This Article is about My Car Choice, Decisions and Considerations
SO HERE WE ARE [summer 2013] and there are many possibilities. But what do I get..?
Do I need one? Do I want one? How much do I spend? Do I want to dissect, harvest and reassemble from a donor? Do I want a shiny, new, clean build with no hassle? What will I do with it when it's finished? What will I do when it's finished? Will it ever get finished? Will it finish me?
All good questions, and all of which have many compelling and contradicting answers. But the bottom line is: I do want one, I don't need one, I want the hassle (whatever that means) and I'll decide what to do with it -and what to do- when it's finished... But is a kit-car ever finished?
Lets crack on...
I've spent many hours surfing the web for "my car" and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and diversity out there. In reality, my choice was [past tense, I'll explain later] around the Westfield, Caterham, Zero or Birkin type of Seven. And to be fair they all have different strengths but somewhat equal merits that levelled the playing field. But at the end of the day a kit-car is a personal statement of what appeals to the owner and what he/she wants out of the experience. Whatever I pick will be a good choice and I will not be disappointed. Surfing the web and reading magazines really has been an enabler but it is so easy to get overwhelmed by "bling" and paranoid about "stuff."
December 2013: I'm no closer to making a decision as to what to get. I'm still reading and surfing and am more encouraged because the doubts and concerns I have are very similar to other newbie buyers. In addition, other builders' experiences are proving to be very enabling as they provide unthought-of options and considerations. Also, the yearly review magazines of what's out there provide clarification, guidance and up-to-date information on things I didn't know even existed. So... armed with this new and very valuable information I won't be making the mistake of stove-piping myself into car "X" because of its blinginess or sleek lines or because it's the flavour of the month; nor will I be making any impetuous decisions about the configuration of my car.
May 2014: Total confusion reigns. I still have no clue what to get. Last week I was on the Zero and this week I'm on the Caterham. But I seem to always come back to the Westfield. No matter at this stage as I will be visiting all the factories in the summer to take lots of pictures and really start my comparison and to get to grips with things.
I'm also doing a lot of YouTube'ing. I've just looked at a very nice Lowcost build video. The builder gave a very good commentary of his build and thought process, and I learnt a lot from it. So because of this, and ostensibly other YouTube builders' videos, a milestone has been reached and a decision has been made -that being its going to be a new build for me.
July 2014: All Change..... I've decided to get a Cobra with a throaty V8
Why the sudden change? Well..... having peripherally looked at them [with envy] and having taken many pictures of them during show visits, I had the impression a Cobra was waayyyy too expensive. However, when talking to a number of manufactures and owners -and doing some basic sums- I realised the cost of a Cobra can be sort-of-similar to a high-spec'd, high-end seven.
But the clincher was, I had one of them "once-across-a-crowded-room" moments at Stoneleigh..... and I was putty.
Manufacturer Visits: I went to the AK open day and had a wonderful time. I saw some great cars and learnt a lot about the company, the people and their products. I also visited the GD factory and similarly had a very fruitful experience. I don't intend to visit any other manufactures, although I did intend to go to a couple more... I have my way ahead.
October 2014: So what's it to be? I've replicated my research strategy for a Cobra, and no matter what I opt for it will have its own intrinsic charm, loads of appeal and a very good pedigree. I have, however, discounted some because of one thing or another. Moreover, when looking at the more notable manufactures, each one went straight to the top of my list [not good!] But... resisting the advertising loveliness I now have my [very] shortlist ready, so it's time to get serious.
December 2014: Things are getting pretty complicated and complex. So to simplify things, and to avoid a personal meltdown, I created a simple database with my required and desired elements. This simplicity really did make the process less traumatic, and my car is finally started to mentally materialise. Or conversely, some of my candidate cars started to mentally dematerialise.
January 2015: So... After my roller-coaster ride of discovery [and recovery] I've decided on the Gardner Douglas GDEURO, and of which a few days later I phoned Meena at GD and reserved a build slot.
To expand on my GD visit, I had an excellent tour and some very informative technical, specification and procedural discussions with Andy Burrows (MD) and Meena (PA, receptionist, sales-coordinator, customer-liaison and font-of-knowledge-for-anything-else-you-can-think-of.) Between she and Andy they allayed my fears and concerns, and after what seemed like a very short visit (in fact it was a whole afternoon) I left with my ducks starting to line up.
As luck has it, I won't get my kit until late 2015 because their -and incidentally- other manufacturers order-books are choca'. The benefit of this lead-time being: a.) I won't have a melt-down because of taking delivery too soon: and b.) I won't have to make decisions about colour, engine or gearbox until its "my time."
So now that I have a date to work to, I can get cracking on the garage in anticipation of delivery.
Sep 2015: Just had the phone call from Meena saying "I'm next..." And, in my humble opinion, nothing can prepare you for that call. Dread and excitement all in one. But what it really means is my build is becoming a reality and..... This is it!
So the following week, I gathered my notes and datasheets and visited Andy at GD to discuss my car's configuration. This turned out to be quite a straightforward and uneventful, and we, for the most part, just sat in front of an interactive spreadsheet and itemised everything I needed for my first delivery. That being the body-shell, lights, heater, windscreen, wipers, etc. etc.
So the deed was done, and by the end of the year, I'd be firmly ensconced in the garage with my newly hatched body-shell and boxes of bits.
At this point on my journey, I thought I'd elaborate on the more major elements of my kit-car pilgrimage, and describe what can only be expressed as the equivalent of a series of traumatic pit-stops.
Cost: My [basic] cost assessment of short-listed cars seemed to be roughly the same, so it was a fairly level playing field. However, it was a nightmare trying to produce a ballpark final-costing figure because of the variety of options and extras available. Examples being, I could get a second-hand turnkey Rover 3.5 with gearbox for just over a couple of grand, or I could splash-out on a brand new, twitchy, road-rocket power unit -dripping with bling- for an eye-watering amount of money. Moreover, as there is no such thing as a like-for-like kit-car comparator, I virtually had to decide what I wanted before I could cost-it-up. And in that theme, it was a constant battle against the Devil-on-my-shoulder saying "Spend..SPEND. You know it makes sense... You can't take it with you, there are no shops in Hell."
Donor or New?: The obvious cost saving of a donor is compelling, but the added longevity and shininess of all-new is just as compelling but in a different way.
The challenge of harvesting from a donor is a mistress I suspect we all would like to embrace, but the additional work of dismantling, cleaning, assessing, refurbishing and replacing are massive commitments that will have highs-and-lows in their own rights -and lets not forget about the mess. However, the satisfaction of reusing and reconditioning would [arguably] provide greater satisfaction. And as a final comment, the exacting process of labelling the wires, the nuts, the bolts, the connections, the pipes and oily-bits would be a challenge that would make a librarian's toes curl with satisfaction.
So what will my car be?: Will it be a thousand parts driven in formation? Will it be a statement? Or will it be an extension of my personality? It will definitely be a statement... Of what I'm not yet sure, but it will unquestionably be a thousand parts driven in formation -and hopefully they will all be in the right order and working 'as one'.
Personalisation: Personalisation is something we all have our own vision for, and it was the Devil-on-my-other-shoulder. In reality, I don't think there's much that I can do to make my car stand out (comments on a postcard please.) However, the dashboard is something I can personalise. Colour, cockpit and under-the-hood are all well defined intersecting paths. But, as the many examples I've witnessed at shows illustrate, the sum-of-the-whole is relative to the imagination and ingenuity of the builder, and is testament to the sheer creativeness and no-cost genius that causes us to drop-our-jaws in appreciation. Bottom line is, there's scope to keep me in the garage for years.
So there you have it. My roller-coaster ride to Hell and back.