is Kit Car Magazine saying about the Rodster® Street
Knott your usual kit car show!
text and photos by Harold Pace
The 21st Annual Knott's Berry
Farm kit show was another rousing success, even though there were a
few surprises in store. Just when everyone had gotten used to displaying
their kits in a shady, tree-covered parking lot in past years, the park
owners moved the show! OK, it was only a few hundred yards away and
the new location was a nicely paved lot, but there wasn't a scrap of
shade. However, as many an entrant observed, this also eliminated the
dust and tree sap that had accumulated on kits during past shows. In
the end, most considered it a wash, pardon the pun, and brought their
own shade in the form of umbrellas and sun shades on Sunday.
The new location didn't seem
to affect entrants, who turned out in force (more than 200), although
there seemed to be fewer spectators than in years past despite clear,
sunny skies. There were also a number of kit manufacturers on hand with
some exciting new models to show off.
KITS ON THE BLOCK
One of the hottest new kits
shown was the Jalapeno from PISA (602/376-1550). Like the company's
other kits, it's based on Fiero running gear, but deviates from its
previous sports/GT designs by resembling a European rally car (along
Paris/Dakar lines). It sports a vertical-slit grille with an abbreviated
tail and huge off-road tires. The yellow (habanera, perhaps?) prototype
shown may be fine-tuned as far as bumpers and grim go, but it looks
like a winner. Dan Campbell estimates a new kit price of around $3,500.
A new/old face was the XKMiata
by Stylistic Innovations (310/221-0932), which grafts a Jag XKE-like
nose and tail onto a '90-'98 Miata. The standard kit fits on a
stock chassis, while a stretch version adds 61/2 inches to the frame
to match the XKE wheelbase. Minimal welding is needed on the standard
version, but the longer model is more involved. Fiberglass nose and
tail panels were pulled off an original car. The Mazda trim and lights
can be reused, or repro XKE parts can be substituted for a more realistic
(although considerably more expensive) look. Although not likely to
be mistaken for the real thing by dedicated Jagaholics, it has a strong
XK-8 look and is quite attractive. The standard kit sells for $3,900,
while the stretch adds only $100 to the kit price.
Cord fans will be happy to
know that DuLoux Motors (530/477-0707) has extensively reengineered
its '37 Cord Sportsman kit to take improved running gear. Tim Figuhr
at FiberJet reworked the fiberglass floors for more room, and leaf springs
have been substituted in back to leave room for a future rumble-seat
version. The new chassis was designed by Dan Souza, with fabricated
front suspension by Jim Myer Racing. Thunderbird rack-and-pinion steering
makes the new DuLoux drive like a new car, and a Ford live axle is used
out back. Power is via a GM V-8.
The famed Hummer provided
inspiration for the new Hum-Lite from Tweed's Innovative Designs (760/747-7210).
Although this kit is virtually fullsize, it's based around a lightweight
tube frame setup for VW and V-6 engines out back. The body is aluminum
with steel reinforcement and is fitted with a fiberglass hood and doors.
The kits are sold in several stages with a list of options including
interior packages and wiring harnesses.
Porsche 914 owners will rejoice
at a new kit that transforms the mid-engine P-wagen into a fire-breathing
sports racer. The F-Zero is built by Keith Wright Enterprises (541/269-1347)
and features fiberglass nose, tail, rocker panels, and door skins. The
show car also had the top removed, an impressive tail spoiler, and steeply
raked windshield. The wheelwells will accept huge 285/40ZR-15 front
and 345/35-15 rear tires. The basic kit ($3,000) includes all of the
above, while the Deluxe kit adds a vented hood, front fender extractors,
and the rear wing for an extra $800. Just to show his versatility, Wright
installed a Ford 302 in the back -- something he had long been told
could not be done. With a remote water pump and some firewall mods,
it slipped right in!
Precision Design (760/750-0230)
normally is content to produce its snazzy Modena Spyder replica, but
burning mere gasoline seems so... yestertech. So the company is working
on a hydrogen conversion for its Ford engines that will hopefully add
around 20 percent more power while reducing emissions. Precision Design
is awaiting a special distributor that will allow it to get the conversion
up and running in a few years. The company had a show chassis with the
hydrogen tank and controls in place, and its booth was surrounded by
interested techies all weekend.
A lot of our kit-building
friends came out to play. IFG (909/597-4110) had a trio of fancy Diablo
reps in gray, black, and flat lavender (looks better than it sounds).
The Lambo market seems to be doing fairly well (the Diablo having finally
replaced the Countach in the kit market), and a number of nice cars
were on display. Top Gun Exotics (323/273-0623) showed a Diablo kit
and a clean red F-50 rep on a Pontiac Trans Am chassis. Another nice
Diablo rep was presented by European Exotic Cars (562/868-0761), which
also had a nifty Testarossa replica on hand. yet another clean F-50/Fiero
was shown by David Shannon from Used Fiero Parts (www.usedfieroparts.com),
and Luis Yanez of Wild Rides (915/855-6006) shoed a very authentic F355
Spyder on Fiero running gear.
Tom McBurnie trailered out
from Thunder Ranch (619/444-1006) with a beautifully flamed Lightning
'34 Ford rod kit with monocoque chassis and rear-engine Olds Aurora
V-8. He also brought one of his Porsche Spyder reps for good measure.
Vintage Spyders (562/865-6331) also had a strong Porsche presence with
a Speedster and a Spyder.
Tatonka (801/262-8200) was
there with a Bummer, the very military-looking version of its Hummer
rep, as well as an unassembled kit on a trailer. JPS (818/985-8891)
also had its HalfVee mini-Hummer with VW underpinnings and a 289 FIA
Cobra kit that attracted a lot of attention.
Xanthos (858/277-4681) showed
a muscular new powerplant for its Lotus23 replica, a '96 Acura Integra
1.8 packing a Jackson Racing supercharger pumping out an incredible
238 hp! Speaking of exotic engines, Chuck Beck (760/949-0227) had a
new fuel-injected mill in one of his fantastic Lister reps.
Lone Star (877/572-2277)
brought along a beautifully finished example of its Growler street rod
owned by Robert Schilb. It sported a 360-inch Mopar crate motor and
a stunning Prowler purple and pearl silver paint job with iridescent
"phantom" flames--a real crowd-pleaser.
Henry Caroselli of Rodster
(310/322-2767) fame had a new project on display. It's a Rodster nose
that attached to the front of an S-10 Blazer body for a retro look with
less work than the full Rodster treatment requires. Caroselli was also
presented with the coveted AHA Good Manufacturing Practices trophy.
A striking metallic jade green Rodster with a fantastic flame job was
driven out by proud owner Jeff Rankin.
Another truck rebody was
shown by Heritage One Hundred (253/862-8977) to fit on a late-model
Ford pickup chassis. When completed it gives the look of the classic
'53-'55 Ford F-100 pickup.
Diamond Motorsports (760/591-4786)
is now dealing the Jim Simpson Miata rebody kits with a strong Italian
flair. Diamond is also dropping in Ford V-8s up front, similar to the
Monster Motorsports swaps.
And dune buggies seem to
be making a comeback, with FiberJet bringing out two new examples. Not
to be missed was Lynn Christy's yellow buggy with one of the nicest
flame jobs ever laid on a car -- it has to be seen to be believed. Even
the engine was super detailed. Another nice VW kit was Jess Golden's
nostalgic Track-T, which scooped up the Past President's Award.
For ultimate performance,
Ultima Cars USA (949/722-4703) was on hand with a brilliant silver GTR.
These mid-engine English exotics are as fast as they look, and owner
Mike Mullen took home a trophy for First in the Grand Touring Class,
as well as the President's Choice Award.
As usual, Factor Five Racing
(508/291-3443) had a big presence with a solid row of customers and
a nasty, black carbon-fiber-bodied race car. FFR dealer Gordon Levy
Racing (480/446-8442) trailered out even more racers prepared for track
events and its new $24,995 turnkey street car. Racing Adventures Driving
School (888/572-7223) had a few of its FFR Cobra replicas on hand. For
those who can't wait to get out on the track, Racing Adventures will
give you the skills to go faster and safer at the same time. The company
uses identically prepared Cobra replicas and travels to tracks in California,
Texas, Arizona, Virginia, and Canada to put on its schools.
XK's Unlimited (800/444-5247)
has a new division, Shelby Cobras by XK's Unlimited Motorsport, that
sells CSX 4000- and 7000-series Cobras. The company showed both a finished
example of a 4000-series and an aluminum-bodied, unfinished chassis.
Another new player in the
Cobra parts market is New Old Stock Motorsports (602/790-5856), which
sells parts and aluminum and fiberglass bodies for kits and original
Cobras. Michael Kenney, late of Hi-Tech, is in charge.
Other stalwarts present included
Superformance, Contemporary, JBL Motorsports, Unique, Mid Sates, and
Shell Valley, whose spectacular silver-and-gold-striped 500+ demonstrator
took home three major trophies, including Best Paint. Steve Miller impressed
all with his Superformance Snake bored out to 454 inches for track events.
There was even an older Butler Cobra replica painted a brilliant shade
of copper and fantastically detailed by Mick and Pat Fabing. Jim Woodard's
gleaming black Lone Star Snake was a head turner (and award winner).
This was also a great year
for vintage kit spotters. Ken Whitney and Carroll Wassom confused show-goers
with their Fiero 600s ("Isn't there one too many r's in there?").
These kits were originally based on VW running gear, although Whitney's
has been reinstalled on a Fiero chassis (making it a Fiero-Fierro).
The name comes from builder Joe Fierro.
The Manta crowd turned out
three immaculate examples owned by Mike Bennett, Dave Brownowski, and
Armando and Connie Montijo. These brutal coupes with Can Am styling
still have a strong following. And speaking of classic kits, Dominick
Cacioppo's bright yellow Puma reminded us of what attractive and functional
sports cars these VW-based cars were. They were built in Brazil and
sold here in kit and turnkey form.
A special treat was the appearance
of two very nice Kellison/Astra coupes. Richard Gill's jet-black '57
coupe has been mildly customized with wheel flares, projector-beam headlights,
Corvette ZR-1 wheels, and a customized '57 Corvette grille. Power comes
from a small-block Chevy with a four-barrel carb. Augie Delgado's blue
and white coupe is a rare X-300GT model with a raised roof for more
headroom. It's in period configuration with five-spoke American wheels
(soon to be replaced with PS Engineering Halibrand replicas) and a 396-inch
Chevy big-block engine. Both cars were real head-turners.
Not to be forgotten, prewar
replicas and neoclassics were out in force with a lineup of flashy Mercedes
500K replicas including Jay McCullough's bright-red beauty loaded down
with a family of bears! Jan Ferrier's green Marlene got a lot of attention,
and Clarence Johnson and Barry Grant each had fantastic handbuilt neos
on display. New to the show was the "Indian," a handbuilt
neo owned by Joe and Phyllis Moreno.
The Mera guys showed up with
a bevy of their nice 308/Fieros. Other classic kits on hand included
several Laser 917s, Magnum GTs, a pristine Bradley GT-II, a Sterling,
and Darryl Salmon's lovely Manx SR.
Although famed TV cartoon
character Speed Racer was too busy fighting crime to make it to the
show, his car was there on behalf of the Child Safety Network (SCN).
The Mach 5 has been brought to life in fiberglass on a mid-engine chassis
with a 327 Chevy and Corvair transaxle. Special one-off wheels duplicate
the illustrations. This prototype will be auctioned off on eBay to raise
money for CSN, but an additional 100 Mach 5s may be built with revised
specifications. Base price has been set at $61,000. Call 858/292-8003
for more info.
Another interesting display
was the Carllectibles (909/335-9642) booth showcasing ceramic cars built
by Joel Dunford. These whimsical miniatures of Cobras, dragsters, and
other cars are way cool. Dunford also makes promotional models for professional
As usual, the Knott's show
ran like clockwork, and the Association of Handcrafted Automobiles is
to be congratulated for pulling off a great show in unfamiliar surrounds
and making sure everyone felt right at home. Be there next year -- and
bring your sunscreen!