When it comes to kit cars, very few of them make me sit up and take notice. Most take a humble commuter car (like the original VW Beetle or Mustang II) and turn it into some ugly, undriveable. fiberglass cocoon that lacks any kind of proper ventilation, handling or driving amusement. Beck Engineering is one exception to this rule, as is Factory Five Racing. When companies like this build a kit car, they take the time to do it right, and the finished product is a legitimate sports car.
I was pleasantly surprised when Autoblog reported that Mark Smith, founder of Factory Five Racing, had left to start a new company. The focus of his new business, called Smyth Performance, is building a kit to transform VW TDI Jettas and TDI Golfs into the rear-engined G3F sports coupe. If you’ve never driven one, the TDI is a great motor in a decent chassis. I wouldn’t call either the Golf TDI or the Jetta TDI sports cars, but they are entertaining to drive, great on gas and will run damn near forever if properly cared for. If you shave 800 pounds of weight off a Jetta and move the TDI motor to the rear, you could create something that’s both very entertaining to drive and very fuel efficient.
Smith has some ambitious goals, especially since the prototype G3F concept isn’t even completed yet and the company’s website won’t be online until sometime this fall. His plans call for the kit to sell for around $10k, and the car to take the average shade tree mechanic about 100 hours to complete. I’m running though a checklist of modifications in my head, and keep thinking about the serious engineering challenges that Smith faces, not the least of which are re-route the wiring harness, fuel lines, brake lines, HVAC ducts, coolant lines, etc. Challenges aside, I love the concept of an eco-friendly, do-it-yourself sports car, especially one with a reasonable price tag.
I’ll be tracking this story closely and will give you updates as they become available. I wish Smith the best of luck with his new venture, and I can’t wait to read the road test reports on the prototype. I’d even make the trek north if Smyth Performance is willing to toss me the keys for a full evaluation.