Street Rod Nirvana, No Assembly Required

Rarely does Congress pass a bill that we can all agree is awesome. But that’s what it did last year with the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015, a piece of legislation that will soon allow you to buy some very cool cars that were formerly verboten. Like, how about a tube-frame, inboard-front-suspension, 5.0 Coyote-powered hot rod? Right now Factory Five Racing sells just such a car, its ’33 Ford Hot Rod, in component form. But, thanks to the new law, next year you should be able to buy it turnkey, no assembly required. For small companies like Factory Five, this is a huge deal.

The new rules include a few caveats. First of all, the manufacturer can’t build more than 5,000 cars per year, so the Chevrolets of the world cannot start rolling out brand-new 1985 IROC-Zs, not matter how fervently we wish that were the case. Second, the cap on turnkey production is 325 cars. And finally, the cars themselves have to be based on designs that have been out of production for at least 25 years. That’s frankly kind of strange: In Factory Five’s case, it means that their GTM supercar would still be illegal as a turnkey proposition, unless they made it look like a 60s Ford GT40. Why do aesthetics matter? Ask your congressman.

Or just rejoice in the fact that you can buy a ’33 Ford hot rod without spending 300 hours bolting it together in your garage. Factory Five’s interpretation of a hot rod is basically a racecar draped in retro bodywork—tube frame, bonded and riveted aluminum skin, 50-50 weight distribution, all-independent suspension. With a 32-valve Ford 5.0 Coyote engine and 2,248-pound curb weight, the ’33 is good for 0-60 in 3.6 seconds. Right now, Ford doesn’t sell the 5.0 as a complete emissions-certified package (as GM does with its E-Rod crate engines), but Factory Five expects that to change. The Low-Volume law doesn’t concern itself with crash testing or safety, but the completed cars still have to meet emissions requirements, which gives companies like Ford and Chrysler an incentive to offer their existing crate engines fitted with the relevant emissions equipment.

With the weight of a Miata and the horsepower of a Mustang—this car put down 387 horses at the wheels—the ’33 is unlike anything a mainstream car company could build. It’s simple loud fun, a motorcycle sensory experience transposed to four wheels. An 11.5-second quarter-mile feels mighty quick even when you’re surrounded by steel and sound deadening, so in this thing it feels like surfing an avalanche in your bathtub. There are no air bags, stability control or even bumpers. It’s on you to keep it on the road. But I have a feeling that the type of people who buy an open-wheel race rod are not the ones who are driving into your living room while Snapchatting. You’re driving this, you’re involved. You have no choice.

The target price for the ’33 Hot Rod is $49,000. Once the details of the law are sorted out next year, you’ll have the choice of building your own car or just buying it RTR—ready to run. I suspect it’ll become a popular path to Factory Five ownership. Cars are fun to build, but they’re more fun to drive.