The Locost

March 6, 2007: STOP THE PRESSES!!! Well, actually, they stopped them already. The book below, Build Your Own Sports Car for as Little as £250, is out of print and out of stock and being replaced by the more realistically titled Build Your Own Sports Car : On a Budget. It has been updated to cover the last seven years of Locost technology (pause for laughter). Here's a picture of the new cover.

We sell BYOSC on a B for $26.21, which is 25% below Haynes Publishing's US list price of $34.95. Why do we sell it so cheap? For the same reason tuna fishers throw chum in the ocean: we want to get you closer to the boat. If the book inspires you to build your own Locost, you'll be back to us for parts...or possibly a kit.

However,, which buys books lots cheaper than we can, often runs specials, so check with them before you buy this book from us. Really.

What's a Locost, you might ask. It's a stand-back-and-squint-kinda-replica of a Lotus 7; cute name selected by Ron Champion, whose book Build Your Own Sports Car for as Little as £250 (hey, he's British) has been rocketing up the charts and stimulating cottage industries for the last decade. 250 Pounds Sterling works out to around 500 bucks, and to get within an order of magnitude of that price you have to be one heck of a scrounger, but it's a catchy title.

Remarkably enough, the extreme of economy doesn't seem to be a huge factor to Champion fans—in mid-2010 this book was changing hands on the used market for $150 to $250, depending on condition, but by 2012 the value had settled down around $40 (see Amazon, used books).


Early in '04, I met the folks from Grassroots Motorsports at the now-defunct CMC factory in Alabama, where we put a CMC kit (ah, those were the days) together in a remarkable 2-1/2 days. A beater of a Mazda Miata donor car drove into the shop on Monday (1/5/04) at 9AM...


...and at noon on Wednesday (1/7/04), up came the shop door and out it drove; a thousand pounds lighter and a whole bunch prettier than the car that came in--though not as debugged as it should have been and we did cheat some (parts pre-fit and prepainted, suspension installed, adjusted and then disassembled...I don't think CMC mentioned that in the press release).

Four months later, the CMC team and I did a weekend Locost build at Road Atlanta at the '04 Walter Mitty...yes it can be done, but frankly, kits built in three days tend to look it, and it takes a lot longer if you're making your own chassis. The book does tell you how to make a frame yourself*, but for those unwilling to cut, jig, and weld a gajillion pieces of 1" square tubing together, we now offer Kinetic 7 frame and body kits.

In many respects, this wonderful book is better than the original. It's more of a companion piece to "the bookthan a stand-alone, unless you're buying your frame, suspension arms, and bodywork from a single source (as the author Keith Tanner did when he bought a kit** from CMC). His book (and update support from his web site at is the definitive guide to actually finishing the dang thing.

Lots of Locost projects have been bogged down by the details; details which Ron Champion breezes over somewhat in his book, and besides, the Champion book assumes you can buy a used Cortina/Escort (a what?) for 25 pounds (pounds of what?). Keith covers the details, with a realistic eye for the American environment an environment that, among other things, hosts a heck of a lot more Miatas than Cortinas.

How to Build a Cheap Sports Car is thorough and detailed and chock full of tricks from the trenches. It doesn't tell you how to weld a frame together, or how to take a block of foam and whack off everything that doesn't look like a Locost nose; instead, it covers the myriad of challenges you'll encounter after the big parts are built. Sadly, it too is our of print, but can point you to used copies.

If a major welding project is intimidating, and you don't have the patience to source every last widget, we can provide a complete kit--chassis, control arms, body, wiring, every last bolt and rivet, everything it takes to make a Locost but the donor parts and paint--for $10,000. You can bring the price up from there by ordering a bunch of accessories, but our STN kit (soup to nuts) will put you on the road, and you can get fancy later. It's the same price for the Miata (we use the IRS sub-frame) or live axle version, and we can make adjustments for unusual donors.

If you have more money than time, we'll put a Kinetic 7 kit together for you for $5000. This represents 125 hours of work at $40/hr, it includes teardown of your donor, and since we're experienced and well set up to do this job, we can probably build a Locost in half the hours of a first-timer. So if your time is worth more than twenty bucks an hour to you, and you want your car finished in a few months, this may be a practical move to make. However, you'll be missing the satisfaction of building your own sports car.

We have two outstanding paint shops in the area, and we'll give you our cost on having one of them paint your car to your specs. Ditto for upholstry. We'll even trailer your car to the DMV, and while we aren't going to pay your registration and insurance, we will walk your car through the process so you can drive it away the day you pick it up.

If you're in a huge rush, perhaps you need it for a movie or a promotional event, we have a $2500 Battle Stations Fee, where we'll stop taking other orders and get your Locost built in a month. That fee includes us finding a donor for you (though it doesn't include us paying for it) and expediting your project in every way. We're quite adept at high pressure, tight timeline development projects (when you see Kinetic Aerospace in the credits, that's us) and if you really are making a movie and you need a bunch of them, we'll give you a discount on the ones you're going to blow up.

And if you're looking for something more exotic, we have the skills and connections to make products of your imagination into products of real life--and if it's sufficiently interesting, we'll consider doing a joint venture. Anybody can put a small block Chevy in a car, but if you want a turbojet, or a high performance electric, hey, we can do that.

*To be realistic, the book is more of a guideline than a manual, which is one of the reasons every Locost is different from every other Locost.