The Weird World of Kit Cars

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The idea of assembling an object sent over in the post might work with something like a closet organizer or a dresser but it’s a bit different with a car. For a start, there are more parts!

The first question you might ask is, why build a car? Why not just buy one from a showroom?

Well, there are a number of reasons you might build a car; one is if the car is used in a competitive activity such as hill climbing or road racing. Shows like Junkyard Challenge show how you mix and match different cars to make them better suited for specific occupations. Or you just might want a unique kind of car that different from anything else on the road.

Technically custom-built cars, those built for racing or climbing mountains, are not the same thing as a kit car per se. A kit car is a definite commercial item; it just comes in a form different from other cars.

Then What is a Kit Car?

With a kit car, you will find the more important components such as the engine and the transmission system come from donor vehicles which of course you need to buy elsewhere. So, far from keeping costs down, you might be creating expense. It is hardly the cheapest option and it can become an expensive hobby.

How much of a car is included in a kit car? Surprisingly it might be none at all; you might just have bought a list of instructions. Alternatively, you might obtain every single component a car might need; all you have to do is fit them together. Sound simple?

History of Kits?

There is a long history of kit cars, going back to 1896. Before Ford’s assembly line, car makers experimented with several ways to make them affordable. The opportunity to own one seemed to interest the magazine called The English Mechanic which showed how to build a car of your own. The first US kit car went by the macho name of “Lad’s Car”, costing about $160 in 1926, which translates as $2,200 today. It did take a bit of time to get going, not quite reaching its stride until the 1950s. Since so much went wrong with the cars of the day, people preferred to own the car showroom models.

What About Cost?

One technological advance that made the kit car more viable was the introduction of fiberglass into automaking. This brought the prices of the cars right down because the parts were cheaper to manufacture and lighter, and therefore cheaper, to ship.

Kit cars do offer potential cost savings of prebuilt models. If you are willing to accept a car that looks like a fancy custom vehicle but isn’t actually that vehicle with it’s brand name price, you could get most of the experience of owning such a car. For example, some cars are rare and collectible. Why pay collector rates when you just want to drive around is something cool. Taxes are another potential savings. If you pay sales tax on a junk car with good bones and then use a kit to cherry it out, you aren’t paying sales tax on the cost of all your labor.

The most famous kit car…

The most famous kit car is probably the Lotus but the AC Cobra is still being made. Many current models are replicas of older models – it seems that the designs of the cars haven’t changed for decades.

Possibly there could be a market for a new style of kit car, one that takes on the latest ideas of what cars are. It seems that we need to get over the idea that home assembly is too difficult for the novice, experimenting with new ideas and forms might be what it’s all about.

 

Why Carpooling DOESN’T Suck If You’re Well Equipped

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Remember what a blast you had carpooling with your soccer team or best friends in school? You got to spend some fantastic time together sharing a ride, playing some car games, and bonding before it was time for school or practice for the big game. However, somewhere along the line, adults got the idea that carpooling wasn’t that great. That’s starting to change now that we’ve fully embraced the idea of ridesharing, but we still have a way to go. It’s time to re-imagine that carpool, especially if you’re considering an office carpool to avoid parking stress and the increasing cost of gas this summer.

fuel-meter-311685_1280Working with a carpool vehicle organization can help you easily connect with fellow commuters (ongoing or one-time) who are taking a similar route as you. When you go this route, not only will you get to meet new people (without feeling like you’re stuck with them for good), but you can also enjoy the convenience of having someone else pre-service the car in some cases. Every organization has different regulations, so make sure you check the details to choose a service that works for you. Carpooling doesn’t always mean you’re going to take a turn driving and/or using your own vehicle. In many cases, you’ll simply chip in for gas and get to keep your own vehicle’s wear and tear to a minimum.

Still not convinced? Here are a few perks to carpooling as an adult you’re missing out on:

  1. Avoiding the stress of driving during rush hour. Let the driver handle that. You can kick back, chat with your carpool friends, take care of business on the go, or even nap. This is your time, and there’s no need to arrive at the office with your blood pressure already spiked.
  2. Save money. The more people in a carpool, the less everyone pays. You’ll save money not only on gas but on parking fees and the upkeep of putting more miles on your own vehicle.
  3. Enjoy good karma by being kind to the environment. It’s very unlikely that every person actually needs to drive themselves—and only themselves—to work. Lighten your carbon footprint and you’ll feel better about your commute. That good feeling will snowball into perks in other aspects of your life.
  4. Up your social game. Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to make friends as adults? Carpooling gives you an entirely new opportunity to meet people you otherwise wouldn’t. In some situations, there might be different folks in every carpool so every commute is unique. You might make new friends and not “waste” any time doing so. Either way, you need to commute, so why not widen your social circle in the process?
  5. Save time. Do you spend too many minutes looking for a parking space? Carpooling can drop you off right at the entrance so you’ll save some of the most precious commodity of all.

Challenge yourself to give carpooling a chance at least once a week and see what a difference it can make.

 

Negotiating for a Vehicle with Diminished Value

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You’re in the market for a new ride, and negotiating is nearly a requirement. When you first check out a car, make sure you get the full vehicle report. If the vehicle was in an accident—even if it was “just” a fender bender—there’s diminished value. That means that the car isn’t worth the blue book price, even if it was completely repaired.

Let’s say that the vehicle was in a small parking lot accident. The bumper was dented but has been replaced. That’s good news for you. It still has diminished value, even if the entire part that was damaged has been replaced.

The reason for this is simple, repair shops do what makes the insurance company happy and not the car owner. They may very well have repaired the vehicle to its pre-loss condition, but that’s the exception, not the rule. So, value standards companies discount value based on the standard practices.

Quick Plug for Independent Car Inspection

A good inspection service like our sponsor, Tire Kickers, will help establish a car’s true value along with verifying it’s safety. By examining the cars history for you, along with what similar cars have sold for nearby, and the actual condition of the vehicle they can give you a true value to use as a club during negotiations.

Your Opening Argument

headlamp-2940_1920You might not know about diminished value claims, and the seller might not either. Many insurance policies actually have a diminished value claim as an option, but they don’t advertise it. When you’re in an accident, you can file this claim in order to make up for the loss of value. There’s usually no time limit for filing this claim.

You might have to educate the seller a little. They can still file that claim, even when they’re about to sell. This way, you can pay less for the car and the seller still gets the money. It’s a win-win situation for both of you, but this isn’t always a possibility since their policy might not have the option.

crash-test-1620600_1920Get the Facts

You should have the full vehicle report and a 150-point inspection before purchasing a car. If you’re considering a classic or collector car, a specialty inspection is in order. You need to consider the dollar value loss that an accident caused. Whether or not the car was repaired doesn’t matter.

You’ll be the one dealing with the diminished value when and if you sell the car. You weren’t the one in the accident. It’s not fair that you’ll be taking the loss down the road. The seller might not think it’s fair, but nobody can argue with an inspector’s bottom line.

Is it a Smart Move?

You need to decide if it’s a good decision to purchase a vehicle that’s been in an accident. The car will always have a diminished value. However, you also have to consider safety. It’s generally accepted that cars that have been in a collision might not be as safe.

Consider the accident, where the car was impacted and decide wisely. Remember that it’s not just your money that’s on the line, but also the safety of yourself and your passengers. You might be able to score a great deal on a car with diminished value. However, just make sure that it’s still up to snuff in the safety department.

Best of the Web

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(Editors Note: Tomorrow is Juneteenth in many States. The Kicker would like to honor everyone who’s free at last. Let us never take our liberty for granted and may we all march forward toward peace and a bright, unified future.)

Here’s a just-for-fun post we found at a site called Brittish Car Terminology.

British term American term
accumulator battery
actuator switch or servo
Artic ‘artic’ulated lorry=semi tractor-trailer
baulk ring synchro ring (transmission synchromesh)
bonnet hood
boot trunk
bulkhead firewall
choke tube venturi (carb)
core plug freeze plug
crocodile clip alligator clip
crosshead screw Phillips head screw
crown wheel ring gear(gear in differential)
cubby box glove box or glove compartment
damper shock absorber
drive shaft half shaft or axle shaft to wheel
drop-head coupe convertible (version of 2 door coupe, see roadster)
dumpy screwdriver short screwdriver
dynamo generator
earth ground
estate station wagon
fascia dashboard
fixed-head coupe 2 door coupe
frogeye bugeye
Gallon (Imperial) 4.5 US Quarts
gearbox transmission
gudgeon pin wrist pin
hood convertible top
jointing compound gasket sealant
lorry truck
mole wrench Vice grips
monocoque unibody
Ministry of Transport Department of Transportation
MOT (see above) DOT (see above)
nave plate hubcap
near side left side.
nose front of car
off side right side.
paraffin kerosene
pinking knocking or pinging
prop shaft drive shaft
petrol gasoline
prise pry(apply force with a lever, pry-bar, crow-bar, screwdriver)
proud raised, stands above surrounding surface.
quarterlight vent window – small, usually ‘triangular’ side window
rev counter tachometer
reversing lights back-up lights
ring gear flywheel gear, or starter gear (shrink fit onto the flywheel)
roadster convertible (car that comes only with a soft-top, usually a minimalist, manual, Erector-Set top*
roundabout rotary, traffic circle
RoStyle type of steel wheel (as opposed to wire)
saloon ‘sedan’,2 or 4 door
scuttle cowl
side curtains removable side windows, usually flexible plastic.
silencer muffler
sill rocker panel
shooting brake station wagon
spanner wrench
split pin cotter pin
spring washer split lock washer (as opposed to star washer)
squab part of seat
suction advance vacuum advance
sump oil pan
thrust bearing throwout bearing
tick over idle
top gear high gear
torch flashlight
trunnion sliding or rotating joint (suspension) (pin in bore)
tyre tire
wanker someone who hacks on their car — usually clueless
wheel nut lug nut
Whitworth British thread standard (size denotes hex head size)
windscreen windshield
wing fender

4 Checkpoints When Buying a Classic Car

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Classic car restoration can be a beast, even for DIY mechanics with plenty of experience. Depending on the needs of your classic ride, there’s bound to be at least a few areas where you’re not skilled—working out dents, re-upholstering or simply having connections to the right dealers who have original parts. For many people, owning a restored classic car is a major item on their bucket list. However, it’s easy to get stuck with a lemon.

It’s also easy to spend several thousand dollars on restoration, ultimately getting you a car that (albeit close to perfect) you’ve dumped way too much money into. When shopping for a classic car project, there are a few checkpoints to carefully consider. Simultaneously, you should also have a restoration shop in your corner who provides quality results that work with your budget.

  1. Rust=no go

jaguar-3366957_1920.jpgRust is fairly common, and when it’s minimal and just on the surface, you might be able to power wash it off. However, if the chassis has been destroyed or if you’ll need to totally replace steel panels, it’s not worth it. It’s not unusual to strip the chassis, sandblast it, remove sections and weld brand new pieces together. This isn’t just expensive, but ultimately means it’s not an original car. Only the lucky few can find replacement panels, but most need to create makeshift panels themselves. Rust buckets should be reserved for only the very skilled (or the very wealthy).

  1. Focus on value

auto-3351802_1920There are tons of old cars out there, but age alone doesn’t make a car a classic. While there will always be niche markets for pretty much every car, you deserve one that retains its value. Never let impulses control your purchase, and spend some time researching the most reliable classic cars that won’t lose their value. Bonus points if you snag a car that appreciates—and remember that upfront costs are only a small portion of what you’ll be spending.

  1. Check for replacement parts

auto-3352982_1920Assuming the worst case scenario happens and you have to replace a lot of parts, how easy are they to find? How affordable are they? Purchasing a really rare car is a thrill, but if they don’t make it anymore (or the manufacturer no longer exists), it’s going to be tough to find aftermarket parts. Pretend like you’re searching for parts well before making the purchase, and experience first-hand what might be in store.

  1. Power up

abandoned-3401168_1920At the very least, you need a car that easily starts and runs. If it overheats during the test drive, is cranky to start or the current owner promises “all it needs is a new battery,” be wary. If the battery story is true, most owners would spring for that cheap part in order to sell their car. A more likely scenario is a seized or otherwise destroyed engine that needs replacing.

Ideally, you have an expert on hand who can run diagnostics on the car before you make an offer. If the seller is on the up and up, they’ll be happy to let a pro take a look. If they resist, they’re probably hiding something and you’re better off continuing your hunt elsewhere.

Locating a Car

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There are four reasons why the police may want to “locate a car;”

  1. To recover a stolen car
  2. To establish that a certain car was at the specific location at a certain time
  3. To stop and arrest someone with a warrant
  4. Retrieve an abductee

Obviously, the best way to identify a car is through the license plate. But plates can be stolen which can muddy the waters. A better identification is the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) which is engraved on a plate in the dashboard, visible through the windshield. This makes personal, visual confirmation the primary way to locate a vehicle.

So police might canvas a neighborhood looking for a suspect vehicle or for a resident who knows where the vehicle is. However, what happens if you don’t see the car? Well, there are still other ways.

The Sat-Nav (Satellite Navigation) system can track a car’s movement in real time. This may take a warrant, or not, depending on your jurisdiction. Why spend all that time tracking down a car when there is a programme following where the car is going all the time? Many people don’t think about their onboard navigation. Professional car thieves do. Unsurprisingly, when people steal a car the Sat-Nav is the first thing to go.

Although many people don’t have records of their tire tracks, certain tire marks at a crime scene may be checked against a car to see if they are the same sort. In fact, there is a national database for tire tracks and composition so that a tire can be quickly identified from the residue it leaves. This would suggest that a car was at a certain place, but you may need additional clues to work out when the car was at the location.

If the car was involved in a collision it may leave debris at the scene. There may be entire panels but usually, it’s just bits of paint. It may be part of the hood, some glass from the window or anything else. Most national law enforcement agencies maintain a database of the characteristics and composites of every aspect of vehicles commonly driven in their jurisdictions.

car-1531277_1920Even if nothing is physically left at the location, it might help to think deductively. If a car’s gas is being paid through a certain account knowing where that card was recently used provides indications of where it might be going. Once the search area is established, police could search for security cameras or closed-circuit cameras to establish a visual identification. The person’s account is a brilliant source of information, especially in these days when people pay by credit card.

Then there are cars used for professional purposes. A car used as a taxi may have the markings of the business which runs it, making it visually easier to spot. Of course, the fastest way to establish location might be to ask the cab’s control office. Dispatchers should generally know where a vehicle is.

The placard on rideshare vehicles are less noticeable and blend in with thousands of other rideshare vehicles. Clearly Uber tracks everywhere a cell phone associated with the driver’s account goes, which the company will turn over to law enforcement if requested. It’s not proof positive that a car was at a particular place at a particular time, but it’s quite likely.

Kicker Blog hack: Some pay as you go cell phone plans are cheap enough that you can leave an old cell phone charged up in your glove compartment so that if you’re separated from your vehicle authorities could locate the phone and with it the car.

What happens if a car has been stolen, how do you recover it? Well, it’s essential to act quickly. Don’t assume the stolen car is still being driven around. With an older car the parts may be more valuable than the car itself, so it may be quickly chopped up. Even with newer cars, many thieves essentially launder the car by selling it in parts. It’s hard to scrub the VIN number off all the places its engraved unless you take the car apart anyway.

The criminal may give themselves away with the rareness of these parts though, and the lack of a “paper trail” to who owned them. It becomes clear after a little digging, so it comes down to the honesty of the auto parts intermediary or dealer.

So how do you know if you’re at risk of losing your car to a thief? If you have a rare, or collectible vehicle you’re more of a target. Also, expensive or luxury brands are more often stolen for obvious reasons—the reward better justifies the risk of getting caught. However, there’re a couple factors that might not come quickly to mind.

  1. The risk goes down in areas that don’t enforce the car theft laws.
  2. The risk goes down if the chopped parts being sold are common.

So watch out for areas on borders between countries or states. The Oregon/Washington border, for example, Border cities Vancouver and Portland charge each other extradition when a car thief is jailed before trial, so car thieves steal their cars in one state and chop it across the state line so that if they’re caught they’ll be released before trial. In these areas, more common vehicles lower the risk of getting caught further and nearly any vehicle in good condition is a target for theft.

The only remaining device left to police is to target thieves instead of the vehicles threw bait cars. By allowing car thieves to attempt to steal a car that won’t actually start but is equipped with cameras, the arrest is quick and the case against them is sure.

Although not all cars are located, there are many techniques out there to make sure that cars are recovered and returned to the owners. And now you know.

Fun Local Finds

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When you start looking around at cool vehicles you run into a many fun, unexpected things.

2018-06-02 14.11.20Take this couple, who’ve modified their trike to accommodate the special needs of their best friend.

 

Or this surprise, free classic car show that happens every first Thursday all summer at Lisa’s (a local diner).

 

2018-06-07 16.03.17I came before a lot of the cars had arrived. I look forward to going back and interviewing some of the owners.

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So get out and think cars folks. It’s a fun hobby and a great group of creative people who believe in the romance of the road.

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