Northern California Kit Car Club 1998

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There were about 50 cars at the annual Northern California Kit Car Club event held every second weekend of September at the San Leandro Marina. I could divide the models roughly into: Cobra replicas (most prevalent), VW (old) Beatle-based cars, Pontiac Fiero or Firebird or Corvette-based Ferrari replicas, Camaro-based touring cars, such as an awkward Cord replica. Other vehicles rounding out the lot included the Herb Adams Rabbit-based Jackrabbit, a dune buggy or two, MG replicas, a T-bucket, etc.

A few of the Ferrari replicas were very nicely finished and might even fool a casual observer at 100 yards. However, as a fan of true Ferarris, fake F50s, F40s, 348s, etc. don't exactly light any fires for me. They may look good, but it seems unlikely the GM-based cars would have Ferrari's near-mystical, racing-bred driving competence.

Of the VW based cars, none make historical sense except this L.A. sourced Spyder replica (not a Beck):

Built by a young aerospace engineer, the car (appropriately) uses a VW front suspension and was in fantastic condition.

The Cobras almost all appeared superbly built:

You can see the California DMV smog label on the engine compartment panel above.

A car that got a lot of attention was a rear engine Chevy V-8 apparently with a VW suspension:

Looks ok, but the engine is too high and far back on the chassis. A good GT-40 replica would blow its' doors off on the track.

Speaking of GT-40 replicas, there was one present but it may have been VW based. The more authentic GT-40 replicas should be very nice, except for the top speed front end instability due to 1960's aerodynamics. Frankly I'd much rather have a good GT-40 replica than a Cobra. It seems others don't share my preference, at least of those buying, building and showing. GT-40 kits may have higher up front costs due to greater (chassis) complexity. The Cobra is simple, open, light and brutal. A properly done Cobra offers outstanding, if relatively crude, performance in all directions. Presumably it's pretty strongly drag limited at the top end though.

The best news is that lots of people seem to have been able to build and register their cars in Califonia. The process is roughly (any clarifications here are welcome):

Some tricks: Here are some notes about registering a kit car in California for NCKCC officer Vern Hance.

The folks in the club seem very helpful and it was interesting to meet other "eccentric" types like myself who are into building their own cars. Think of it as a hands-on support group for people wacky enough to try this. At the same time, some of the resulting cars are spectacularly nice.

See also my take on the 1998 Palo Alto All British Car Meet.