Man Builds Civic-Based ‘Death Kart’ Exocar, Dies In It Soon After
Fatal crash provides a cautionary example for fellow DIY car enthusiasts.
A man named Anthony Dillard, 24, died in a crash while driving his 1994 Honda Civic modified to be an “Exocar” in the Chesapeake, Virginia area. According to the report from the local newspaper, The Virginian-Pilot, Dillard was making a left turn when he lost control of the Civic, went into oncoming traffic, and was struck by a Pontiac on the passenger-side rear tire. This apparently spun the Civic and Dillard was thrown from the vehicle. According to the news report, he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Local police apparently had never seen an Exocar before and had some trouble initially figuring out whether it was a go-kart with a Civic VIN or a Civic that had been modified to look like a go-kart. A quick look at Dillard’s Instagram account confirms that it was the latter. He had modified a 1994 Civic, removing the majority of the body and structure and replacing it with steel tubing. He referred to it as a “death kart.” Why? In case you missed it, the so-called Exocar has become popular, with the handiwork of Krowrx appearing in places as diverse as Super Street and TheDrive.
Before we go any further, we’d like to offer our condolences to Dillard’s family: we are so sorry for your loss. This write up isn’t meant to make light of the fact that a man died. Rather, we feel obligated to caution others who may be considering a similar build.
What is an Exocar?
We imagine the Ariel Atom popularized the look of exposed frame and roll-cage components, which was then picked up most visibly by Krowrx, of Alabama, who has apparently been doing these mods for more than two years according to this Super Street article. An Exocar is one that’s had the body cut away and had a tubular roll cage and supports welded in place of it.
Notably, from the Super Street story, “Structurally, the ‘cages don’t change a whole lot; they’re all based upon NHRA or NASA rulebooks, for example, but are typically customized.” (emphasis ours)
We don’t have the full NHRA rule book, but some Internet searching revealed one detail we’ll point out: tubing size and thickness. NHRA mandates 1-5/8 inch outside diameter tubing with at least 0.118-inch thickness mild-steel for roll cages in drag cars. This is with all of the OEM structure in place still. Krowrx specifies “1.5 DOM 120 wall” tubing for their Exo work. We believe that means 1 ½ outside diameter pipe with 0.120-inch walls. That’s some hefty pipe.
The legality of the builds, even from a professional outfit, is questionable and depends on the laws in each state. Dillard’s Civic, according to the news report, was not street legal after the modifications done in the state of Virginia.
Problems with DIY
Nowhere on his Instagram account was the type of pipe Dillard used made clear, but much of it it appears to be closer to 1-inch in OD. We’re guessing on thickness, but with the significant damage the Civic took in the crash, we’re guessing it wasn’t nearly as thick as Krowrx uses.
The other issue with the DIY build was the welds. In some of the pictures, it’s easy to see that the welds aren’t a “stack of dimes”. There’s a bit of slag left from welding, and in an ad posted on Facebook not long before the fatal crash he includes a section at the end addressing his welds:
“*Disclosure* im not a profession fabricator to yes the welds might not look like dimes but unless you were born a professional welder i dont want to here it.”
The other problem with removing the majority of the metal Honda put on the Civic is weight distribution. Only the radiator and gas tank sit behind the driver’s seat. This no doubt leaves the vast majority of the weight forward in the car. Could that have caused, or at least contributed, to Dillard losing control of the car like the news reports state? It’s likely.
For anyone thinking about an Exocar build, we hope this doesn’t discourage you entirely. However, we do hope this helps you to think through the unique challenges of such a build.