Finally, some pictures of my kit car project

Basically the project that got me here. A Factory Five 818S. The goal was to have a project to keep me busy after earning my BS Math so I didn’t drive the wife absolutely crazy. This won out over LS swapping a Jag XK8.
(not my car)


The basic idea is to get a Subaru WRX, put the engine and transmission in the back of the kit frame, and build a rear-drive mid-engine rocket.
A guy on the forum showed off some vents he was 3d printing, so I bought an Ender3. After getting better at that, another guy started showing some CNC stuff he did. One the lead to another and the next thing I know, I’m printing a burly. But I digress.
The donor for this was a 2006 Saab 92-xAero, which was a WRX with fancy fenders and carpet. Saab didn’t have any cars for this segment, but just needed to bridge a couple years until the 9-3 was ready so they bought cars from Subaru for 2006-2007. Upside, WRX fanbois didn’t care about these, so I scored it for roughly (EDIT)$2100 shipped from an insurance auction vs $6k the WRXs were running.
donor rear
That smash in the front was enough to push the radiator into the timing gear (which looked like some sort of fiber composite) and smash it up, shredding the timing belt and bending a valve. Luckily, it was just one and I had planned on a complete rebuild anyway.
After getting all my stuff out, including the drive train…
power train
I was able to send off the stuff I didn’t need or think I could sell…
stripped donor
Before pictures of the engine. You can see the two valves that kissed the pistons

I cleaned, dissambled, and inspected the heads and block, then sent them off to machine shops that could actually work on subaru stuff. Not many out here.
The subaru engine also has these funny valves that create turbulence in the air flow during cold conditions. I’m in the AZ desert, so F that. Started with this (ok, just after starting, you can see some plates broken out already)…

and after some grinding, scrubbing, tapping, epoxying, porting, and polishing…

shortblock going back together

First major hiccup was torquing the heads back down. Pulled the threads right out of the block. Three headbolts were SUPER tough to remove. I had a shovel handle on a breaker bar and made my kids leave the shop, lol. Apparently, using a fine threaded steel bolt in an aluminum block through a water jacket with the whole thing acting as a ground may or may not cause a little alchemy. Short story, the machinist had a little trouble with the threads, but got the torque plate set up to spec before boring it, so I just got lucky that they pulled out when they did. I got to fix them all by drilling them out and installing inserts. After some more progress…

Moving along…

And, I guess it’s time for bed, soooo, to be continued.

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Very interesting! :+1:

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Wow, great project!

I sooooooooo wish I could do something like that. But no money, no space and legally I couldn’t use it anywhere :frowning:

Keep the pictures comin’ !

BRAVO! Well done among many other things! :+1:

What’s the projected weight and HP?

There seems a good chance of enough lightness being ‘added’ to make Chapman proud. :grin:

Also curious about your overall opinion of Factory Five?

I’ve seen pictures of your space, so I’m not surprised at that, but these aren’t too bad to build for smart people (you’re way above the bar I would set). I AM surprised these would be illegal to drive.
Here in the US, most states have provisions to get a self - built vehicle inspected by safety authorities and serialized so we can insure them in compliance with local laws. I’ve been following several types of builds, and many are popular in dozens of countries.

Or maybe you mean really DRIVE it drive it :innocent:. In that case, track. It seems like half of these are built for track only use, but I’m probably wrong.

The model is 818 because that was the target weight in kg. That’s about 1800lbs for my barbarian friends. That’s about half the new corvette. I’ll be happy to come in under 2000 after everything. I’ve seen a few over 2200 and one as low as 1550 (track version) but just are between 1900 and 2100.

I think stock these are good for about 235 hp (advertised, at the crank). A friend of mine got the fuel/spark map tuned and at stock boost levels he dynoed 270 (whp). That’s really pretty good if you think about it. Consider the lotus Elise is just a bit heavier than my happy number, maybe 100 pounds more than my stretch goal, and about 200whp stock (220 at the crank, advertised). It’s gonna be a ripper.

Apparently 500hp isn’t too hard to get from these if you don’t mind only having it in a more narrow rpm range and are willing to spend some money. Of course, then you need to start changing things like the transmission, suspension, fuel delivery, and of course all that means higher lateral G so figure in a dry sump and bigger tires, which probably equals more body work etc. Same thing with the mpcnc, yeah?

These are advertised as $10k kits plus $5k donor. Tires not included, no paint etc, but it likes like an $18k project at first glance. I’m on track to come in under $22k after paint, but the mode seems to be about 40, and I’ve seen a high as 80. But that’s paying for good working engine/trans and then have them rebuilt and modified by a race shop, paying somebody with a Welder to modify the frame, paying somebody to build a wire harness, basically not doing anything but turning bolts. IMO, once you get there, just buy a used porche and mod it. You’ll end up with the same performance in a car that’s way easier to register and insure, and you don’t really get to say you built either one.

I don’t have a bad thing to say about them. I’ve only had a couple of issues with the stuff I ordered, but they fixed it right away. They don’t do much in the forum, but I’m not even sure if they own it. They are very responsive on the phone, and anybody I’ve seen talk about contacting them has been happy. I’ve met a few of them at the Barrett Jackson auction out here, and they seem decent.

As for the cars, I think I got what I paid for. They’re were some early complaints and criticism on the 818, some legitimate and addressed, others a bunch of armchair quarterbacking.

The more expensive kits are nicer and more straightforward, but also a different class of project. Compared to other diy kit car companies, I think the cars are engineered at least as well and way better looking. Compared to kit cars in general…i can’t imagine paying the prices they charge for a replica that needs special insurance.

They’re in the sweet spot for guys like me, I think. My next project will be a full on, weld up the frame, scratch build, but I never would have considered that without this one first. HUGE skill builder.

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Good to hear! It’s unlikely I’ll ever build one but I still enjoy first hand reports of what’s out there. Probably had enough cheap thrills on motorcycles over the years to satisfy the urge and the roads near where I live now aren’t all that inspiring, too flat and straight for my tastes but the beach does make up for it. I kinda like some of the Morgan 3-wheeler repros I’ve seen but they do seem kinda pricey for what you get.

Thanks for showing us your project! I look forward to seeing updates. :+1:

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Yeah, most countries are great in that way, they allow people to build their own vehicles as long as they pass the test.
Here in China it’s very different, you can’t just build your vehicle as a private person, it needs to be made by a company, approved and certified, etc. As a regular dude you’re not even allowed to change the paint color of your car after you purchased it, plus in theory no alteration whatsoever is allowed to the car bodywork or engine, everything has to remain stock

In practice, people put vinyls to change their car’s color, and I saw a lot of mods, either on the bodywork or the engine. But you still have to pass the car inspection every 5 or two years (depending how old your car is), during which they are supposed to check if the car has been modded (as well as many other stuff, mostly pollution and general good health of the car). Some people remove all their mods for these inspections, some other people just pay a fee to the inspection guy… well it’s a whole mess.

It’s not really better in France, while it’s legally “allowed” to build your own car for driving in the public space, the conditions to get the approval are so crazy unreachable by the common dude that I never heard of anyone actually succeeding. So yeah, in that regard, both countries suck.

Anyway, I’m impatient to see the results, sorry for the digression :wink:

So awesome, I love these 818’s not sure if you know grassroots motorsports but they chronicled a build of one of these I want to say in 2019? In their magazine and it looked fun. With all the wrx folks out there, it’s a good platform to steal from and the motors make power pretty easy if you play with the turbo setup and boost. Thanks for sharing. Our family car is an 08 outback xt with the 5spd and it can scoot, not much more in it than a basic cobb access port and and cobb downpipe. I can only imagine what half the weight would be like with that much motor.

Err check that it was a few years ago for the magazine https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/project-cars/2013-factory-five-818/

I’ve heard some horror stories about locost cars from the UK dudes (where they’re pretty popular) talking about France, but never looked into it because I’m never gonna build a car in France. I’ve even seen people complaining that cars they BOUGHT NEW in the UK were ineligible for road use in France because they were missing some of the EU reg stuff, but UK didn’t really care and France brought down the hammer.
I watch people argue about what it means to say how many countries are “free” these days and wherever you come down on it, the American notion of freedom is unique. At least for now. While it does vary from state to state, in Arizona as long as you can show that the car has required lights, wipers, brakes, and a few other things, you can drive pretty much whatever you have the cahones to drive. The process is more centered around whether your vehicle is a hazard to other people, not you.

Yo, I’m getting impatient too! And there’s no such thing as digression in off-topic!

They put it on YouTube, too. Something like 25 videos. I watched them, some a couple times. Wayne is a really big deal for the 818 folks. Even stuffed a h6 in one not too far back. If there’d been a few more people doing that when I got started, I’d have gone that route for sure.
A few people have used other cars for donors because the most important parts are the engine/trans, and the other pieces are close enough to work /make work. Sometimes sourcing the suspension bits is cheaper and easier than sourcing the car. You know, in case you’re still looking at them :wink:

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A few years ago I got to talking to the guy who does my inspection here in NC about homebuilt requirements as I’ve seen some pretty radical looking tube-frame buggies that are apparently street legal. One requirement that made me chuckle was the need for a windshield wiper, even if you didn’t have a windshield. :upside_down_face:

Regs aren’t always bound by logic. To get my M/C endorsement transferred I needed to take that portion of the written. I’d always been taught and adhered to the idea of not riding in the center of the lane as that’s where the majority of fluids dropped by other vehicles ends up. Seems the state has a differing view of that and other ways of trying to survive on two wheels. Had to get their little ‘guide’ book, learn what they wanted to hear and go back and take the test again and tell it to them the next day.

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That looks like so much fun! When I took a look at factory five (probably 8 years or so ago) they didn’t have the 818. I always liked the concept of their builds, but none of their bodies really appealed to me. other than the GTM (which is probably too extreme for me). I love the looks of this new (to me) option… I’m going to have do some research but I’m really digging the idea of building one of those!
Thanks so much for sharing!!!

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They’ve also got an F9 or something in the works. They stretched the new 65 chassis and designed a new body. I’m not sure how much more performance you can get just by stretching a frame, but I know a) more stability at higher speeds and b) the new 65 is an animal in its own right.
They’re designing it as a replacement for the gtm because hey don’t sell many of them but they get TONS of help requests. I’m not sold on pictures I saw of the new body, but they did a bunch of work and setup on autlclaving a complete CF body (optional, but expected since it’s the new flagship). You can find a video where they stuffed in a v12. Nasty nasty.
Still not released, though. Dave (owner) also mentioned they were kicking around the idea of stretching the 818 and stuffing an LS in it. Might be a pipe dream because they had enough trouble getting reasonable transmissions for the gtm and that sounds like a 60k project to me. If the transmission solution is reasonable and I can build one under 40, and they actually MAKE it, I’ll for sure build one.
They did also buy up an fiberglass body company last year. Can’t remember the name, but they made fiberglass bodies for 30s style hotrods. My guess is those would be the best slate of projects released after the f9, then who who knows what they’ll actually do?

Do you have any suggestions on the best place to ‘learn-up’ on the build options, etc – would it be the F5 forum they link to on their site, or someplace else? I took a look at the F5 website last night, and seemed high on flash, low on technical content (yet the order form had a ton of technical options).

For example, it looked to me like you better have your donor car in hand before ordering their kit - several different options based on model year/model of the donor. Anyway, it looks like I’m going to have to go down the rabbit hole to do some learning, and just looking for the right places to start reading. Thanks.

Definitely the forum. The people over there are really helpful and generally aware of their own knowledge level and won’t pretend to know things they don’t.
The only real danger with some of those guys is that they’ll spend your money for you real quick. When I started my 818 a lot of (most?) people were saying you couldn’t build one for under 40k unless you were ok with junk, and 60k was a reasonable number. Then NOBODY would share what it actually cost them. Maybe nobody actually keeps track, i don’t know. Maybe they just didn’t want their wives to come across the post by accident. Maybe they simply can’t admit it publicly because they thought it would be much less.
I say pick a model you like then go to that subforum and start reading. I think most of them have a “donor discussion” sub, but also start reading through some build threads because sometimes the discussion starts there. You’ll also see where people rationalize their choices based on what they have and get feedback from folks that might create some light for you.
As far as having the donor car on hand, it helps, but I don’t think it’s necessary. For the non 818 builds it’s reasonable to use an aftermarket engine control (or even old school carburetor if that’s your thing) which means the engine/trans are the most important to source. You can likely find everything else you want from the scrap yard/eBay /craigslist and paint /rebuild as necessary. Depending on your budget, maybe a bunch of new parts are in the calculation.
The biggest reason to have a single donor is to keep the cost down, but several people have said the “a la cart” method didn’t cost much more, had a lot of flexibility, and resulted in better parts than they would have gotten from their donor. I think it’s because many of the desirable donors are…desirable.
Which kit are you looking at?

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I would probably lean towards the 818S. $50K would push this out of the range I would consider. I would prefer something in the low 20’s. Don’t need it to be the fastest or prettiest, just something fun to build. Also not afraid of doing a lot of work; I’d rather spend the time doing it myself than buying new (or paying someone else) just because it’s easier… I’m more about bang-for-the-buck – as I suspect most folks on this forum are as well.
Just signed up on the F5 forum and started to read up…

I’m tracking everything. I’ll send you the spreadsheet with projected and actual. My goal is to share it with the community there once I get registered.

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Had to make an edit to the original post. Actually cost me about 2100 door to door for that car, but that includes all the fees from Copart, the broker, taxes, flatbed, etc. Found it when I added that spreadsheet earlier. Also found that I’m still only about $16k in on the actual build and that a lot of what I spent was on tools and electricity. Doesn’t seem fair right now, but that’s how I said I’d count it when I pitched the idea at the wife.

I thought I had more pictures coming, but I guess only a couple exciting things happened between then and now. The first is the brake booster. I managed to find one I could install, since the kit is intended to have manual brakes and the stock stuff is scrapped. It was kind of a big deal because most of the people who were driving these said the brakes take a LOT of getting used to, even after getting really aggressive (aka expensive) pads. Since I’ll be out of practice, I chose to wire up the ABS, as well. It was funny, because I went through a lot of trouble to not post any pictures of the booster installed. I even put a box in the way once, lol.

Only other thing to report was trying to start it.
About an hour of this…


before I unplugged the maf sensor and got this…

Technically it was the second start, because I didn’t expect the first one to actually be the first start.

Fast forward to last weekend, I hooked the battery back up and got lights on the console but it was too dead to do much else. I committed to this harness and started taping everything up. If it doesn’t work, I might have to just take a do-over from scratch. We’ll see.

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Well, turns out I had a wire crossed to the data link. Got that sorted out and I’m only getting trouble codes for stuff I removed from the engine and the maf sensor, which I unplugged because of my previous experience. Could just be the leaky intake pipes messing with the maf, so I won’t know until I fix that.
But…IT RUNS AGAIN! Turned over for about a half second before firing up this is a brand new zero miles engine that ran for 2 minutes 2 years ago. Started so fast my wife didn’t even have time to switch to video after she realized she was taking a picture.
I’ve got the check engine light on, no surprise, but also cruise control and brake, which is confusing. One of the guys on the other forum said the MAF can throw all of those, but I’m running into a wall trying to confirm it.

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If it’s running just obscure the cel with a fancy cnc’d bezel around the cluster and problem solved :wink:.

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Click and clack used to suggest their specialty black tape for just that purpose, lol