Want A Vintage Sports Car Company For Christmas?

I’m hoping some of you, like me, remember the Willow. It’s a kit car that originated in 1979, and I remember when the magazine articles first came out about it–I was in love! A gentleman by the name of Eric Seltzer who had been designing small bore race cars decided to design a street car instead. You can read about the origins in this Road & Track article I remember (pictured below) but this auction is a chance to buy not just two unfinished cars, but all the fixtures and jigs necessary to build more Willows–from the original designer! The auction is here on eBay, the cars, fixtures and parts are located in Sparks, Nevada and the opening bid is $29,500.

The article on the left is the one I remember. I love the car’s lines and the idea of it being a race car for the street. At the time, the car was designed to use a Pinto engine (think Formula Ford) and a Fiesta transmission, but one of the partially finished cars has been set up for a Fiero drive train. I’m guessing you could adapt any number of front wheel drive power plants to the rear of the Willow design.

The white car is the electric prototype, which is designed for tandem seating, batteries down each side and already has a 100 horsepower electric motor in place. The gray car is intended to take the Fiero drive train, which is included but not installed. Imagine the opportunity to speak with the person who actually designed this classic car in the first place–not just speak with him but actually meet him and hopefully establish a relationship for future contact when you have questions.

I remember seeing this red car (or one just like it) at a car show in the early 1980s, and being surprised how small but sleek the car was. Unlike a lot of kits, the Willow was available with full weather equipment and had a nice interior design. Not plush by any means but nicely designed.

Here’s the frame design for the battery version.

And here are the fixtures and molds to build more and more Willows. And in case you’re wondering, I’m a degreed mechanical engineer who’s always dreamed of owning his own kit car company. I’ve unsuccessfully tried to purchase a set of kit car fixtures twice, so yes, I’ve thought about this one a lot before writing it up. But not right now, unfortunately. So what do you think? Do you want to form a company for the new year?

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Comments

  1. George L

    That seems like an awfully daunting feat, not the least of which is of course financial. Yet equally as daunting is the strangling fed requirements on new cars, emissions and safety standards. Doubt these could ever be sold here in the states. Still makes one dream though.

    • Klharper

      Not a problem with regulations in selling them. It is a “home built” kit car. Same as a factory five, kirkham or caterham. So it does not have to meet crash standards.and you use an emission compliant motor.
      New standards allow you to build 300 complete cars a year if it is a replica. Not sure if you could call this a replica though.
      Like you Jamie I am a PE in ME and I have always been interested in building, designing and selling a kit. I don’t know if you could make any real money at it but it does look fun.

    • The Walrus

      Well, the business of starting your own low volume car company got a lot easier 2 years ago. As long as you keep it under 325 units domestically and 5000 units world wide, and use an engine that is currently in use, there are no issues anymore… You can sell turnkey cars.

      https://www.sema.org/sema-news/2016/03/new-law-new-cars-new-opportunities

      • Dave Wright

        That is only relates to completed cars…….selling as kits is still wide open. 325 completed cars is a lot.

      • Wayne Thomas

        But would 325 be profitable enough to keep going? The kit-car ‘industry’ is known for two things – fraud and dreamers who make maybe one car and then fold.

        Profit seems to be quite rare. One would think that picking up the older Smart Roadster stuff would be a better deal than this. But…..maybe not.

      • Dave Wright

        There would be many variables nessisary to establish before knowing the answer to that question. I am sure Shelby ( in Las Vegas ) would have a very good year if they could sell that many new Cobras, that is better than one a work day. Again, I would think the kit sales would have to be heavily relied on for profit. The chassis appearance is quite impressive to an old sports racer owner and driver. The more you build (sell) the more automation and improved manufacturing methods you could employ. Adam is correct about kit manufacturers in general whether it is automotive or aircraft. I am not sure it is a good route to prosperity and would require the energy of youth or someone with deep enough pockets that profit was not a primary concern. The costs of promotion alone could be staggering. You would need to show up at sports car races and trade shows all over the country and your product would have to be immaculate in both performance and appearance, magazine advertising, pay for some covers, road tests, win some races all while keeping the cost of entry modest enough to interest the dreamers among us.

  2. Dave Wright

    What a great fun car……..Colin Chapman was a home builder. I am sure these are much better quality than his early work. They will be sold in the states.

  3. Adam Wright

    It would be a fun way to spend retirement, I don’t think many have gotten rich doing kit cars but if you played your cards right you might have a lot of fun and not lose a lot of money.

    • tugdoc

      There are 264 working days per year, a fun hobby soon becomes a full time job. Not for the feint of heart but a young lion. You know with the right team…

  4. Joe Howell

    Nice looking cars but how do you make a small fortune in the niche car market? Simple, start with a large fortune. Best of luck to the next guy to try.

    • Dave Wright

      The big loss has been already taken by the developer…………

  5. Joe Haska

    Joe H, I couldn’t agree with you more, and that’s because I tried it a few years ago with what was basically a kit car. It was a carbon fiber 32 roadster, and I believed in the car, the concept , price point,the whole package, and I still do. It was marketed as the Voo-Doo Roadster. However, I got a real life lesson in how difficult this is to do. It was exactly as you say dollars, most millionaires will tell you if you want to make a million start with two. I have BSBA in business, and I think I broke every concept I learned, because I wanted to do it so bad! If anyone seriously wants to try it, give me a call, I will try to talk you out of it!

    • James Doherty

      Joe, please e-mail me. I’d love to hear more details on your story. I’ve seen articles on your Roadster. I have a BSME and I’ve been dreaming of my own car company for years. I had sculpted a few 1/10 scale models of designs in clay I wanted and am planning on designing a lot more on a YouTube channel so I can perhaps generate interest and start something. Thank you. jameskdoherty009@gmail.com

  6. Ck

    Sorry but for almost 30K ,its doing nothing for me.I bet I can find a really nice muscle car for that kind of money.Oh and for all you guys that like the 2 seat sports cars ,I bet you can get somthing pretty nice also for that kind of cake.

  7. Ck

    Woops just realized it was a whole kit car company my bad .Still dont like it and definitely dont want it .If it hasn’t taken off.yet its probably not gonna.

  8. kevin

    No thanks, I’m holding out for a Shalako! (I kid).

    • scooter8

      my design is called. the pollocko! cruises from bar to bar. and is gonna run on potatoes/vodka.all the good stuff! liver not included!!

  9. Mike Burnett

    The boxy design of the roadster and the corvette inspired lines of the coupe/targa top are already out of date limiting further the sales demographic. I wonder what finished cars have sold for?

  10. Jay E.

    There comes a time (55-60) where a choice needs to be made whether to retire and sit around or to take on an interesting project that keeps your mind and spirit active. This change of life usually doesn’t make money, but has benefits far beyond income. This car company seems like that kind of opportunity and I would imagine the price is very negotiable. The entry price is low and the chance to stay engaged is high. Carbon fiber, modern components, EV…for the right person this could be a lot of fun.

  11. Wayne

    This has always been one of things I wanted to do. Even though I only live 75 miles away. And I have a place to do it. And I am intensely tempted. I am not going to do it. ( I can’t believe that I am even saying it). Many times these things don’t pan out due to many factors. But one of the main reasons is that the customer base is just fading away. So many people these days don’t even know how to use a screwdriver. So fixing or trying to assemble something is way past their comfort level. My son has a kit car that was given to him. That was started in 1964 and never completed. Electrification would have been my choice to help “my dream” to bear fruit. But the above reason comes to play again. Many years ago there was a company in Northern California. That designed a kit car similar ( but with enough changes to indeed look different) to a Cobra kit car. It used Datsun 240/260/280Z drivetrain and rear suspenspension and I am not sure what for front suspension. I liked the body design. And absolutely loved the concept of using mechanicals from interesting, very rust prone vehicles to build “neat” cars from. I think it was called the Tomahawk. Long gone are the days of the Meyers Manx!

  12. rich voss

    I probably read about these when they first came out as subscribed to a “ton” of car mags. I was much more interested in the “Manta” that was more closely based on the, let’s say McClaren, body & V8 drivetrain. Also street legal & more expensive. Have seen a few of those in person and they are quite impressive. No time, money, nor desire to undertake this offer…..

  13. Bill

    Hideous. Sorry.

  14. Wayne

    Good luck James. I hope it works out for. If I can help let me know as I am in that neighborhood several times a week for the next couple of weeks

  15. Mark

    I think Factory Five is the modern example of how to be successful with kit cars. They are constantly refining what they have while adding new models to appeal to an ever-changing demographic. That would be tough to do with a kit designed 40 years ago,. Besides, with today’s software and 3-D printers, you could probably come up with fantastic prototypes much easier and faster.

  16. Bradshaw from Primer

    Friend of mine is doing a flying car …looks beautiful…over the last 9 years thru cancer and aging he and his friend built a bigger garage…finished the fiberglass , assembled it and converted the corvair engine from a weber side draft back to the 2 carter yb’s…(never could get it to idle)…having fun and no timetable
    and he has several acres to store stuff or work on things……and some resources.

    so this would be fun to do…profit ahahahaahahaah, fun without a time clock YES!!!

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