Factory Five 818–Coming Alive

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The Wareham, Massachusetts company has built success upon quality and integrity of design that has resulted in it being the most prolific kit car maker in the history of kit cars.  Calling their product a kit car hardly does justice to the engineering and thought that goes into each of the products they sell.

I took a morning and drove to their facility in Wareham because I wanted to see their latest product, the 818 project.

When Factory Five started many years ago it hit upon a formula that won the hearts and minds of car enthusiast all over the world.  It was to build a robust chassis that would accept the components of a readily obtained donor vehicle, a ford Mustang V8, and added the iconic replica body of Carol Shelby’s Cobra roadster.

Trying to purchase an original Shelby roadster is out of the question as they are now going for millions of dollars, but to be able to construct your own was a dream for many.  Unfortunately many of the early kits that companies offered were poorly engineered and required a lot of custom fabrication.  Things that were supposed to fit didn’t, and things that you thought would be included were not.  The result was frustration and kit cars got a bad reputation.

Then came along Factory Five.  The two brothers that founded the company knew just what was lacking in the current crop of kits and were determined to produce a kit formula that would be well engineered, thoughtfully designed, easily assembled, and affordable.  All in a package that, when completed, would be eye catching and enjoyable to own.

The roadster is in its forth iteration and sales are still going strong.  Their build school in Michigan is one that I have attended and is just as impressive as their kits.

FF Build School May 2005

In addition to the roadster they produced a coupe version that emulates the famous Daytona coupe, a ‘33 Hot Rod, a mid-engine super car – the GTM, and now the 818.

In many ways the 818 goes back to the original philosophy of creating a world class kit car that can rely on a donor car for many of its critical mechanical components.  Mated to the Factory Five designed framework and including a composite body whose finish does not require painting, the result will be an affordable super roadster that can be built for the track or the street.

The body was based upon input from a design competition and has a unique and very attractive look.  This kit will be sold all over the world so it’s donor car is a Subaru WRX of which there are millions available.  While it is two-wheel drive, it is mid-engine which provides an inherent balance and driving character that should be irresistible.

By the time I dropped by the facility testing had already been completed at the NC Cars track in northeastern North Carolina.  I met with the owner of Factory Five, Dave Smith, and his enthusiasm is totally infectious.  He allowed me access to their 818 development area of the 62,000 square foot facility where they were transferring pieces from the development chassis to a production chassis.  While I was not allowed to photograph that process I was allowed to get answers to plenty of questions and enjoy a tour of the factory.

The 818 is a beauty of a car.  Using the Subaru as a donor is perfect as there are plenty of them out there and the after market is huge.  Sure I would have loved to have had it in AWD, but then affordability would have gone right out the window, and RWD in a well balanced package is nothing to sneeze at either.

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The shot above is of their frame welding jig for the 818.

Here are some random shots of my tour through the factory:

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These bodies shown above are getting ready to be matched up with the rest of the kit components and get shipped to the expectant owners.

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David Smith’s very own GTM.

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In the showroom is this body-less frame of a GTM.

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Computer trimmed doors and lids.

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The design details of the 818 front nose and a dash for right-hand drive versions.

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This Mitsubishi laser cuts precise components for many Factory Five kits.

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All the aluminum panels are pre-bent and pre-fitted.

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When everything is set everything is boxed up and ready to ship to a soon-to-be happy customer.

Many thanks to David Smith and his crew for the tour and putting up with all my questions.  This new 818 kit is a certain winner and is definitely in the running for the next Jim’s Garage project car…

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This entry was posted in Automobiles, Car Stuff, Cars, Life and Cars, Modifying Cars, Road Trips, Sports Cars and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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