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Thread: How To Build a Race Car

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2006

    Default How To Build a Race Car

    Building a race car for competitive purposes may look like it's alot of work but in a few months time your average car enthusiast can accomplish quite a feat and end up with one of the most enjoyable cars they've ever driven.
    The Edmonton area is getting a new racetrack soon and competitive racing may very well be in for a boom in popularity, get yourself involved, build a car and come racing. Now is the time to start if you want to make it for the upcoming season.

    I'm going to write up a basic guideline on how to build a car for competitive racing in lower racing classes, we aren't looking at a GT3 build or spending large dollar amounts. I'm going to examine the basics of what you would need to do to prepare a car for competitive racing.

    Zhao will be doing a similar write up on how to get into Racing, he's a great theorist and way better at explaining that stuff then I am. I just make crappy video's and paint stuff so building a car is more my forte.

    1) Select a Car (think Cheap)

    Competitive racing will cost money and will cost alot more if you are not avoiding costly situations! Pick a car that can easily be maintained, has parts available and you can easily turn wrenches on. Rx7's are great, but have a supply of motors on hand. Civics, although FWD just don't break, I have never seen one dead on a track yet and they are an exceptional driver training car for a beginner racer. You don't have to worry about horsepower if you are club racing with cars in a similar class so don't go looking for a starter race car with 400hp.

    Top cars to pick for building an entry level race car.

    -Honda Civic good luck blowing up the motor! Parts are easily accesible, super easy to work on.
    -Dodge Neon probably will blow the motor, parts and replacement motors are inexpensive and easily accessible, great bang for the buck.
    -2nd Gen RX-7 RWD, semi-easy to work on, good support from Mazda Motorsports Development program. Fun to race!

    Remember the cheaper the car and more common, the less expensive it will be to maintain. Dont buy a european only model with absolutely no local parts available, your racing career won't last very long.

    2)Plan your project!

    If you do this... you're not going to be working on your car more then racing it!

    Plan your build. Read and research which class you can race in, buy your car and ensure it fits in a class you are suitable to be driving in. Review the regulations and become familiar with the requirements and modifications the car will need to meet the classes rules.
    Using the regulations purchase only the parts or safety equipment you need. You probably won't need a full fire suppression system buy may only need an onboard hand held fire extinguisher, so save yourself time and money by becoming very familiar with the regs!

    Basic parts of an entry level racecar.

    1)Rollcage , pretty much mandatory and although the car pictured above has one, it needs to be legal and safe. The regulations will explain what bracing is needed and even the diameter of tubing needed for strength.
    2)5 Point Safety Harness
    3)Window Net
    4)Kill Switch (complete car shut off in an emergency)
    5)Hood Pins many entry level classes require hoodpins, check your classes regulations if they are needed.
    6)Fire extinguisher (hand held is usually fine)
    7)Racing seat You don't need a Bride racing seat or anything fancy you'd find at a car meet. a 1 peice Kirkey seat or even in Chumpcar rules a seat with a welded frame (non reclining) is suitable.
    8)Upgraded Brakes
    9)Upgraded Cooling

    I highly recommend using Google Drive and their Spreadsheet application.
    Even getting a whiteboard and putting it in the garage with a copy of the rules printed out stuffed next to it is an excellent idea. The whiteboard allows you to see what is needed, cross off what is finished and always have an idea of what needs to be done to the car. Organization is huge when building the car and it helps you keep track of your goals and progress.

    3)Building your Race Car!

    First order of business with building a race car would be prepping it for a roll cage. While getting it ready for a cage it's a great oppurtunity to strip the car of all the excess interior panels and sound deadening material that would just add unnecessary weight. Get rid of it all! (mind your class regulations, too much weight reduction will require ballast in your car).

    Leave wiring that will be needed to make the car driveable , you will still need working taillights and possibly even headlights if you plan on racing at night! Airbag systems should be removed, I would also recommend removing stereo components and anything else that is absolutely not neccessary for the car to be safe, driveable and legal in the regulations.
    Leaving in factory gauges is a great idea and even complimenting them with a few aftermarket gauges to show more vital information is highly recommended. Coolant Temperature, Oil Pressure would be some of the more important ones to have displaying information to you during the course of a race. Make sure they are bright, in an easy to see spot and accurate. You will be focusing nearly all your attention on the other drivers and the track so mount the gauges accordingly.

    I won't explain how to build the cage, it may be something you would want a knowledgeable person who has done a few to take on this task for you. DIY cages are alot of labour and require many specialty tools.

    Chump car rules as an example require all glass except the front windshield be removed and lexan is an affordable replacement for all the glass except the front windshield on your car!

    Wiring in a Kill Switch is mandatory and it needs to fully disable the car in case of an emergency. Most common is a 4 post switch (pictured below).

    This needs to be wired in to the battery and the lead off of the alternator, it will interrupt the electronics of the vehicle to shut it down as well as disconnect the battery from the car to prevent a spark igniting fuel.

    Wiring is usually as follows.

    Chump car regulations also required the removal of the steering lock. This is done to prevent an accident caused by turning the key during a race locking the steering wheel. Each car is different but most of the time the lock cylinder bore has a keyway in it that can be removed with a grinder and the cylinder can be replaced. Most race cars just get a push button start to replace the lock cylinder anyway

    In the picture, the "dead bolt" is what will be removed.

    Tires: The tire selection process is usually dictated by the rules you are racing under. Spec Miata as an example has a spec tire, all competitors must run the same size tire and brand. Other racing classes may allow a certain treadware or just run strictly R Compounds.

    From researching tires sizes for racing the best deals seem to be in the 14" and 15" catagories. Try to avoid running a car with 17" or taller tires if you are trying to keep costs down.

    Fluids This is a good arguing point here but I will go out on a limb to say you get what you pay for and with driving a car for great periods of time with the rev limiter pinned would be a good reason to spend a few extra dollars to ensure you get high quality fluids.

    Fluids to change most often.

    Oil, Best to do this a minimum of each race weekend.
    Brake Fluid, check this after each race and best to flush after each race weekend.
    Differential fluid and transmission fluid , not sure the duration of use for a race car but there are plenty of veterans that can help solve this one.
    Coolant, Water! Demineralized water especially if you are running Aluminum components, this purer water will not oxidize the aluminum causing problems down the road.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2006


    Paint Get creative with this! It honestly doesn't have to look like it came out of the show room but should look presentable at the least. It's common to find roller paint jobs and single stage endura paint jobs so don't be afraid to take this one on yourself, it can be done cheap and look great.

    Endura usually runs $300.00 for 2 gallons of paint. Most cars only need 1 gallon for the outside body to be covered. A race car can easily be sanded, masked and sprayed in a booth for approxiamately $400.00 so it's a good starting point and of course it is limitless for what you can do for painting your car.

    Mounting a Seat and Safety Equipment

    Your 5 point safety harness needs to be mounted securely to the vehicle and may even require adding strength to the car where it will be mounted. 2 straps will come off the rollbar behind the seat , 2 straps will come in from the sides to cross the lap and can be mounted to the bolt holes for secureing the back of the seat and finally the "anti submarine strap" attaches under the middle of the seat and crosses the gentlemens area to prevent the driver from sliding out of the bottom of the seat.

    Brakes Most OEM braking systems will not be up to the task of repeatedly stopping a car for 30 minutes straight. Brakes are another very important aspects of building your race car and be sure to read which about which compounds will suit the weight of the car and braking power needed.
    The higher the friction produced the more likely it will be to lock a wheel so choose pads that suit your cars weight and brake bias. A Honda Civic CRX will probably not need the strongest hawk pads!

    4) Personal Safety Equipment

    Because road racing can be dangerous you are required to wear a plethora of safety equipment that will compliment the effectiveness of the roll cage in your car.

    Here is a list of usual personal safety equipment and average prices.

    -1 Peice Racing Suit $250.00
    -Headsock/Balaclava $20.00
    -Helmet $200.0
    -Fireproof underwear $70.00
    -Fireproof socks $20.00
    -Racing Shoes $80.00
    -Racing Gloves $40.00
    (Prices as shown on Pyrotect Corporate website)

    -Hans Device $750.00

    I will continue to add to this as I figure out more relevant information to post.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2006


    Stay Organized

    Get a binder and print out your regulations for your class. Put these in the binder and keep it in a place you can review them fast (garage , in the car, or at your desk in plain site). When purchasing parts or working on the car it's always good to pick up the rules and see what is required.

    Spec Miata wheels. 15x7 minimum 13lbs Had I not known that I could have bought a set of wheels that would not be eligible for racing.

    Use the binder to store receipts, the race car log book and to keep track of qualifying times, race finish position, fastest laps and what the weather and track conditions were like as well as any setup changes you made to the car between sessions.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2010


    Great idea , this will help people understand what it takes. One option is to buy a built car. Either way you need to service and maintian it and you do still have to go over every detail of a bought car, you just dont have to figure out how to build all of it. I know the thread is about building, for some, like me who are not that good a mechanic, buying is a option. For racing locally, you want to consult the rules on and since I believe chump car is going to part of many racers agenda, their rules at

    The nascc outlines the requirements of a cage, so does chump. I dont recommend you do it yourself if you dont know anything about it. I also dont recommend a bolt in because there are big problems with some of them. The rules outline the class specifications and requirements and also details on safety for building the necessary parts into your car.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2008


    This thread needs more talk about cages. Do NASCC races require FIA spec cages?
    780 tuners at its best right here

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Measuring your steering wheel's thickness while you sleep


    Quote Originally Posted by bowtie View Post
    This thread needs more talk about cages. Do NASCC races require FIA spec cages?

    ^All the regs you're looking for on one page
    Originally posted by Veer780
    If animals should be "released to live free" then why are people sitting in jails... they are technically animals too why aren't they free? PETA is stupid.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2006


    Do a search on "testicular rupture" then replace the 5-point harness info in the post above with info on 6-point harnesses. The scroth website has great images for mounting geometry.
    1987 951 - M193 Version for Japan

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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2007


    Good write up ..Never though of half of this

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2006


    Quote Originally Posted by flipper2007 View Post
    Good write up ..Never though of half of this
    There is still more and honestly I only know the basics myself and with building my Miata for racing i'm hoping to add to that with relevant experience. If a person plans on building a race car they have to have the ability to pull a motor or disassemble suspension without stressing about it so much of the information i've given may already be known by the person building the car.

    Right now is the time to build a car for road racing! Castrol Raceway is going to be the place to be on a weekend this summer with all the racing events available to watch and be involved in! People can come out and watch NASCC Club racing now and see what edmonton has for talented drivers. They can watch Zhao and I go toe to toe in our mazda machines (which many predict will not end well)....

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