Kit Cars Defended
I was delighted to read your recent articles on the TMC Costin and the Midas but saddened that such a negative attitude to the kit car genre as a whole should appear to be an indispensable part of the journalist’s formula for such articles. I agree that there do seem to be some terrible confections advertised and that the quality of some kit cars is decidedly questionable, but surely it would be preferable to accentuate the positive qualities of the better productions than to
waste print describing nameless contraptions that few of your readers would take seriously and which can perhaps perform a worthwhile role providing educational entertainment for the less well-informed or fastidious enthusiast.
I was sorry to find that your writer, whilst bemoaning the tainted reputation implied in the term “kit car”, proceeded to Perpetuate the calumny by distinguishing between kit cars and “real” cars!
Come now, Mr M.L., surely both Harold Dermott and the late Cohn Chapman would both agree that neither the Midas nor the Elan are “pretending” to be anything — they are both fine cars in their own right — and they are both kit cars. So please, do not dwell on the residual resistance to kit cars, continue the precedent set by the Costin and Midas tests and let us see articles about some of the other well-engineered kits that are available. A little information about the latest models from Marlin, NG or Marcos, for instance, might demonstrate to some of your readers that there is still enjoyment to be had from motoring today, and not just from a sonped-up shopping car with wide wheels. Penzance PAUL LATHAM-JACKSON [ML. replies
I think it’s a little hard to be accused of a negative attitude to kit cars, having Personally instigated a number of tests of them. But bruised feelings aside, I think the Problem at the root of your letter is one of vocabulary. There is a vast range of kits currently available which range in quality Pram the abominable to the excellent, but there is only the one term “kit car” to cover them all.
.MY assistant and I follow the kit car scene fairly closely, attending the shows, reading the literature and always keeping our eyes Open for designs of exceptional merit. We feel that the growth of the kit car is one of the most exciting developments in motoring of recent years.
When writing about thrones we choose to include in MOTOR SPORT, however, there is the problem of how to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. By calling the Midas “a real car”, I was hoping to dissociate it from the sort of warty plastic kit which aims to convert a VW Beetle, say, into something which is pretending not to be a Beetle. Cars such as the Midas and Marcos are designs of enormous integrity, they are properly engineered and the manufacturers take a close after-sales interest in their cars. Both makers would like to sell complete cars in the normal way, but are forced to sell only kits by EEC Type Approval regulations. I maintain they are “real” manufacturers in exactly the same way as TVR or Morgan. The type of operator who merely sells a bodyshell to convert the chassis, suspension and running gear of, say, a Beetle or Herald, is really supplying parts to special builders, he is not a car manufacturer.
We need words to describe areas of the spectrum of current kit cars. It is unfair to the serious makers (and I accept all those you mention) to be tarred with the same brush as those whose ambitions far outstrip their engineering expertise or aesthetic sense. There are some jobs on the market which should be called “skit cars”, for they lampoon automotive art. Can anyone suggest a glossary of terms to make sensible distinctions between the different types of car which currently all share the one, inadequate, term “kit car?)