All Your Kit Cars Are Belong to CarlisleS

I used to think Spinelli, Wert, and company had the best jobs ever because they got to drive concept mules, travel to exotic places sponsored by Bruce, and cover car shows for a living. Well, having visited the recent Carlisle Import/Kit/Replicar Nationals show with an eye toward writing something worth guest posting, I can tell you that it is not the easiest way to make a living. First of all, try walking miles in the midday sun for a few hours. Resisting the temptation to stop at every funnel cake vendor you see. All the while keeping an eye out for the diamonds among the rough...and at Carlisle, there was plenty of rough. I am still amazed at the lengths people will go to ruin a perfectly good Fiero. Then you've got to take photos that add enough visual interest to keep the commenters off your back. Which may or may not include shooing people out of your frame. Mike Bumbeck, you are my hero.

But I tried my best. And here are the highlights of my day at Carlisle.

The Se7ens
If you didn't already know, now's a good time to make it perfectly clear that I attend the church of Colin Chapman with some regularity. I'm the acting president of the USA7s club and a co-organizer of the upcoming Se7ens meet down at Deals Gap. That's not some stock photo in my avatar, either. So it should come as no surprise that I came to Carlisle looking for Lotus Seven-inspired Sportscars (LSiS). And I found a handful, including one in a very unexpected place.

Westfield and Brunton Automotive were located in the same open sided building. I'd never seen either variant on the LSiS theme in person before, so it was nice to have Justin Sims of Brunton (http://www.bruntonauto.com) on hand to give me a tour of the Stalker kit makes with his stepfather, Dennis Brunton. The Stalker uses a GM V6 drivetrain and the pretty silver and black customer car they had on hand featured a supercharger.

The Westfield booth featured the triumvirate of Doug Beckett, Tom McClintock, and Julian Turner. Doug's the relatively new East Coast dealer/builder who brought the Miata-engined Westfield 1600 on display; Tom runs Manik, LLC, the Texas-based US distributor; and Julian Turner is the Managing Director of Westfield Sportscars over in the UK. I think they were all moderately amused that I was fawning over their cars while wearing a Caterham hat.

The 1600 is an LSiS that uses a Miata donor car. From the engine to the gauge pod to the wheels. The Orange 1600 they had on display was well turned out, with excellent padded seats that I'd trade my Kevlar Tilletts for in heartbeat. When I sat in one of these perches, I noticed that I could barely see over the scuttle (I'm trying to use as many Se7en-centric terms as possible in this paragraph). The guys told me that this particular car had the lowered floor option — which gives tall guys a little more room. While the all fiberglass body may not be every one's cup of tea (original Loti had aluminum body panels and fenders), Doug says turnkey cars are available for under $30k, which is a lot less than I paid for my Superlight a few years back. So I think they'll sell lots of these.

In addition to a few other LSiS-related vendors displaying their wares, I found a Caterham Twin Cam, a Dax Rush with nitrous Hayabusa power (this thing runs low three second 0-60 times) — both being shown by their respective owners, as well as a Locost built around Volvo P1800 mechanicals. It was the first Se7en I saw in the open car show parking area, and I thought it was a mistake because it was sitting in the Volvo area.

The Hartley V8
You know you make a good product when your trade show booth consists of a piece of yellow lined paper, a business card, a wooden folding table, and your product — and there's still a line of people waiting to talk to you.

That's the situation I found John Hartley in when I went looking for the H1-V8. For those of you who haven't heard of the H1, it's a 2.8 liter V8 built around a custom block and crankshaft that uses Suzuki Hayabusa top end bits. I think it redlines up at 11,000 RPM, making 400 horsepower a few hundred revs below that. It's light and small enough that John managed to shoehorn one into his Caterham without modifying the bonnet. John's site has videos of the car on the dyno that are pretty amazing.

According to John, he's sold three of motors so far — although none have made it into fully operational vehicles yet (besides the one in his Seven). I'm sure it's just a matter of time before the $28,000 mills are more common with the add-lightness set. It might sound expensive, but you can't get close to that sort of power in a normally aspirated engine that will fit into a Se7en.

Later in the day, I saw John Hartley at the Westfield booth. He was digging the XI they had brought along — so perhaps we'll see some sort of Westfield-Hartley to follow in the footsteps of original Westfield SEight.

Odds and Ends
The only sorts of car shows I had gone to in the past were either the New York show or a smaller regional marque-specific meet (Porsche, Ferrari, etc.). So you can imagine my surprise when faced with the sprawl of something like Carlisle. By the time I got home, I was beat.

There were a few acres dedicated to a parts and assorted car stuff "swap meet". A few acres given over to kit/replicar manufacturer and dealers. About an acre of "car corral", where vehicles are for sale, cash and carry. A few more acres of show field for cars of all types (including ones that you don't have to build yourself), including at least two acres of Fieros of every imaginable configuration.

Not surprisingly, the Cobra and its various authorized and unauthorized offspring were the most common kit/replicar car at Carlisle this weekend. Cobras at Carlisle were sort of like hot women in Manhattan, there are so many that eventually you just tune them out. My personal favorite vehicle of the meet was this electric blue Renault R5 Turbo in a very deep field of French cars. It had the "hot at the time" asymmetric steering wheel, and an orange interior.

Related:
First Customer's Phase III Baldwin-Motion Camaro Displayed at Carlisle [internal]