Sunday, March 12, 2017

Charlie's Ramshackle Race Team... In Theory

I have an idea.  I want to go racing.  There are some nearby events that would be a lot of fun to attend, but they involve a crew and more money than I currently have to invest in this.  There are the two annual Chump Car events at Road America along with other days where for $300 and tech inspection you can do practice laps.  Down in Joliet, IL, they have a 24 Hours of Lemons race.  I forget if it's once or twice a year, but it'd be fun to join in and experience it.  There's Grid Life over at Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, MI, which although it's not a cheap car ideology, I think my concept of a race car would fit in fine over there.  They're a kind of racing and music festival with a good deal of camping going on, and it sounds like fun.  I'm pretty sure Chump Car and Lemons also race there.  I'm currently unaware of any other road racing within a doable driving distance from home, but I try to keep my ears open just in case.  There is, however, plenty of places to autocross, and this intrigues me very much.  While this is more of a solo race, I would still be able to let other guys in the team take turns driving it.

Could be a lot of fun.
We know where I want to race, so why not get on with the what and the how already?!  I mentioned in a previous blog how is like to build a Fiero Kart along the same concept of Roadkill's Vette Kart, but I was thinking about it the other day, and realized that if you find a good looking one and strip it carefully, you could make it Lemons legal which automatically makes it Chump Car legal.  If I can find one that's solid underneath and has good looking body panels and interior, I should be able to sell the body plastic and interior to refund the purchase price of the car and probably even pay for the steel for the roll cage.  The only other thing I'd need to be careful on when selecting the car would be to make sure it has the good Getrag 5-speed.  The trans and subframe would likely need to be bolstered a bit to compensate for what I want to do to it, but that shouldn't be too bad.

Look at how light that would be and how quickly that could move.
The rules impose a fairly strict budget.  Chump Car simply says a vehicle with a market value of $500, but Lemons says only actually spending $500 with the ability to sell parts to recoup costs and stay on budget.  I would like to upgrade the brakes, seats, wheels, and tires because they don't count in the budget for the rules, but there is one thing that I'd change that would be a possible penalty worth taking.  This thing would be a rocket with a small block Chevy swapped in, and you can get those motors for dirt cheap.  The beauty of this is that it's so light and nimble, I could install the junkiest barely running 350 or even 305 and it'd still have enough power to really move on the track and be a contender.  In fact, it would be better to have a junk motor because then there's less likelihood of crashing do to spinouts or over driving it.  Don't get me wrong, I'd love to eventually rebuild it and make some better power, but the point is learning the car and you don't need that much power because of the weight.  Eventually, when I'm done with Lemons and Chump Car and want to stick to autocross, I'll put a suspension in it, and then it'll really handle well.  That's further down the road though.

Something like this would only be a starting point.
That's all well and good, but the rules state a 4-6 person driving team.  Here's where the plan gets good.  I know some guys who would be more than likely interested in being able to race cars on the weekend if only they could afford to, but between families and other monetary obligations, they simply can't afford the money or the time that you would feel you need to put in to make the investment worth the money.  On the other hand, you can get a Fiero on Craigslist pretty often for under $1000.  My goal is to find a solid, good looking Fiero that doesn't run for as close to $500 as possible with the possibility to go lower always appreciated.  Then I want to convince these guys that this is a good idea and we should all pitch in $100.  I'm also looking to find a good 305 or 350 for under $200.  Once the guys are onboard and the car is purchased, we'll go about stripping the interior and body and selling it on Craigslist or eBay to refund our purchase to reinvest into roll cage, brakes, tires, and whatever else we'll need.

See?  They let anything in
If we can keep it at that $100/team member, that'll be awesome.  The only other thing would be splitting the entrance fees and fuel costs of each event and getting them to all commit for at least a season, which is really just three events.  It should be a doable investment of both time and money, and if they decide it was fun, but I'm done, we can always buy them back out at the end of the season.  I'm not sure how many seasons I'd want to do Chump Car and Lemons, but when we're done, I really want to go autocross racing with it.  That'd be fun.  Now I just need to find my team.

We want to go racing!
He said, "take my picture."  How could I say no?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Fiero Kart

It's no surprise to anyone that I miss my Fiero.  That thing didn't last very long, and for how many decades I'd been wanting one, it is definitely not out of my system.  Those things are really fun to drive and can be made to handle really well.  I also have this bad idea about using a Fiero to one-up Roadkill's Vette Kart.  I also like Mad Max cars and autocross... Separately.  Then I saw something that put it all together for me.

I need another project car.
This is a Fiero that has shed its body in the pursuit of being a kit car.  But look at it!  That thing with a cage and some different tread and a better motor would be a killer autocross car.  Not only that, but it would fit perfectly into my motorsport fantasy where I would buy a cheap car, prep the chassis, enter it in Lemons and Chump Car, and modify it until it gets disqualified.  Then I can do road course or autocross and have a sweet race car that I could probably drive to work sometimes.  I only live an hour from Road America, there are groups that run autocrosses in Milwaukee, it'd be hilarious to take on Power Tour, and it'd be a riot on twisty backroads.  I just need to find a clean car for cheap.

Doesn't this look like the Fiero of the apocalypse?!
This one too.
If I was going to do this, I'd want to do it right.  While the removal and sale of body panels would pay for the car and increase our Lemons budget, the addition of the roll cage would literally outweigh any kind of weight reduction you would've been hoping for.  The 4-cylinder is really only good for gas mileage, and the stock 6 is a dog.  If I was building a modified Fiero GT (with a body), I'd go with a 3.8 GTP motor because they're great in every aspect, but this car is crazy, so why not keep it that way?  They always say a 350 bolts right up to the bellhousing on the Getrag 5-speed; why not just use that?!  Even the most used up junkyard 350 will be too much power for this car.  It would be hilarious to autocross this with a turd of a used V8 just to see how well it'd do and how mad people would be if you won.  The fact that you can use huge sticky tires will help keep it going the right way too.  This could be a rocket.

This was an interesting cage concept I found.
So the plan is all figured out, I just need an extra grand and a couple good Craigslist scores.  This needs to happen, and I need to take it to Summer Nationals and Roadkill Nights and pit it against the Vette Kart to see if it's a better choice of platform than theirs.  Gotta have goals, and it pays to have fun ones!

Roadkill's Vette Kart.
What could be the Fiero Kart