The final week of fall may not seem like the most opportune time to drive a car that has no roof or heat, but when it is the latest sports car from Factory Five Racing, such discomforts are of no concern. The Wareham-based component car builder dominates the Shelby Cobra kit car market and has now turned its attention toward the import-tuners with a vehicle called the 818.
The 818 is a “one-donor component car,” which means you build it yourself, and you do so using parts from a 2002 to 2007 Subaru Impreza or WRX. It might not be for everyone, but for the many wrench turners and performance junkies out there who are sick of seeing the same old Cobra kits, the 818 is like nothing else on the road and represents the future for the kit car industry.
Shelby Cobra replicas are among the most common in the component car industry. Factory Five’s MK4 is by far the best handling and performing of the genre, but the company also smart enough to expand the lineup to include cars like the Type 65 Coupe, 33 Hot Rod, and GTM Supercar. The 818 is a far different beast, focusing on nimble and efficient, yet equally thrilling, performance.
“The price of the 818 is $9,990,” explains Jason Lavigne, who does marketing for Factory Five, “which is close to the price of our original roadster, sold back in the 1990s.” The 818 weighs only 1,800 pounds, or 181 kilograms.
Many kit cars require components from several different cars, but the 818 only requires a single Impreza or WRX, and builders will have to pull the engine, transmission, wheels, tires, radiator, steering rack, and more. Basically, the four-cylinder engine and all-wheel-drive powertrain are removed from the Subaru, and only the front-wheel-drive components are left intact. That front half of the drivetrain is then flipped around and placed behind the driver, creating a mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive roadster.
“For this tester car, we’ve installed upgraded turbos, injectors, and intercoolers,” says Lavigne. “It is making 400 horsepower at the crank and 345 at the rear wheels.” Roughly 15 percent of actual engine horsepower on most cars is lost on the way to the wheels.
The 818 is a no-frills performance ride. There is no radio and no heat. The canvas top must be snapped on. Having driven other Factory Five vehicles like the MK4 Roadster, I knew that operating their vehicles requires your undivided attention, a touch of insanity, and a flair for the dramatic.
The 818 rivals the visual statement of the MK4, but the driving experience is far more manageable. It still requires your attention, but unlike the race-setup of the Shelby replica, the Subaru mechanicals left the 818 feeling far less insane, but just as fast. This drivability will make the 818 appealing to newcomers to this market, as will the simplicity of construction relative to other kit cars.
Tearing down rural back roads, the modified WRX engine in the 818 has enough power to quickly exit any turn even if you are not in the right gear. It is clear to see that this car will be a monster at the track, which is Factory Five’s goal.
“Track time is a far better comparison than just straight-line performance,” says Lavigne. “It factors in braking, cornering speed, and controlled acceleration. If you run a car at a specific track that others have run at, you can use those track times as a measuring stick.”
The popularity of the 818 represents the shift in tastes for the aftermarket community. An aging population of Shelby enthusiasts are being supplanted by the grassroots WRX racing community, and the 818 has the potential to be the Subaru community’s halo car. That said, the Shelby folks are showing interest as well.
If you have $9,990—and about $10,000 more for the WRX donor car—you, too, can build your very own supercar. If you have plenty of wrench time under your belt but still think you have much to learn before building your own car, Factory Five offers a three-day build school in Michigan.
Spend 30 minutes behind the wheel of this car, carving up winding roads, and you’ll be convinced that you want to build one, too. Don’t worry about the lack of a radio or heat; the recognizable exhaust note of the Subaru boxer engine emanating from behind your ears and the tactile feel the pedals, shifter, and steering wheel are all you need to truly enjoy time behind the wheel of the 818, a kit car for the future.