Go green, go fast. It’s Smyth Performance founder Mark Smith’s motto and it means you can have a hyper-efficient car that won’t lull you into a state of suspended animation—and you can build it yourself.
Smith is developing a fuel-efficient diesel kit car called the G3F, a true hoon’s alternative to the legions of vapid big-name hybrids. We’ve written extensively about the G3F before, but I recently got Mr. Smith on the phone to talk about his project.
Here’s some of what he had to say:
“The Prius is a great car—technologically,” says Smith. “It’s a totally rational fuel economy machine. But it’s not fun to drive, it’s not good looking. And car enthusiasts don’t buy cars because they’re totally rational. Car enthusiasts buy cars because they’re fun.”
To a real enthusiast, the G3F sounds like a dream: mid-engined, turbocharged, lightweight (2,300 pounds), 50 miles per gallon, and enough torque to slow the earth’s rotation. The G3F is based on the 1999.5 to 2004 MK 4 Jetta TDI. It works like this:
- Take one Jetta TDI.
- Remove a ton of body panels.
- Remove the engine.
- Cut the car in half.
- Attach two steel tube subframes to the remaining tub.
- Stick the engine in the middle.
- Burn rubber.
Of course there are quite a few more steps than that, but you get the picture. It’s a kit car, which means you provide the donor vehicle and Smyth Performance provides most everything else. You build the thing in your garage with elbow grease and gumption.
Smith is no stranger to kit cars. He founded Factory Five Racing, one of the most successful replica car manufacturers ever. Its Roadster is the best selling Cobra replica on the planet and its Type 65 Shelby coupe replica is distilled, high-octane sex. Smith employed all his car-building expertise to create the G3F, welding and hammering and sculpting the thing in his private workshop. But the car isn’t all Mark Smith. It’s partially the product of the mechano-maniacal hive mind at FFcars.com—the de facto forum for Factory Five builders.
“The kind of guy who wakes up in the morning and builds a car from scratch just tends to be a neat guy,” says Smith. “I listen to what that guy has to say. So I posted the design progress on the FFcars.com site and tweaked the car based on feedback I received. It’s been a real community effort.”
The resulting car is a slick little number, a swoopy coupe with a large targa top and just a touch of attitude. Inside it’s all Jetta, a real plus for a kit car. “As a small manufacturer, I simply can’t achieve the fit and finish that a big company like VW can achieve,” says Smith. “The stock Jetta dash and interior is much better than anything I can produce, given my resources.”
What about performance? The G3F weighs about 700 pounds less than the Jetta, giving it a considerable performance edge over the family car. Smith estimates that the G3F will hit 60 in six seconds with a mildly massaged VW diesel mill. Of course, the sky’s the limit. The stock TDI “A3″ engine produces a measly 90 horsepower and around 150 pound-feet of torque at 1,900 RPM. Tuned, the engine can crank out well over 200 horsepower and close to 400 pound-feet of torque.
And the G3F has a secret: A VR6 will fit between its haunches without major modifications. That opens up a world of possible performance, including twin-turbocharged madness. But the G3F is meant to be ecologically friendly, so Smith is keeping this little tidbit of info on the down-low.
The base G3F kit is $8,000, which includes body panels, subframes, coil-over suspension, and all the nuts and bolts you’ll need (but it doesn’t include front brakes and spindles, or wheels). Cosmetically rough but mechanically sound Jetta TDIs can be had for right around $2,000. That means an industrious builder could throw a G3F together for under $12 grand. “I wanted this car to be accessible, something that a guy could build on a budget,” says Smith. “I think I’ve hit the mark.”
Smith is putting the finishing touches on the G3F now. He hopes to get the first two dozen kits out to beta testers before the end of 2010. The tested and perfected kit should be shipping in the fist half of 2011, says Smith.
“I love big-bore engines and hotrods,” says Smith. “But if you’re into saving the planet in your own little way and having fun at the same time, I didn’t see another way of doing it without making it biodiesel and a sports car. My hope with the G3F is that it’ll be an enthusiast’s commuter car, a car that gets great milage, runs on biodiesel, and is fun and unique.”
Check out Mark Smith’s progress at the G3F Cardomain page: http://www.cardomain.com/ride/3850096
To be a G3F beta builder, check out the Smyth Performance eBay page: http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=140437076173