This is why I have chosen to build the MK Sportscars’ Indy RX-5 as a kit car. I am at the very start of the journey of building a kit car, having just purchased my donor vehicle. So this is from the viewpoint of a future builder and customer.
Starting the Dream
Ever since I was a boy I have dreamed of building my own kit car. I decided several years ago that when I turned 40 I would start to turn this dream into reality. This seemed a good point to aim for as it is a major birthday milestone. Plus both my boys would be old enough to help out with the build, but would not old enough to drive it! Hopefully, this could be a joint project with them. They might even learn a thing or two about cars along the way. Some might say that I’ve been planning my mid-life crisis for a while…
In 2020 I turned 40 in the middle of the global COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. This wasn’t quite the way I had originally planned to celebrate. However my wonderful wife, family and friends still managed to make it a wonderful day to remember. I was very lucky to have several donations as presents towards a donor car for the kit car project. So I could finally start to realise my kit car dream.
Kit Car Style
I have always been attracted to a Caterham Seven style kit car. There is something about the shape and the open nature of the front wheels that I think looks great. Ever since I saw some up close at Brands Hatch and had a passenger ride in one I have always associated the term ‘kit car’ with a Caterham Seven style car.
I wanted a kit that closely resembled a Caterham Seven styling. I would never be able to afford the real deal, plus there are many Sevenesque kits on the market to choose from which provide amazing value for money.
Single Donor Vehicle
I wanted a single donor kit so I could make the maximum re-use of the donor vehicle. Going back many years I followed closely the development of the Robin Hood (now Great British Sportscars) kit car. I read every available blog to understand the effort involved with building such a kit. Back then Ford Sierras were still the go-to single-car donor with the trusty Pinto engine. But soon, due to a lack of Sierra availability, the kit car market had to find a new source of a donor car.
Manufacturers started to turn to the Mazda MX5 instead. They were available from the early 1990s and there are plenty available on the second-hand market at low prices. The Mazda MX5 is a solid choice as a single donor vehicle.
I will mainly be using the kit car as a road vehicle with the occasional track day. So a Car Engined Car (CEC) rather than a Bike Engined Car (BEC) is more attractive to me for the build. This also lends itself more to the maximum re-use of a single donor vehicle and helps to keep the costs down.
The main kits I studied and narrowed my choice down to were:
- The MK Sportscars’ Indy RX5 (Mazda MX5 based);
- The GBS Zero (Mazda MX5 based);
- The DMO Legend (BMW E36/46 based).
I know there are plenty of other Sevenesque kits out there that I haven’t mentioned. But for me, these 3 kits met the style I was after and maximised the single donor approach.
Now, I could go into a deep comparison of the 3 different kits at this point and pick apart the pros and the cons of each, but I’m not going to. The reality is all 3 kits are very good and all have their merits. I don’t want this to turn into glorified top trumps. Instead, I want to focus on why I have chosen the MK Sportscars’ Indy RX-5 as a kit car to build.
Why I Chose MK Sportscars’ Indy RX-5
I had known of the MK Sportscars’ Indy kit car for a while, but I had originally dismissed it as primarily a BEC. However, when I read the December 2019 edition of Complete Kit Car magazine and saw the article on Nick Fowler’s brilliant MK Indy (a Hayabusa based BEC) it got me thinking again. Particularly as the article mentioned that the MK Indy had a Mazda MX5 single donor-based kit. I started doing more research.
I subscribed to the MK Sportscars YouTube channel and joined the MK Sportscars Official Owners Group on Facebook. Both of these are excellent sources of information. Here are the main reasons why I like MK Sportcars as a brand and the MK Indy RX-5 as a car.
The style of the MK Indy is exactly to my taste. It has a very close resemblance to a Caterham Seven but it is different enough to tell it apart from a distance. Particularly the slightly higher bonnet with a distinct bonnet scoop and one of the widest front-wheel stances of any Sevenesque kit car.
Single Donor Vehicle
MK Sportscars offer many different donor vehicle options, including one of the widest array of motorbike options out of any manufacturer. However, it was the Mazda MX5 based Indy RX-5 that attracted my attention. The Indy RX-5 maximises the reuse of the donor vehicle as detailed on the MK Sportscars website, they even have a dash for the standard MX5 clocks if you want. This for me was a big attraction as I could keep the initial build cost down, get it through IVA, then upgrade some of the standard parts later on if I wanted.
The one thing that has struck me is the quality of the engineering approach of the MK Indy. Since Neil and Sean took over MK Sportcars in 2016 the design of the chassis and overall car (which was already good) has gone from strength to strength.
They have introduced lots of subtle but important changes to the design to make it more builder-friendly. One example is the radiator and brake pipe brackets are now part of the standard chassis to make installation easier. As a company they are always taking on board feedback from customers’ builds as well as their own factory builds.
One of the key engineering elements I like about the MK Indy RX-5 is the way the standard Mazda MX5 components have been integrated into the chassis design. The MX5 differential is offset to one side and is not straight down the centre in the donor car. So this quirk was designed into the RX-5 chassis instead of the builder having to modify the differential to mount it in the chassis. It uses the same mounting method as the standard donor car with the same drive shafts. This again makes it easier for the builder and provides greater strength for potential increases in power if you want. The only thing you have to do is shorten the prop shaft from the gearbox to differential, which MK Sportscars will do for you as a service.
I also love the way the rollover protection has been designed on the MK Indy so you can change between a simple cross brace behind the seats to a full roll cage without changing the chassis as they are simply bolted in. So if later on, you decide you want to upgrade to a full cage, you can.
MK Sportscars have also thought about the upgrade from the standard Mazda engine to a turbo version. The upgrade to a TD04 turbo uses the same exhaust manifold with the exhaust pipe going through the same hole in the bodywork. So minimal changes are required if you decide you want more power later on.
All of this is simple but brilliant engineering, always thinking of the customer.
MK Sportscars follow a very similar approach to increasing performance in their cars to Colin Chapman, who was the founder of Lotus Cars. Colin had an obsession with cars being lightweight and he once said “Adding power makes you faster on the straights. Subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere.”
This approach is clear in many of the options that MK Sportscars offer for the MK Indy. There is a staggering array of carbon fibre components available, including even a carbon fibre exhaust. MK Sportscars also go to the extent of weighing wheels or engines on their YouTube channel to show customers the weight savings that can be made with 13″ rims or different engine combinations.
The MK Indy chassis is one of the lightest Sevenesque chassis on the market. But don’t think for one second that it means it isn’t strong and capable. It is very capable.
The MK Indy has appeared in the 750 Motor Club Sports Specials championship with Matthew Booth driving a Ford Duratec MK Indy RR. This led to him achieving 9 wins, 19 podiums, an overall championship win in 2016 and 2nd in Class A championship in 2018, all in the same car. A fantastic achievement.
The MK Sportscars’ Indy RX-5 seems to be a perfect blend of performance and practicality. It has a reliable 140hp standard Mazda car engine (with a comfortable 230hp if you turbo it) in a car that weighs less than 600kg. With the stock size 15″ wheels it has a gearing that matches the original Mazda. So it will happily cruise if you wanted to use it for touring. A set of Protec shocks will provide a firm yet forgiving ride, which is good on the road and the track. It is a great overall blend of a car which you can customise to your own needs and desires.
Neil and Sean at MK Sportscars operate a simple philosophy – answer the phone when a customer calls. They are always there for customers and they’re more than happy to chat through any aspects of the build, no matter how big or small. They have maintained the same high levels of customer support throughout the global pandemic over the last year. I spoke to Neil for advice about Mazda MX5 donor cars for nearly an hour. He couldn’t have been more helpful. It is this approach to the business, putting the customer first that I think is so important. It is one of the reasons I like not just the car, but the brand and the company as well.
As a business, MK Sportscars have embraced social media to reach out to existing and potential future customers. The MK Sportscars’ YouTube channel is very active with a ‘Workshop Walk’ video provided weekly. This is a great overview of what they have been doing in the workshop, a chance to see different types of MK Indy in various states of build. As well as a range of customer cars (including many non MK cars) in for various upgrades or fault-finding and fixing problems. They also provide answers to any questions that have come up during the week with top tips for your build. Also, they showcase any new products they have released through their sister company Kit Car Direct. A great resource, rich with information.
During the global pandemic first lockdown, Neil and Sean adapted the YouTube videos. The standard ‘Workshop Walk’ changed to a ‘Lockdown Garage’ when the MK workshops had to close. This still provided weekly content on YouTube but showcased videos from builders and owners. It showed you what work people had been doing on their cars during the lockdown. It highlighted to me how MK as a company is flexible and always looking for new ideas to reach out and support customers.
There is also a range of technical help articles on their website and the comprehensive build manual is constantly being updated to include more detail to help the builder.
MK Sportscars Official Owner’s Group
There is an MK Sportscars Official Owner’s Group on Facebook which now has over 1,000 members. It is a very active forum where people can share their experiences and ask questions about their build. Generally, it is a great support network.
Within minutes of posting a question on the Facebook group, you will get a response from someone. It is an amazing resource which shows the true community that you are buying into by owning or building an MK.
As you can see there are lots of reasons why I like both the MK Sportscars’ Indy RX-5 as a car and MK Sportcars as a company. With all these things though, the proof will be in the pudding. I have just purchased the donor vehicle, so I’m at the start of the journey. However, I am convinced I have made the right choice in the MK Sportscars’ Indy RX-5 to deliver my dream of one day owning a kit car.