Vintage R&T Road Test: 1969 Fiberfab Jamaican-Buick V8 – Beauty Is Only Skin Deep, Part 2

The Fiberfab Jamaican was a seductive thing, bot in appearance and its come-on: “If you can’t afford $21,900 for a Lamborghini how about $895 for a Fiberfab Jamaican?” How irresistible, even if that’s just for the basic body. But hey, how hard can it be, to find an old MGA chassis, drop in a V8, and let ‘er rip.

R&T decided to take more than a surface look at the reality of a kit car. To give it the best shot, they tested a Jamaican built Fiberfab, not the dude who lives next door. You’d think that would rather skew the outcome, but the painful reality was that even a kit car built by professionals was still…a kit car, and all the many attendant shortcomings. There’s a reason folks don’t generally build their own cars, and it has nothing to do with how seductive the body looks.

Yes, the Jamaican was seductive; the best looking kit car body of its kind. I very much remember seeing the ads and thinking…wow; maybe I should rip off the body of my perfectly good ’64 Beetle and put on one of these. How hard can it be? But would a 40 hp Jamaican really be that…seductive? Hmm…


This Jamaican built by Fiberfab involved a $175 1959 MGA chassis (with drum brakes), a quite tired ($200) 215 Buick aluminum V8 and its rather unusual Dual-Path Turbine Drive automatic (only offered on Specials/Skylarks in 1961-1963, and quite unusual automatic transmission), a $45 Chevelle rear axle, and a slew of other parts from various donors. The total cost in parts and body was $2522.  That’s not counting any labor, which of course will be provided by your for the next 163 consecutive weekends, and 243 evenings. Or something like that.

Note: that $2522 is exactly $148 less than the price of a brand new 1968 MGB Mk II. Or for a couple hundred more, a very brisk Datsun 2000 Sports.  Or a BMW 1600. How seductive is that sexy Jamaican looking now? And the MGB doesn’t overheat constantly, the seats are comfortable, and everything else works properly.

The litany of shortcomings on the Jamaican took up most of the review. Exhaust heat and noise. No sun visors. Throttle pedal on left side of steering column. Very hard seats. Crappy old drum brakes. Hard ride. Gaps in door seals. Overheating. Tired engine making ominous sounds. Etc.

The very fat 8″ wide wheels and tires did give it powerful adhesion in curves (on smooth pavement), but R&T rightfully wondered whether ye olde MG front suspension and steering were up to such greater loads.

R&T’s summation: “It comes down to whether the enthusiast is enthusiastic enough about that sexy-looking body to risk pouring his money and time into something that may turn out to be beautiful but nearly undriveable”.