A KIT car built by a father and son over eleven years and costing £20,000 was stolen days are it was declared legal to drive.

The project of a lifetime, built by Kevin Doyle, 62, of Runwell Road, Wickford and his son Michael, 25, from Billericay, was stolen from their Wickford driveway.

Michael said: “We reckon a group have just lifted the whole thing onto a trailer and driven off with it.

“It’s really sad, it’s taken eleven years and now it’s just gone.”

The pair believe the thieves took the orange car, affectionately known as Jaffa, by breaking down a fence and dragging a tree stump out of its roots to gain access to it.

Kevin added he believes the suspects could only have lifted the vehicle as its steering lock and immobiliser were still active.

The car has been a labour of love since Michael was 14 and has been built over two stages.

Father Kevin said: “This project was a father and son venture for a good bit of bonding.

“I knew there was a great deal to do but I thought we could work through it together.

“Many hours and pounds sterling later, I bought the classic Mini-based kit back off Michael, realising he had bitten off more than he could chew, and felt the only thing to do was to finish the job.

“It was very disappointing but it was the best thing to do.”

“Project Jaffa” was then a standstill for around five years before the pair decided to pick it back up again and finish the job they had started together.

After another three years of work, Jaffa was finally ready to hit the road, having been individually approved to be roadworthy.

Kevin said: We had a few bits and pieces to tweak, carried out by a Mini specialist and finally it was delivered back to Runwell on Saturday, September 1.

“Once it was stored and protected, I was looking forward to surprising Michael with the completed and road-worthy fun buggy. I now live separate from Michael, and I was looking forward to the grand reveal later this month at a family barbecue. We would love the car to be returned, that would make all the effort so worthwhile.”

Police are investigating the theft on the morning of Monday, September 4 and ask anyone with information who may have seen the car to call 101 quoting crime reference 42/128000/18.