the car occasionally also, but remember too much wax can damage the paintwork.
  • Change the oil regularly, and always have plenty of petrol in the tank. Check with your local auto parts store for a fuel stabiliser, as this will help protect your engine.
  • Protect your classic from the weather. Try to ensure that the car is protected from the elements. If you do not have a garage, then make sure you have a car cover. However, the cover should be light, to ensure your car has room to breathe. If the car cover is too heavy you will start to notice that moisture will become trapped, and mildew will develop.
  • If your car is rare you should collect classic car parts as and when you see them. This will make repairs easier when you have to make them.

1949 meteor engine

Photo courtesy of Dave_7

MOT Preparation

For some classic car owners, MOT time is an annual worry. But there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do some basic restoration beforehand, to get your motor in the best shape. A lot of the preparation required to get through the MOT is common sense, and very simple.

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  • To start with the simple bits, check the number plates are not cracked or obstructed. Similarly, do they have the correct sized lettering and are they in the right style? Cars that were built before 1/1/1973 are allowed black and silver plates.
  • The VIN plate must be in place, readable and match with that on your logbook.
  • Ensure the horn is fully working and emit an adequately loud sound. The wipers must work, and the blades should be in good condition. Parts like this are often readily available should you require them.
  • Make sure all your lights are working, including hazards, reverse, indicators, brake, headlights and number plate lamps. If they don’t, check all the bulbs and earth connections to see if this is the problem (it often is on classic cars). Again, these parts are readily available should you need replacements.
  • Door latches should work from both inside and outside the car, and the bonnet catch should be in good working condition.
  • The biggest worry for any classic car owner when it comes to the MOT is the body. If you have recently had a full car restoration then this shouldn’t be a problem. But for other owners, make sure there are no holes in the bodywork; surface roast will probably be OK. There should be no jagged edges and any contact points for suspension or steering should be in good condition, with no signs of rust.
  • On separate chassis classic cars, there should be no gap between this and the bodywork. Monocoque cars get their strength from the sills, and these should be in excellent condition. The inner wings and bulkheads need to be rust free also.
  • For brakes and clutch systems, check the fluid levels and system for leaks, binding brakes, slipping brakes and any signs that hoses are fouling the bodywork. You will need to source and buy the correct replacement parts if need be.
  • Emissions aren’t usually a problem for old cars, but leaking or rusty exhausts will be, so change it if necessary. Any signs of smoke when off choke will probably mean an MOT failure.
  • Check the steering and suspension for any signs of damage. Ay clunking or other untoward sounds are a bad sign. A bounce test on each corner should highlight any problems.
  • Wheels and tyres should be in good condition. All the tyres should have minimum 1.6mm of tread, and show no signs of cuts or perishing. You also need to consider whether the tyres you have are fit for purpose. Skinny cross-ply tyres on a powerful classic car are obviously not the best choice.
  • Windscreen chips or cracks could fail a classic car MOT if they fall within the driver’s line of sight.
  • Seatbelts should not be torn or frayed and must fasten/unfasten correctly.
How to maintain a classic carPhoto courtesy of Erik Nomm

Rust Remedies

Car rust is one of the biggest destroyers of most classic or vintage cars. If your car has not been well maintained it can easily become a victim of rust, often beyond repair. By making sure that restoration cars are kept properly, and by paying a good level of care and attention, you can treat rust before it gets out of hand.

Depending on the material and age of your model, rust can form in any number of places. Look out for bubbling in the paintwork. This is a sign of rust and can get out of hand pretty quickly. When car rust is allowed to seep into the core of the car and its structure, it is unfortunately only a matter of time before it disintegrates and is beyond help.

Car Storage

One of the most efficient ways to prevent rust from forming is is to store it properly. You may think that a dry garage is the perfect place. However, it is stuffy and has no ventilation, you may find it is a breeding ground for car rust. The ideal place to store your old car is in a dry garage that has sufficient ventilation.

Plastic covers (even breathable ones) cause more harm than good, as they trap moisture underneath, which creates rust. If your only option is to keep the car outside, you should pay extra attention to the screen seals. If these allow water leakages, this could be catastrophic for the sills, door pillars and floor plans.

Remedies

  • Begin by using a scrubbing pad, like you would use in the kitchen. This should take off surface rust and stop it from spreading.
  • Mix one teaspoon of lemon juice with a tablespoon of salt into a paste. Apply this to the rust stains on your car. The citric acid helps get rid of the problem. Wipe it off after a few minutes.
  • You could also use naval jelly. This is a substance that is stronger than lemon juice. The phosphoric acid in it dissolves the rust. The instructions should be followed carefully though, as it can do harm if left on for too long.
  • Commercial rust removers are also available to buy for restoration cars. Each one will treat a vintage car differently so it is again important to apply as instructed.
1959 chevrolet bel airPhoto courtesy of George Thomas 

Security

Older cars may require certain security measures to be put in place, in order to be accepted by car insurance companies. Some insurers require you to park in a garage at night. This is the ideal situation for classic cars. However, this is obviously not feasible for everyone. See the following advice on car security for tips on keep old cars safe.

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Parking

If your car is parked in a driveway, try to ensure that there is some lighting in the area. Thieves or vandals may be put off if they know they can be seen in the light. Old cars are targeted by thieves as they know that their car security may not be as advanced as modern cars.

You may consider installing a removable or folding security post so that your car cannot physically be removed by anyone else. If not, gates could also be a possibility. If you have another car which is more modern, you should park this in front so that it hides the classic from view.

Car Alarms

No matter how well maintained old cars are, there is no doubting the fundamental security issues. Without modern intervention, classic cars are at more risk of being easily broken into. Car alarms are a proven deterrent to thieves and will decrease the chance of criminals making off with your vehicle. If you do decide to go down the advisable car alarms route, remember to check the best way to install it on your particular car. Older cars may be positive earth or may have certain voltages that need specific adaptations first so that they can be compatible with modern electrics. Good alarm systems will incorporate an immobiliser for extra protection.

Steering Wheels

Car security in the form of steering bars and locks will deter criminals, but can easily be hacksawed off by determined thieves. A newer alternative is to fit a tracking device in your car so that you know just where it has been taken to. Certain classic cars may benefit from quick-removing steering wheels, which leave the car very hard to drive away or be towed.

Contents

An easy way of maintaining effective car security is to remove anything valuable from the car. Even if you think it is something that nobody else would want, you still may find yourself a victim of a car break-in.

grand old 2cv

Photo courtesy of Bahi

Winter Preparation

Many people who keep classic cars prefer not to use them during the winter months. This can be a great idea as the salt on the roads, combined with the wet weather and the frosts mean that you face a battle against the elements. There are a few things you can do before you put your car away for storage, to keep it in good condition for when the spring comes around.

  • If you intend to store over the winter, you may want to consider changing the oil beforehand. This will ensure that there are no contaminants that are undesired. If it is old, change the oil filter as well, these are readily available from classic car parts shops. If it is dirty, you may wish to change the brake fluid too, although this is less of an issue, especially on restoration cars.
  • Disconnect the battery before you put them into storage, it will go flat when left for a long time anyway, so it makes sense to disconnect it.
  • If possible, jack them up and leave them on blocks. Take the wheels off and let some of the air out. Store these parts somewhere dry and out of the worst of the cold. If you can’t take them off, put roughly 10 psi extra air into the tires.
  • A car cover is one of the most effective tools you can buy for winter, especially if you haven’t got the opportunity to keep it inside. Car covers are excellent for classic cars as they keep them away from the worst of the elements. Keep a window slightly open that are under car covers, to keep the air moving inside.
  • If you have the luxury, one of the best places to store classic cars in the winter is in a weather tight garage. This will ensure that they stay in perfect condition.
  • Regardless of whether you intend to store your car over the winter or keep using it, make sure you give it a thorough clean and keep doing so when driving in winter. Salt and grime on the roads will attack, so make sure you regularly clean them, especially the wheels and the underside.
  • If running classic cars through the winter, make sure that you keep any parts in good condition. Keep the window washer topped up with washer fluid; make sure the coolant system has plenty of anti-freeze in it and all the oil levels are topped up as necessary.

classic car winter

Photo courtesy of Michiel S

 

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Insurance for Classic Cars

Hunting around for car insurance can be a frustrating process at the best of times. However, potentially even more so with regards to classic cars, with the unique terms and conditions that are associated with them.

classic car break down

Photo courtesy of Alan Bruce

Generally, insurance companies will separate classics into three broad categories when deciding on an appropriate quote. Cars manufactured before 1903 are considered ‘veteran cars’, cars manufactured between 1903 and 1933 will be considered ‘vintage cars’ and theoretically, any car that has been on the market for longer than 15 years can be considered a ‘classic’ car.

Therefore, insurance quotes can vary, depending on which category your vehicle belongs to. Some insurance companies operate slightly different insurance policies, so it’s worth studying several quotes to decide which one reflects your car’s age, value and condition most accurately. Some insurers may not offer separate classic insurance schemes, so in this scenario your vintage car may actually be insured at the same rate as a regular, modern day car.

Any classic car owner needs to beware the common misconception that insurance is always cheaper than with a newer car – this is not always the case, and opting for the cheapest deal is not always the best decision. Always read the fine details before agreeing to any insurance deal – the amount of cover offered may vary from company to company.

The availability of a particular make and model can make all the difference when searching for a  quote. If a car is extremely scarce on the market, insurance costs can vary dramatically compared with the costs of covering mass-produced vintage vehicles.

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Photo courtesy of Chad Horwedel

Always enter into a guaranteed agreed valuation when you decide on a quote. This is the value guaranteed by an insurance company should your classic car be damaged or stolen. Failure to secure a guaranteed agreement could lead to a tense situation where an insurance company refuses to pay out the full amount.

Think about the type of insurance on offer. You need to make sure that the costs involved make the insurance deal an attractive proposition. Take time to understand the jargon and terminology involved, so you know exactly what you are getting for your money. It’s natural for some insurance quotes to grab you more than others, but it’s important to have an in-depth understanding of exactly what the insurance deal has to offer. In the majority of cases, three different types of cover will be offered – third party only, third party fire & theft, and comprehensive. Naturally, a comprehensive insurance deal will be the most expensive, but in the case of classic cars (some of which are extremely rare), it can often be the most sensible choice in the long term. Third party cover will only cover damage sustained by the other driver in an accident and will not offer your vehicle any protection whatsoever. If you own an extremely rare vehicle, it may be best to enquire direct with companies as to whether they offer unique deals for classic cars.

One of the most important things you can do is stay patient, and take your time to consider all your options. This means shopping around and getting as many quotes as you can. As mentioned previously, lots of companies have different approaches to insurance for old cars.