||If you wanted to buy one...|
This section contains about the Karma, whether you're buying a second hand one, building one, or doing work to one.
Building one from scratch
This is what I would do in looking for a donor car:
- Don't buy an old (pre 1969) Beetle to hack up - later ones are not as sought after;
- Try to find one which has IRS (Independant Rear Suspension) - this will improve cornering performance;
- Don't worry too much about the bodywork of a car, but check the chassis. Floorpans can easily be replaced, and the heater channels (which very frequently rust) are not required;
- Beetle engines are easy to maintain, so if you are working to a budget, DIY maintenance can be done;
- Get the Haynes manual for the donor car;
- Make sure the owner has a registration document!
- Look at the suggested modifications, and price up what you can afford;
- Try to manage your time efficiently - I spent a very large amount of time just thinking what to do, and also in re-doing things I had already done because I hadn't thought those out properly;
Buying a second hand one
Kit cars are very individual - it is rare to find two of the same model that look the same, yet alone are the same on the interior! However, some things to look for are:
- Is the car clean (both inside and out)? The chances are that a dirty car has either been misused, or not used at all - in either case, be careful;
- Has the car been lowered? A standard height Karma is a little on the high side - if it's been lowered, it will look like it hugs the ground, and (with anti-roll bars) will perform wonderfully;
- Is the engine unleaded? This may not be that important, but worth noting. Standard Beetle engines have had a degree of unleaded capability since the '70s, but it is only in recent years that engines are known to be unleaded;
- Has the front been strengthened? When I bought my car, the front was not held together very strongly, and if a front collision had occurred, I dread to think what would have happened. A way to test it is to see how much the front flexes;
- Have the doors been modified? One of the problems I have with my car is that the doors have been hacked around a lot, and so do not close enirely correctly (although it's a lot better than other kits that I have seen). In addition, I have heard of people removing the Morris Marina door handles, and replacing them with something a bit more Ferrariesque. This is a worthwhile modification, and not for the faint-hearted;
- What modifications has the builder done on the kit? Sometimes people have good ideas, and sometimes bad ideas. With a kit car, you have a lot of options, and also a lot of independance as to how to fulfil the options. Quite a bit of my time in rebuilding the car was spent doing work, and then changing it because it was a bad idea. I would like to think that there aren't any permanent problems, but you never know!
- How easy are spare parts to get hold of? Again, with the degree of choice open to builders, it is possible that some components used on the car are difficult to get hold of. Beetle parts are readily available, so there should be no problem with steering, brakes, suspension, gearbox and engine parts. However, what about the lights? On the Karma, a standard 7" headlamp is used, but the rear lights could be anything. On my car, they're Open Manta lights (apparently). The front indicators were a standard part, but are now ones I'd built for the kit;
- Is the interior okay? Practically all kit cars are never quite finished - the owners spend time tinkering with them to add that extra touch. One of the areas which often lets a kit down is the interior. If the interior is shabby (and I'll be quite happy to admit that mine is, hence the next stage), then the chances are the rest of the car also has some imperfections (which I don't think mine has ;-) ). If the interior is nice and comfortable, with everything looking coordinated, then it'll probably be a very nice car. In addition, it is possible to buy a kit which has not been finished - if someone says "90%" complete, then they've normally just done the easy stuff, but have not done the interior;
Things to do
These are the things that I would recommend doing to a Karma. Some of these may have already been done to your car, or something else which means you cannot do what is suggested here. I have also put an approximate price, but always check first. I have tried to make the price slightly more than they should be, since prices do vary. Note that the price does not include any labor - ie. assume you're doing it yourself!
|Modify bonnet to have more Ferrariesque holes||£40|
|Modify doors to have more Ferrariesque handles||£60|
|Replacement stock engine||£900 for a good one|
|Clean and repaint engine tinware||£70|
|New enlarged engine||£1,500-5,000|
|Lowerable front beam, clearanced for body||£300|
|Front disc brakes||£250|
|Rear disc brakes||£550|
|Monza 4-tip exhaust||£60|
|Front beam strengthening||£60|
|Cut out holes in side, and route into engine compartment||£50|
|Seal engine compartment to stop hot air from cylinder heads / exhaust||£50|
|Add cooling fans to engine compartment||£60|
Note that some of the body modifications don't really have a price, but they do need a steady hand and a steady heart!