I know a common saying in the car community is “you should never take on someone else’s project.” But what if that someone’s project is a midengine roadster kit car powered by a Volkswagen Jetta VR6 paired with a manual shift and a limited-slip differential? Because that’s what I found browsing online ads in Connecticut. Up for grabs on Craigslist is this 1999 Volkswagen Jetta VR6 turned into a Smyth Performance GF3 kit car for $US12,500 ($17,759).
My initial thought was that this car is a Factory Five 818, however there are some clear differences. That’s not a Factory Five logo on that trunk lid, and clearly, something is off was the headlights and taillights. Are those tails from a Chevy Cobalt?
Something wasn’t right. My research brought me to the Smyth Performance GF3.
Smyth Performance, based in Tiverton, Rhode Island, builds do-it-yourself kit cars and ute kits. The company was started by the same Mark Smith responsible for Factory Five Racing, another popular American kit car manufacturer. Today the company no longer builds the GF3, instead specializing in ute kits for all sorts of different vehicles, including this neat Jeep Grand Cherokee ute.
The GF3 appears to be built by taking a donor MkIV Jetta VR6, removing its vital organs, then attacking the unibody with a reciprocating saw until only the floorpan and front crash structure remain. Then, like a super-advanced Leg set, the builder puts it all back together using Smyth’s bolt-on frames and outer skin, placing the VR6 drivetrain in the rear.
It looks like most of that work is already done on this example, and you’ll even get a turbo (albeit not installed) out of the deal. Should the new owner finish this bonkers project, the end result should be something even faster than the donor Jetta, and they’ll get to enjoy the open sky to boot! And should someone take on the project, this one comes with a VCDS diagnostic tool and a Bentley service manual (unrelated to the British marque), so you’ll already be a step ahead of the game on repairs to the high mileage Volkswagen drivetrain.
Smyth says that the finished product can even have working heat, airbags and a working air-conditioner, which aren’t features you get in every kit car. This could theoretically be a daily driver. That said, it appears that, if you wanted to build your own and not take on someone else’s kit, Smyth has moved on to a new kind of kit — utes.
The conversions below may actually be even more interesting than the original roadster. Ever wanted your WRX to be the right choice for a run to Home Depot? Boom.
Wish Audi made a small pickup? Wish no more!
These conversions do raise questions of rigidity and safety. After all, you’ll be cutting out vast amounts of unibody and not quite fully replacing them. Typically, removing section of unibody (especially portions of the roof) degrades rigidity. That said, it does appear at least one of these has crashed and it looks like the engineering holds up pretty well.
The exciting thing to me about these kits is that they’re actually pretty affordable. I looked through a couple of the build guides, and while they’re very involved and not for the faint at heart, I don’t see anything that would require advanced skills like welding. So break out that saw and be the Sawzall Hero you’ve always wanted to be!