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Kit's at Carlisle is no longer?

rickjames8

New member
Hey all-

So I've recently been working on my non-Sterling kit. I had zero cash over the summer, then finally had some money come in right as it got too cold to work on a car outdoors. However, I am/was still sticking to my goal of trying to get my car in running shape by Kits at Carlisle. But it appears after years of being on life support by being combined with the Import Show, KaC might be getting the final nail in the coffin by being dropped from the event title. It's now called the Performance and Import show. Deep in the description it says "also includes kit cars".

Upon reading that, I had a crazy thought. I thought of trying to organize a one-day Kit Car meetup. Something that doesn't cost $40 to show a car and doesn't last 2 days. I haven't got any further than that in thinking about it. Would it be free? Or something minimal to cover any costs for a venue? I don't know. But I'd love it if the kit car world had some sort of event to rally around because it's not going to be at Carlisle much longer. I love seeing the creativity that only kit builders can display, and I'd hate to loose that.

Would love to get others thoughts.
 
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letterman7

Honorary Admin
Yep, the kit show is essentially dead. Fuzz and I even met with the promoter last year trying to figure out the best way to hold the kit part of the show and promote it better (even setting a show all it's own late in the year after the major events) but it fell on deaf ears. Unfortunately, the show has gone the way of all the major kit shows - Knotts Berry in CA is no longer, the NCKCC club in CA is quickly going under...

So.. what to do. Depends if you're ride is air cooled or water cooled. As a Volkswagen based kit, there are literally shows every weekend up and down the east coast from Memorial Day to past Labor Day. There are usually at least one or two kits at those shows depending where they are. The largest on the east coast so far is the Flanders, NJ show held in September. If you have a water cooled car, just about any general car show is a possibility.

The logistics of organizing a 'kit only' show are daunting. If people won't come to Carlisle, why would they come elsewhere? Between Fuzz, myself and the Carlisle promoter, we couldn't come up with a logical way to reach out to all kit owners - not just the Porsche and Cobra crowd - that wouldn't involve massive TV coverage/advertising, media blasts in the newspapers and radio and a web presence. All of that costs money...

The kit world, as we know it from years past, is gone.
 

Brett Proctor

Active member
So the moral of the story is if the Sterling would have been updated to compete with the rest of the kits out there of today instead of leaving it alone sales would not have dropped off along with the intrest???
 

letterman7

Honorary Admin
Not necessarily. Overall, interest in "kits", whether it be Cobra, Speedster or whatever, is falling by the wayside. Factory Five is having a hell of a time selling cars from what I understand - their 818 just didn't breathe any life into the company as it was intended to do. Brett - we're dinosaurs. The generation of 18-30 year olds to which the initial kit industry was geared towards back in the 60's and '70s are us today - we "get" the appeal. We grew up with different kit manufacturers. Take that same generation currently and they couldn't care less unless the car could be tweaked by computer. The only cars on the market today are Cobra, Speedster and Manx buggies (there are a few oddballs floating out there, but nothing market infusing). including Sterling. Sterling is the only car that has lasted since it's inception in '73 in one form or another, yet the general public won't purchase a new roller, even if it were on a tube chassis. Nobody wants to build anything anymore.
Even the manufacturers that used to show at Carlisle every year have pulled out for the most part, citing lack of interest. Tightening DOT regulations in every state is having an effect on the industry as well, though SEMA has been successful in pushing legislation for home-builts and short production run vehicles.
Is there still a "point" to kits, not just Sterling? Of course, just like any other hobby hot-rod. Select individuals enjoy the challenge and the build. When people see them at shows they enjoy the car.. but not enough to spend the equivalent of a new Toyota on one. True hot rods - I'm not talking resto-mods or restored classics - but a true, built from parts hot rods and kit cars are a dying breed.
 

Brett Proctor

Active member
I think one of the things that hurt the sterling crowd the most is that everything on it is obsolete.

Parts that were once cheap and easily found and at the time state of the art are no longer.

Plus the new younger crowd doesn't want an exotic looking car to sound like a VW bug.

I think if someone made a chassis specific for the kit with upgrades to the brakes and suspension and got rid of the VW power plant that may spark new interest.

As outdated as the sterling is and it being still produced has to say something about the interest that it still generates.

The Model "T" isn't made any more for logical reasons. You can't stay stagnate or progress will pass you up and thats what happen to the sterling.
 

ydeardorff

New member
Fred and I went to local car show awhile back. I was in my glory as much for the cars, as I was to pick the brains of the builders. Ironically, every car seemed like they had all shopped out of the same catalog. The ones that did have really original rides, had all bought them that way.
The car crowd it seems has left itself far from the old days, and the old ways. Now all the young kids seem to want a WRX or EVO, and they compare like cars, by who polished this or that. Or who paid more than they did.

Now you mention a kit car and people think your talking about a body kit.

I too think that if the sterling had evolved with the times it might have faired better. But Ricks point is true, many of the once prominent kit mfg'ers have fallen by the wayside. Only a small few remain, but many of their cars are more expensive than some luxury brands.
The idea of a hand made car is beyond the comprehensive capabilities of many. They actually trust an engineer and a robot more than hands, eyes, and experience.
 
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ratrog64

Active member
I feel the Sterling is best suited at the VW shows. As Rick said, there are plenty of them around each year to attend if you are so inclined. The VW crowd knows all about kit cars for the VW chassis and many are old enough to have had one at one time or another. I think the Sterlings are pretty well received at the VW shows, even if they are powered by a different motor.

The Sterling also fits in nice at most regular car shows because of its exotic looks and most normal attendees are not phased by the lack of real hp and are usually shocked when you tell them it was once a little beetle. I even believe any old bug or aircooled VW is lots of fun at the hot rod shows. They always draw a crowd and get lots of nice comments. I think just about everyone person in the civilized world has some sort of connection in their past to an aircooled VW.

The kit shows are very cool and really showcase the new tech that's out there. Most of the Sterlings that are built lack that new tech bling bling (with a few exceptions) and are dinosaurs when it comes to kits. And as someone said already, the definition of kit has lost its true meaning.

I think part of the problem with the Sterling as a kit today is the purchase price. If you were to build a new car today, from all new parts, you'd have 25k in the finished product. If I'm spending 25k on a toy, its not going to be on a 70's style kit car that is VW powered. If you were to use the new RX chassis with a different power plant, you'd have more like 30k + in the finished car. 30k can buy some pretty nice toys!

So I guess the moral of this story and my opinion is this, take your car to what ever car show you damn well please. If kit isn't in the title of the show, who gives a rats ass! The Sterling is still a cool enough car that it will turn heads where ever it goes!
 
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rickjames8

New member
VW shows

Wow - I didn't get notifications as to new posts. Glad to see that this sparked a good discussion.

Rick - I'd love it if you could post the location of the VW shows you know of on the east coast. Just for reference to be kept here on the site. Maybe make it a sticky? I didn't know there were other shows. My idea to make a meet-up of some sort was to just let like-minded souls get together and talk cars for the afternoon and show progress. That's really what I love going to carlisle for. I like to see in person, all the interesting work I see on this site. And maybe sites like this are the reason for declining popularity. If I can track your project in real time on the interwebs, there's less reason for me to go out and see the project in real life.

As for the declining of kit cars in general, one of the reasons in my mind, is safety. I used to have a Bradley GT. There is no way I'd drive that thing regularly now. Basically it sits lower than the bottom of the windows on 90% of the cars on the road, and there's nothing but a plexiglass door separating me from the 17-year-old posting a selfie while driving her Escalade. This is the reason I sold my motorcycle. How many people do you see wandering around the lane, only to see them texting/surfing/whathaveyou as you pass by them? I'm not sure if this as much an epidemic everywhere as it is here in the fast-paced tech-corridor just outside of DC, but I'd say every day I see at least a dozen people on their phones while they're driving - and that's just the ones I see. I think kit cars may take off again when we find a way to safely build them out of more modern cars, with airbags and crumple zones. Like the Bentley (Sebring) and Lambo (Solstice) out now. While I don't like them visually, I like that they're keeping things alive a bit. I've always wanted to mount the Sterling to something newer, something safer, but in the end, I haven't seen a donor that looks like it would work without destroying the integrity that makes it safe.

In any case, I've ranted and rambled long enough. Would love to see a list of shows where kits are typically found, and would love to know if owners/builders here plan to choose one to make their spot this year. Even though I sold my Sterling eons ago, I still feel somehow more connected to this group than any other group of builders. And who knows. perhaps one of these days I'll try to save that Sterling down the street that's been under a tarp for 8 years, no 9 years now.
 

ydeardorff

New member
Their rally fighter is pretty cool. It was featured in the transformers revenge of the fallen movie. A heavily modified Honda accord. Could be a fun post apocalypse off road vehicle.
But I think we've strayed far off of the original topic.😁
 

letterman7

Honorary Admin
It's ok.. we can stray *laugh* The Rally Fighter is one of those vehicles that prices itself out of the market. There had been one on fleabay for months at an asking price of close to $90K (website says they start at $99.9K), so I can't imagine they are selling a lot of cars.

Cobra/Speedster.. the cars that sell "more".. are now being called "heritage cars". Maybe we need to start calling the Sterling that..
 
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