12 Kit Cars That Won't Break The Bank

There are really only two ways to build your own sports car in the modern market: either have deep enough pockets to convince a major manufacturer to design a model especially for you, or get your hands dirty and buy a kit car. The main advantage of a kit car is that it offers a lot more scope for customization than buying a regular sports car does — for example, builders usually have a choice of engines, and can add as many aftermarket upgrades as they like without having to worry about invalidating a warranty.

There's also the satisfaction of being able to say that you built your own car rather than bought it, and that's an accolade that even multimillionaire collectors who commission one-off specials can't lay claim to. Not to mention, a kit car is nearly always a lot more affordable than buying an equivalent turn-key sports car, with many kits costing less than $25,000, yet offering head-turning looks and track-ready performance when they're finished.

Exomotive Exocet - $7,999

It might not be the best-looking kit car on the market, but few can top the Exomotive Exocet for affordable performance. With a starting price of just $7,999 for the base-spec kit, the Exocet uses a Mazda Miata as a donor car but strips away all the unnecessary pieces to make an ultra-lightweight track day toy. For an extra $300, buyers can add a roll bar that brings the car up to competition requirements, and for a further $700, there's an off-road kit available for drivers who prefer the trail to the track.

American-market Exocets are built under license by Exomotive, but the original design was created by designer Steve Mills, whose company Mills Extreme Vehicles (MEV) produces the car for the UK and European markets. Exomotive Exocets require either an NA or NB Miata as a donor car, but MEV-manufactured kits are also compatible with the NC generation Miata. The Exocet uses the Miata's stock engine, but there's a huge aftermarket for tuner parts, so Exocet owners can easily upgrade their car's power output should they wish.

Factory Five '33 Hot Rod - $20,990

Factory Five is one of the best-known American kit car makers, and for good reason. The company makes a variety of affordable kits, the most retro of those being the '33 Hot Rod. Available in either two stages for $10,990 each or $20,990 for the complete kit, the '33 Hot Rod is a little different from many other kit cars in that it doesn't rely on a donor car. Instead, Factory Five fabricates everything including the chassis, body, suspension, and interior in-house, leaving only the drivetrain for the builder to source independently.

Factory Five's president Dave Smith has said that the focus when designing the Hot Rod kit was to improve performance and drivability over a traditional hot rod build, and to keep things simple by offering all the parts in one place. The design originally debuted at the 2008 SEMA show, and the second-generation kit is now available to order from Factory Five's website.

Riot Classic - $5,150

Due to their niche customer base and limited profit margins, it's common for kit car designs to be sold between manufacturers over their lifetimes, as one company runs out of cash and another buys its assets. The Riot kit car is a good example, as it was originally released by Sylva Autokits, winning Complete Kit Cars Magazine's Kit Car of the Year shortly after it was unveiled in 2005 (via Riot Cars). The design was then sold to another small British company, Xmoor Motorsports, who revamped the design and released it as the Riot Classic in 2013.

Riot's website lists the Classic starter kit for just £4,595 (approximately $5,150) plus taxes, making it one of the cheapest sports car kits on the market. This includes a chassis, body, and wheels, with a selection of Ford EcoBoost powertrains available for an extra cost. The engine is mid-mounted, and with Riot's recommended 1.6-liter Ford 4-cylinder fitted, can produce 210 horsepower. That's plenty considering the car weighs a paltry 480 kilograms (1,058 pounds). 

Factory Five Mk4 Roadster - $20,990

Genuine Shelby Cobras are both extremely rare and extremely valuable, with the most sought-after examples selling for more than $5 million at auction. That makes them unobtainable to all but the wealthiest collectors, but thankfully there's a booming replica market that allows enthusiasts to drive their own Cobra for a much more reasonable price. One of the most popular replica kits is Factory Five's Mk4 Roadster, which retails for $20,990 for the complete kit. Like most kit cars, it doesn't include an engine or transmission, and the wheels and tires also have to be purchased separately.

Builders, therefore, have the choice of whether to focus on budget or performance, although most builders will prefer to spend a little extra to make sure their Cobra is as fast as it looks. Factory Five offers comprehensive instructions on how to build the car, with only regular tools required for assembly. There's no option to buy a turn-key version of the Mk4 Roadster, but the kit maker says it can work with buyers to find a suitable shop to build the car if they're not comfortable assembling it on their own (via Factory Five Racing).

Bauer Catfish Roadster - $13,900

Company founder Cord Bauer claimed in a comment that the Catfish Roadster shouldn't be considered a kit car at all, but rather a track day car that owners should "take care with to put it together right." However, it's sold only in kit form, so for the purposes of this article, it's very much a kit car, and a good one at that. Prices start from $13,900 for a base-spec Catfish Roadster, with a NASA/SCCA-approved safety cage costing an extra $2,000.

A donor NA or NB Miata is also needed for the sub-frames, with the engine bay spacious enough to accommodate an LS V8 as well as a regular 1.8-liter Miata engine (via Bauer Limited Production). Up until 2020, Bauer itself was directly responsible for manufacturing and distributing the kit, but the design is currently produced by Race Car Replicas, another kit car maker that's best known for its accurate Ford GT40 replicas, over 28 of which were used in the 2019 movie "Ford v Ferrari."

DF Goblin - $9,050

The 2005-2010 Chevrolet Cobalt is far from the most remarkable of cars, but DF offers a kit that can transform it into a bare-bones street racing machine. Once a suitable donor car has been acquired, the base-spec Goblin kit will set buyers back a further $9,050. DF claims that assembling the Goblin is "even easier than flat pack furniture," as only basic tools are required. After assembly, most builds weigh around 1,500 to 1,600 pounds, making even the base-spec Cobalt's 145 horsepower engine more than powerful enough. However, the Goblin kit is designed to be compatible with any Cobalt engine, so buyers looking for serious performance should opt for the Cobalt SS Turbo's 260 horsepower 2.0-liter engine (via DF Kit Car).

According to DF's website, a Goblin with a Cobalt SS Turbo engine should be capable of 0-60 mph in approximately 3.25 seconds, making it faster than a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat off the line (via Zero to 60 Times). Its mid-mounted engine and light curb weight should make it sharp around corners, too, allowing drivers to keep up with cars that cost three or four times as much both on the straights and in the twisties.

Factory Five 818 - $13,990

As well as making replica kits of some of America's greatest cars, Factory Five has also designed its own unique sports car, the 818. It's available in roadster (818S), racing (818R), and coupe (818C) form, although it's the coupe that's arguably the most versatile option of the three (via Factory Five Racing). Like all of the company's cars, the 818's focus is on performance and handling, although it's arguably one of the best-looking kit sports cars on the market, too. The 818 uses running gear from the Subaru Impreza/WRX, but a lightweight chassis and panels keep its curb weight down to just 1,800 pounds (818 kilograms, hence the name).

The kit costs $13,990 and Factory Five claims that, with a suitably cheap donor car, it's possible to get the 818 on the road for less than $15,000. Many of the Impreza/WRX's parts can be bolted straight onto the 818, including the front and rear spindles, steering rack, and pedal box. The Impreza's stock engine also fits neatly into the 818's engine bay, although builders looking for maximum performance can take advantage of the Subaru's extensive aftermarket to squeeze every last bit of horsepower out of the trusty Boxer engine.

Westfield Mega S2000 - $24,900

In 2022, Caterham launched its entry-level Super Seven 2000 in the U.S., but with a starting price of roughly $45,000, it's too expensive to feature on this list (via The Autopian). However, another British kit car maker sells a very similar kit that can be imported to America for a little over half the price. Westfield has been making kit cars since 1983, with its most popular design being based on the Lotus Seven, the same as Caterham.

The Mega S2000 features a Honda F20C engine, yet it weighs barely more than 1,200 pounds. It's available from Manik Sportscars, a specialist importer in Texas, for $24,990 plus shipping. However, this price doesn't include an engine, transmission, alternator, and several other parts, as those require a donor Honda S2000. Like many small carmakers, Westfield has struggled with its cash flow, and it went into administration in June 2022. However, new buyers were found for the company in September 2022, and the company is reportedly looking to restart production in a limited capacity (via Car Dealer Magazine). It's not clear at the time of writing how this will affect U.S. availability for the kits.

GBS Zero - $15,300

If the Westfield still seems a little too pricey, then there's another British company making kit cars based on the Lotus Seven for an even more affordable price. GBS, or Great British Sports Cars, offers a kit called the Zero, and U.S. shipping is available straight from the factory. At current exchange rates, the Zero kit works out to around $15,300, including the 5% export fee. Buyers in other markets can also buy a turn-key version, although this isn't available for North America.

The American-spec Zero kit is designed to use the Mazda Miata as a donor car, with both Mk1 and Mk2 models being suitable. Like most other Miata-based kit cars, it's possible to use the stock Miata's engine for assembly, although modifications can be easily added. It might be similar to its competition in some respects, but the Zero's unique front-mid engine layout ensures near-perfect 50:50 weight distribution, setting it apart from similar Lotus Seven-based creations.

Carolina Vaydor - $23,800

The Vaydor hit the headlines in 2016 when it was featured as the Joker's car in the movie "Suicide Squad," and it's still available to buy today (via Jalopnik). It uses an Infiniti G35 Coupe as a donor, and unlike many of the other kit cars here, it uses the donor car's stock chassis and most of its internals. The kit is available in parts, with the main body kit costing $16,000, and a variety of extras including custom interior parts and scissor door hinges. Buying everything apart from the interior upholstery kit will set buyers back a comparatively steep $23,800 (via Carolina Vaydor).

The kit includes features like a head-up display and 360-degree cameras to make it more driver-friendly than most other kit cars. The G35's engine bay can house LS, 2JZ, or LT engines, and Carolina Vaydor recommends upgrading from the donor car's engine if possible. The company estimates that most builds will cost around $40,000 in total, although with the caveat that this is an estimate for experienced builders, and anyone needing to hire help may have to pay even more. Still, builders with enough technical experience and a cheap donor G35 can build themselves a unique car with both supercar looks and supercar levels of performance at a fraction of an actual supercar's cost.

Vintage Motorcars Speedster - $12,500

The Porsche 356 is one of the company's most iconic cars, and over 76,000 examples were manufactured (via Hemmings). More than half of those were exported to America, but the vast majority have long since been consigned to the scrap heap, with rust being the car's biggest killer. This has led to a booming 356 replica market, with California-based Vintage Motorcars offering a visually identical replica based on a VW Beetle chassis. Called the Speedster, the car is available either as a kit or as a turn-key vehicle, with the Stage 1 kit costing just $12,500.

The initial kit only includes the fiberglass body, steel sub-frame, doors, and bumpers, so there's a lot of extra work to do for builders. However, it's still possible to find a cheap donor Beetle, and the Speedster is designed to accommodate a number of engines to keep costs down. A regular Type 1 engine can be fitted, but the kit is also compatible with Type IV (Porsche 914) engines and Subaru water-cooled engines, too (via Vintage Motorcars).

Factory Five Type 65 Coupe - $22,990

Original Shelby Daytona Coupes cost millions, so even seeing one in real life is near impossible, never mind driving it. Factory Five offers a solution though, as the Type 65 Coupe is about as close as it's possible to get to the real thing without having an eight-figure bank account. Two versions of the kit are available, with the cheaper kit requiring a Mustang donor car and costing $17,990. For $5,000 extra, a "complete kit" is available that only requires a powertrain, wheels, and paint.

The complete kit can fit small block Ford 302, 351, and 5.0-liter Coyote engines, and there are plenty of aftermarket power upgrades that are available for each of them. There's a choice of either vintage or modern gauges and switches, so builders can choose whether to go for period-correct looks or modern convenience. Both left-hand drive and right-hand drive configurations are available, and Factory Five offers worldwide shipping upon request (via Factory Five Racing). There's no way the average enthusiast will ever be able to sit behind the wheel of an original Daytona Coupe, but kit cars like this one offer drivers the next best thing.