A Formula 1 fan from Brighton in the UK has built a full-scale racing car in the shed at the end of his garden. The car, which needed £8,000 in parts and took four years to build, is modeled on a 2001 BRA Honda 003.
Perhaps most remarkable of all is that Kevin Thomas, the dedicated craftsman, has absolutely no engineering experience whatsoever – or formal training. He hand-built the replica without using a manual or the internet and taught himself to work with carbon fibre. The latter is especially impressive because he managed to get the side-pods from a Williams-BMW F1 car to fit the engine cover from a BAR, which is no mean feat.
Had Thomas saved himself the trouble and bought one second hand, it would have set him back £100,000 – not including insurance. However, by sourcing all the necessary parts on eBay and establishing himself in the F1 fan community, he made an unbelievable saving of £992,000 (although insurance will likely still be dear due to the significant personal investment).
‘There’s a whole group of memorabilia sites and dealers around the UK,’ he said, ‘you start to build a network of contacts and they know you are looking for a particular types of car parts.’
Thomas’s dream was ignited at a Renault showroom of all places, when an ex-F1 car was on display, ‘I went along to see it and thought to myself ‘”I would love one of these.”‘ As luck would have it, Thomas spotted a former F1 chassis on eBay that same week. Despite the fact that it incorporated the driver’s survival cell and cockpit, it hadn’t attracted a single bid. ‘I did a deal with [the seller] there and then,’ Thomas told Racecar Engineering Magazine. ‘A little while later, he turned up on my doorstep with a Reynard BAR-001 and BAR-003 chassis. I paid him cash for the pair.’
Whilst working a full-time job in an office, Thomas managed to track down every last detail of the car – including authentic suspension systems, wheels, tires, steering wheel and a seat. The only thing that’s missing is arguably the most important part, the engine. If Thomas were to track down the exact 600-plus-hp 3.0-liter V-10 that first powered the BAR, it would be a miracle. However, that’s unlikely to show up on eBay. ‘I’ll probably go for a Formula Renault 3.5-liter engine,’ Thomas says. ‘That will be plenty fast enough to scare the living daylights out of me.’
When asked what the best thing was about owning his own F1 car, Thomas said ‘You can just build up at your own pace, go to tracks you want to go to and do your own thing,’ and whilst he hopes to have the model completed soon, the racing enthusiast also admitted to planning his the next big project. Evidently, it’s an addictive pursuit.