IMCA Modified Kit Car

I just read your article on doing things the old way (“Track Tech Q&A” Sept. ’13). Well, I’m one of those people with a short budget and everything is done the old way for my IMCA Modified. I have built my own engine and it is just as good if not better than just writing the check, not to mention much cheaper.

I first went through the Speedway Motors catalog, picked out all the parts I wanted in the engine, then took the block to my machine shop with the pistons and had it cleaned and bored with the torque plates so everything was perfect and that only cost about $250.

I then brought the block home and assembled the engine very carefully and ended up with a very stout, very reliable, and all brand-new 355 for about $2,300. And it runs with the best of them and there is not a part in the engine that is not meant for racing; studs, windage trays, good rods and pistons, and lightweight crank. The whole nine yards most people pay for and don’t know even what they have. In my opinion Speedway makes the whole process of doing it this way painless.

—Unsigned

Dear Mr. Unsigned,

You are just the type of racer I was talking about. There are many race parts distributors who work just like Speedway. The key is now having the more precise manufacturing of parts by the motor parts companies. These parts fit better than what I was used to way back in the ’60s and ’70s when most teams built their own motors.

This same thing can be done with the chassis. The current chassis builders can offer kits that can be sold by Speedway type distributors and packaged so that the racer can weld, assemble, and complete the car him/herself.

If I were a current, popular car builder, I would think hard about offering a kit in addition to turn key cars. Then, many more racersmay opt to build a new car from the kit rather than trying to work with a worn out and flexy chassis.

A Great Example For Kit Car Success

First off, I’m from the road racing world and not a roundy-round guy, but I certainly appreciate all the effort CT racers go through, compared to road racing. CT racers are the kings at understanding suspension set-up, as it is 10 times as complicated as road racing. I found that out traveling with Don Alexander, Smokey Yunick, et al., when we did the Think-To-Win suspension seminar series sponsored, in part, by Circle Track magazine, in the ’90s.

I read with interest your latest CT column on kit-cars-for-racers and you’re correct about everything you mentioned in your article. A racing kit car is absolutely a viable entity. Creating the kit-car is the easy part, now that you have the racing kit car, what are you going to do with it. What venue are you going to run this kit car in, a venue so appealing that it will attract enough entrants to support a lasting venue sponsorship and strong enough to make this kit car an acceptable economic enterprise for all the potential racing wannabe’s out there to get involved.

And when you say kit car, you have to mean “all the same,” which converts into a spec series, otherwise, competing with a kit car versus “lots of money racing” will never work, as you well know. So SCCA’s Spec Miata/Sealed Miata comes to mind. The Miata is absolutely the epitome of a mass-production donor for a kit car. It’s cheap, readily available for over 20 years, you can use junk yard motors, and is so successful, that frankly, if it were to go away, the SCCA could, conceivably, come to an end, at least on the amateur level.

That series is a stone winner, and has been for decades. Closer to the CT front, however, is another SCCA road racing car called the GTA, which for all intensive purposes, was meant to be a “NASCAR” kit car for road racing. It’s a great car, fast, V-8 crate Chevy, but a failure as the support venue to race it on any “equal terms” and failed after a year or two.

So how come Spec Miata works sensationally with the SCCA, and yet the SCCA GTA idea failed. There are three main reasons, in my opinion. First is cost to build the car, maintain it, and race it; ”bang for the buck.” GTA is going to cost $30,000-$40,000, with real world racer-high maintenance, the Miata is around $8,000-$15,000 average. Maintenance and tires are as low as it gets, yet the racing thrill is a good as it gets with both.

Second is the fact that there is now so much cheap “racing thrills” available to the common man, without getting into “fender banging racing,” which takes a major commitment, and money. I’m talking about one-day track events, and so on. I have coached, as well as driven, a ton of entry-level “street-guy-racing-wannabe’s” at one-day track events in their BMWs, Corvettes, Porsches, and more, and these cars handle like you wouldn’t believe. A $300 track day, with or without a coach in the car, I have found without question, satisfies the majority’s need for speed and they can drive the car home after the event.

Third, and probably the most subjective, is the fact that the upcoming generations have so many diversions available to them to occupy their time. There are cheap diversions that can completely dominate their existence like gaming, simulators, and so on, and this concept extends all over the country, including the South, Midwest, and so forth.

Keep up the great work Bob.

—Dave Mani, Mani Motorsports

Dave,

Thanks so much for writing and offering your comments. The Miata is definitely a winner class that has many of the attributes of the kit car we are envisioning. The difference is that once the chassis becomes a kit car item, we already have brand-new engine parts available to the racers for ordering and assembling.

I think also, the engine parts distributors must take a bit of time and effort to create a build list that incorporates every part that will be needed for a particular class of engine. As for individual parts, the piston for example, could have three or more different manufacturers suggested in the build list that would each meet the specs for that part. Then the racer can decide which company he wants to use.