x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Top 5: Models that put the wrench in the driver's hands

Chevrolet might allow owners to build their own engines, but there are companies out there that actively encourage you to build your own entire car.

Caterham Seven with Ford Sigma engine. Courtesy Newspress
Caterham Seven with Ford Sigma engine. Courtesy Newspress

Caterham Seven

Nothing short of a motoring legend, the Seven has been around since 1957. Designed by Lotus founder Colin Chapman, it still offers the purest driving experience imaginable, with stunning performance from even a 1.6-litre Ford engine thanks to its 600kg weight. You can buy a Seven in kit form to build yourself, or if you can't be bothered the factory will do it for you. Stripped-out thrills don't come any better and the Caterham will probably still be in production in 2057, such is the loyalty of its legion of fans the world over.

Ultima GTR

If it's home-made, physics-defying acceleration you're wanting, then check out the Ultima. Its GTR720 has set six different world records, and it can go from 0-160kph to a standstill again in just 9.4 seconds, which should rearrange your internal organs nicely. It's a kit car for the very brave, but as with the Caterham the factory will build you one. Probably for the best, really. How would you fancy taming 720hp in something you knocked together in the garage? Exactly. Neither would we.

Dax Cobra

Or any fake snake, to be honest, for there are plenty out there to choose from, much to the chagrin of owners of the real things. The appeal is simple: the AC Cobra is possibly the most macho car ever built, combining classic, curvaceous looks with huge levels of American V8 grunt. Prices for real ones read like telephone numbers, but you could build your own, authentic-looking Cobra for less than Dh200,000. The mechanics are simple for even an amateur builder and the results are often truly extraordinary. Hold on to your hats.

Ford GT40

Like the AC Cobra, the Ford GT40 was a motorsport sensation in the 1960s. It ruled Le Mans for years and kicked sand in the face of Ferrari, Porsche and everyone else. Only a small number of roadgoing GT40s were produced, so it was an obvious candidate for cloning and replicas are often indistinguishable from the real thing. You can buy kits to build your own, but there is one UK manufacturer, Superformance, that can supply the best replicas in the world at a cost in excess of Dh600,000.

Lancia Stratos

The Hawk HF is a faithful recreation of possibly the most beautiful rally car of all time: the Lancia Stratos. Just 492 originals were built and are now highly sought after by collectors and speculators. So if you want a slice of the magic but have a more down-to-earth budget you can build your own. The Stratos, whether real or not, is a handful to drive, but have yours painted in full Alitalia livery with a bank of spotlamps on its nose like the victorious rally cars and no head will be left unturned. Which is saying something in the UAE.