Scenario: You have a slick, low-mileage Subaru WRX, and you like to cruise. You’re out partaking in such an activity one fine spring evening when BAM! A rich young debutante has unlawfully crashed her Lexus SC430 into your flanks, bending the frame of your precious WRX and totaling it for good.
You’ve also bashed your head a bit and you find, in the following weeks, that you have incurred a mild case of narcolepsy.
You get a check for about $7,000 from the insurance folks, and the debutante, showing a rare shred of humanity, is distraught over destroying your beloved car. So she writes you a check from her father for $5,000. Meanwhile, the office has agreed to give you three months of disability while you recover from your itinerant narcolepsy, so they won’t have to clean anything up if you collapse while on the toilet.
So here you are with a totaled WRX, about $10-11 grand (after buying back the remains from the insurance company), and a whole summer of free time in front of you. What do you do with your time? How are you ever to be consoled?
Thankfully, Massachusetts kit garage Factory Five has come up with a car just for mourning and slightly monied narcoleptics: Project 818. And it only costs $9,960.
Factory Five started back in 1995 with Shelby Cobra replicas and have stayed in the V8 market since, with a Cobra Daytona replica, a trackable mid-engine supercar, and a pro-touring hot rod. So the 818 was a bit of a departure for them, since it uses a WRX engine and transmission.
They started with a number. They wanted to build a single-donor kit car that weighed no more than 1,800 lbs, or 818 kilograms. After crowd-sourcing a design, they set to work and succeeded. The roofless two-seater weighs right around 1,800 lbs, even with the Subaru flat four plugged in behind the cab.
Yes, it’s a mid-engine, and though an untuned but turbocharged WRX boxer engine only produces about 230 hp, all of it is going to the rear wheels. Did someone mention tuning? Here we find the genius of Factory Five’s engine choice. The WRX has been such a beloved racing and street performance platform, there are countless tunes available now. A 400 hp WRX is not out of the question. Not that you’ll need all of that. The power to weight ratio is about the same in a Lotus Exige.
It’s not quite as dangerously or memorably styled as the Exige, but it’s a very handsome body. Factory Five says it’s made of a “composite” (sorry, carbon fiber junkies) that’s molded with a new process called thermoforming. And while that sounds like it’s just a big piece of conventional plastic, we don’t care, because it’s very light, and it never needs to be painted. Like the Bricklin SV-1 of old, the 818 comes in the color it will always be.
That shell bolts on to an aluminum box/tube frame reinforced for chassis stiffness. Then you drop in your own WRX engine, transmission, front seats, and gauge pod (along with some other parts like suspension components and bits of the brakes), and you’re ready to rock.
There’s even an R/S racing version with far less windshield and far more roll cage. Also, you only need one seat, so you can probably recoup $100 selling the other one.
But despite the mounds of awesome, there are some downsides. There isn’t, for example, much of an interior. You get a shifter, a steering wheel, and a yard of black plastic. There’s no stereo. No climate control, even. But that’s silly, because how would you keep the windshield from fogging up during a rainstorm? That’s not really a problem, because there’s no roof. No windows, either. So no, unless you’re planning to buy an oil drum full of bed liner (which, admittedly, would be pretty awesome), this will not be a daily driver for you.
Factory Five haven’t released any performance figures yet, but expect them to be all over the place as owners tune according to budget. Estimates hover around a 4 second 0-60 time, which is more than a full second faster than a stock WRX. You don’t drop all that weight for nothing.
So if you were a narcoleptic with a wrecked WRX and three months to build a kit car, would you go for a Project 818?
We should also note that low-mileage WRXs with salvage titles go for less than 3 grand these days.