A very cheap race car

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One of the problems a novice would-be race driver has is buying a car to race. While one that is fully sorted means you just jump in and drive, it is expensive. The answer is to build one yourself.

Simple roll cage.
Simple roll cage.

The steps in building your world-beater are well known, and most of them can be done by anyone with just the vaguest idea of race car engineering. If you know what is the direction to tighten a nut, you have the basics to begin.

One of the cheapest categories to be in is the “Retro” class (pre 1985 sedans). Plenty of old road cars of that age, so take your time in the purchase. Try to get one with as little rust as possible.

Leaving the engine alone for the time being, you can start on the body work. Obviously get rid of rusty panels/floors etc., and now start to lighten the car.

Lightening the car is cheap horsepower. Colin Chapman (Lotus) was the prime example of this with his F1 cars. Lighter weight takes less horsepower to get the car up to speed, and doesn’t need the ultimate braking power to bring it back to stop again (though fitting good pads like EBC definitely assists).

Where do you get rid of the weight? The inside of the doors, windows, window winder mechanisms for a start. A pair of heavy duty metal shears needed here. Perspex passenger side windows and rear window, but leave the driver’s and front windscreen.

Now get rid of heavy things like the windscreen wiper motor, the air-conditioner compressor and anything else that doesn’t make the car faster. Get rid of all the seats and buy a second hand driver’s chair from your local car upholstery place. Expect to pay about B. 5,000. By this time you will be amazed at just how much weight you will have taken out. On a Toyota DX, for example, you are now probably down to 900 kg.

Now it is time for the bodywork. Get a fiberglass bonnet and boot and throw away the hinges and use pins to keep them in place. Now it is starting to look like a race car!

The next is the roll cage. There is a tendency to fabricate expensive multi-tube structures that could hold up the Sydney Harbor Bridge. That degree of complexity is not needed. A braced transverse hoop and two bars facing forwards is enough.

Probably around this time you have to start to consider the engine/gearbox package. Second hand twin cam Toyota engines are not expensive. Nissan ones are a little more so, but there are plenty of smaller capacity Toyota engines up the front. Fitting them into your body shell is not difficult either, but do use an engine hoist. Too heavy to lift with just you and a mate!

What next? Some 15 inch wheels, second hand bargains everywhere, and the same for the tyres. Get your friendly spring shop to cut a coil off the springs and you now have a lowered race car. Not the fastest on the grid, but quick enough that you can learn how to race cleanly. Go out to the races at the local Bira Circuit and have a look at the el-cheapo race cars and then go home and build your own. With what I have suggested you will have spent less than one hundred thousand baht. You won’t win, but you won’t come last either!