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Is your car a 'kit car'?

der Spieler

That is a question I heard a lot after I built mine in the late 90s. Mine was a Speedway kit and a kit is wasnt. Before I purchased it I did some research. The only choices I considered at the time were Speedway and TP.

I remember an article or ad or something I had seen showing the girls building the TP at a car show. I had considered TP but after seeing that I envisioned an insert tab A into slot A type build and I didnt think it would give me the latitude to make the changes I might want to make. My intent here is not to disparage TP as they are a fine company (the gas tank and some other items I purchased for my build came from them) but that was my impression at the time.

Streetrodder did an article on building a budget T using a Speedway kit in (if my memory serves me) their September 1997 issue, an article that was very valuable to me, acting as an instruction manual during my build. They made some changes to the frame, which gave it the look I wanted. That pretty much sealed the deal when it came time to make my decision.

So I opted for Speedway and a kit it wasnt. Of course the chassis changes I had anticipated and they werent that difficult. When it came to mounting the body I had a heck of a time making the floor, cutting the hole for and making the transmission tunnel, making tabs and attaching the body to the frame, the list of engineering feats goes on. The Streetrodder article proved invaluable. When I got the car finished I was proud of my accomplishment. It was far from perfect but like a friend told me; No one will notice the flaws when youre driving down the interstate at 70mph."

I guess the point of my comments here is, is your T a kit car? When I was asked that question my response was, I bought it as a kit but I had to make several modifications to it to get what I wanted. Frankly, I felt insulted by the question, knowing what I had to go through to build the car. Why was I even asked that question? Of course the questioners didnt know that so I let my disgust boil up inside and smiled. How do you feel about your object of pride? Do you cringe when you get the kit car question? The term kit car, to my way of thinking, tends to diminish the efforts we put into building a car in the minds of the uninformed, and in the minds of some of the informed (the store bought, trailer queen crowd.) Maybe if the manufacturers would dispense with the kit term in their catalogs and advertising and refer to them as components or something like that maybe the implied stigma of going to the store and buying a great big model car kit would go away. Thats my $.02. What say you?
I think we've all had that question asked of us. At first I was a little urked, then after a couple of cars, I started to answer buy saying "Yup...It's one of my kits!" Now , I have nothing against "kit" cars, God knows I've swipped a lot of ideas from them. I beleive they are the greatest thing that's come down the road for the longivity of the T bucket. There are a lot of people driving T's now who would have otherwise been sitting on the sidelines. But there is something about building from scratch that you just can't get from kit building. I can't explain it, but I've had guys tell me that after building their second car from scratch.

On the other hand, if someone asks you if it's a kit car, it's kinda like a complement. For the unwashed masses, a kit car is, in their eyes, a perfect example of a T bucket. This guy just told you, "You have a great car!!"

I have a saying that I try to live by and it is:

EX Junk iz right !! There iz nothin wrong with "Kit Carz", especially for people with limited building skills and limited space to work in.
Unload the boxes, open em up, put the parts together. spray a little paint, drive it !
I just think of how many miles I would have on my car now if I would have done that 6 years ago !!....:confused: "BH"
(CAUTION - long-winded because I don't have anything to do here in the office this afternoon!)

I think it depends on the definition of "kit." defines "kit" as "a set of materials or parts from which something can be assembled." In that sense, then yes, the collection of parts one would buy from TP, Spirit, Speedway or whoever, is a kit. But to most people, "kit" implies something like a model car or plane kit, where everything is laid out for you and is specifically designed to fit together, and it's all made by the same manufacturer who provides clear instructions on how to assemble it.

I can't speak for the TP and Speedway kits, but my Spirit kit does not fit that more common "model car kit" definition. When I first contacted Spirit about a "kit," they told me they could put together just about any combination of parts I wanted. They had some "pre-defined" kits to simplify things, or I could specifically pick the particular parts I wanted. They were only five hours away, so I took a day off and drove down there to meet them face to face (an excellent thing to do if you can swing it, IMHO).

I spent half a day with BC, Josh and BC's son (sorry Bob, I don't remember his name), and Bob and I even went to lunch (he bought!). I was very impressed with their openness and friendliness and the genuine interest they took in my project. They showed me around the shop, showed me some frames and bodies in fab, showed me their stock of parts, and gave me the guided tour of a turn-key car they had just completed.

I really liked the look of the Spirit '23 except for one thing. My taste is for more of a rake than the Spirit has. I told Bob this and he said, "We can do it anyway you want it." He and I proceeded to sit down cross-legged on the gravel driveway in front of the turn-key car and together we re-engineered the front suspension design to gain about a 3" drop at the front crossmember (there's more to this part of the story, but I'll stick to the "kit" issue).

We then went back to the shop and sat down and went part-by-part down the list for a "super kit," with me choosing from various options for most of them. I upgraded a lot of parts, some of which they had to order from other suppliers. But most of their parts come from other suppliers anyway. My T has a TP windshield, Superbell front-end parts, several parts from Speedway, etc. The only components they actually make (at least this was true two and a half years ago) are the frame, the body and body insert, radiator shell, hairpins, drag link and tie rod (I might be missing a few things... sorry BC, don't mean to short you!). Everything else came from another vendor, including two of Spirit's biggest competitors!

OK, here's where my logic says my Spirit T wasn't truly a "kit." I could have just bought the Spirit-manufactured parts from Spirit and bought everything else directly from the same vendors Spirit got them from. I don't think you can call just the Spirit parts a kit. They are some the main components of the T, but by no means anything close to a drivable car! What Spirit did for me is save me the time and trouble (and possibly some additional cost) of shopping for all the other parts. They gathered them up for me in a pile (literally) in Mountain Home AR and I drove down there, wrote one check and loaded up my pile of parts and took them home. There were still a lot of parts missing from that pile, such as an engine, transmission, wheels, tires and a bunch of other stuff I had to get or fabricate on my own. Oh, and did I mention, it DID NOT come with an INSTRUCTION MANUAL (although I understand Spirit now has one). So my "kit" was not something you just spread out on the garage floor and begin inserting tab A into slot B according to the nicely illustrated instruction sheet!!

So when someone asks me if I built my T, I say without any hesitation yes. If they ask me if it is a kit, my answer depends on the circumstances. If it's someone I don't think knows anything about our hotrods, I say "no," using my definition of a kit. If it is someone who seems to know a little about T-buckets, I say it was a "partial kit," and if they seem interested I'll give them the "collection of parts" explanation. If it is someone with obvious hotrod knowledge, I say "you tell me," and give them the long version as above. Usually they will agree that it isn't what a lay person would consider a kit. There are those, of course, who say that if you didn't personally fabricate every aspect of the car then it's a kit.

It doesn't bother me to have my T referred to as a kit. What does bother me is the lack of understanding and appreciation for how much work went into assembling my "kit."
I agree with everything you guys have said and maybe I'm being a little too thin skinned about it. I got a lot of "nice cars" when I had mine but I also got a lot of "was it a kit" of "did you build it from a kit" and to me that took away from all of the work I had to do to get the car on the road and implied, to me, that they thought all I had to do was put tab 'a' into slot 'a' and assemble it. You've all built cars. There operative word there being built. We didn't assemble them and I think that is what a large portion of the great unwashed believe we did. I like to get credit for my labors and I think if the word kit were removed from the lexicon more credit would be given where it is due. As I said in my first post the Speedway 'kit' was anything but. Cheers..Steve
Lee_in_KC said:
It doesn't bother me to have my T referred to as a kit. What does bother me is the lack of understanding and appreciation for how much work went into assembling my "kit."

Thanks Lee. Like you I wish there was a way for people to understand and really appreciate our efforts. As others have said, if it weren't for the availability of kits a lot of us would still be sitting on the sidelines watching and I am grateful that I was able to buy a kit and build one. As a neophyte I probably went into it thinking the process would be easier than it was. I didn't take the word 'kit' literally and I wasn't expecting to just go into the garage and start assembling pieces but neither did I expect the job to be as difficult as it was. In hindsight I'm glad I had the experience. I learned a lot and I'm anxious to get started on my next one.
I went the kit route because I don't have the fabrication skills or tools and I could afford to buy a nice kit. I really enjoyed building my T and have thought about building another one from scratch (except the body.. I DO NOT do body work!!). I have looked into taking welding classes at the local community college. If I weren't so lazy I'd go sign up!!

I would like to build something like this...
Agree, kits would be great for those of us with few fabrication skills, but I'm going the other route so I can learn some of those skills. I'll probably screw something up along the way but that's a good way to learn. I have a buddy that owns a welding shop who I can grovel to if things really get out of
The upside of the kit is that you will be on the road before me.
Some things?No you will screw alot of things up but its all in the learning curve ask anyone here if they ever screwed anything up.
screw up??? thats my middle name!!!! :lol::lol::rolleyes::rolleyes:

I prolly coulda built 2 cars with all the parts I screwed up building 1 :eek:

but the experience was worth it, I learned ALOT!!! :surprised:

like my Pappy used to say, before he left this rotten world...." Son, you learn alot more from your mistakes, than you do from your successes"

I'm eager to learn new skills building the C-cab. :D

p.s. I dig the crap outta the Rusto-Wrecker!!!!

That's why we're here Craig, to help each other keep the mistakes at a minimun and the learning curve on a steady rise.

I built almost everything on mine --Frame----Brackets----mounts and HALF of the body. But only because I had some race car building past and I LOVE to design and tinker. I'm by no means an expert.
In my opinion, our cars would be a kit, if we got EVERYTHING from one specific company and sat in the garage and put it together like a model, not deviating from the instruction manual. But when you make that first change, modification or deviate from the plan, it's not a kit anymore, it's a build or project. Total Performance offers a great kit. Probably the most complete in the market and there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it a great thing for a lot of people who would end up just looking at magazines and wishing. But when you change it or modify it and put your touch on it, it changes everything.

Now, you guys that have the skills and space to do it all or most of it yourself.... my hat goes off to ya. I wish I could weld and do so much more than I can. One day I will. You guys will always have my utmost respect. So, if anyone has a legit reason to being upset about that label, it's you.

When people used to ask me if my car was a kit, it used to get to me, but I have gotten to where I explain to them just what it is I did to get her on the road. After that, if they still think it's a kit, then so be it. All I know is that it's a hot rod and specificly a T Bucket.

So, is mine a kit? Maybe, maybe not. Depends on the viewers opinon. When I roll up the bay doors tomorrow morning, all I know is that I'll be looking at a HOT ROD and that's enough for me.
When someone would ask me "is that a kit car?", I would walk them around back and tell them to read my license plate. That usually saved a lot of talking. :rolleyes::lol:


I hear that question alot it seems, most of the time I tell the folks no, its not a kit, just a conglomeration of parts. I have heard quite a few times from the totally uninitiated, "what a nice looking dune buggy" lololol I just smile and say thanks!!
My thoughts are what is it do you want to get out of this thing? Myself I like to see if I can build the parts I need or think I need to put one of these on the road. Thats what I enjoy. I know that most every part can be purchased and it will make a great T but I always used the excuse of the cost to spend tons of hours and effort to make the same thing with my touch.
If a person is more interested in getting on the road then the thing to do is to stick with the normal things (either lobuck juckyard hunting or buying what you need) and "git er done".
The most important thing of all is to enjoy what your doing.

And thats all I have to say bout that

P.S. No I don't consider mine a kit at all.
I have been asked if mine was a "Kit". I just say "Sure it was, just imagine a puzzle with a million pieces that are all flat black and you have to build it in the dark.

the onlything new on my car is the front tires, radiator and the vinyl for the seats. (and a whole mess of nuts and bolts) everything is straight from the junkyard and rebuilt in my garage.

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