The desert is not my climate. There is no dry wastelands in Sweden. No Death Valley in Ireland. I don’t know of any sandy Polish beaches, or dry English weather. Never the less – here I am in sunny California.
When Christine and I worked The Tree Line Rally, we noticed a number of drivers sporting ‘cool suits’ – or ‘cool shirts’. Basically a T-shirt with 50′ of capillary tubing sewn to it. This shirt is hooked into a cooler with ice water packed into it. A 12v pump circulates the water through the shirt – or shirts in our case. It’s high and low tech at the same time.
Shortly before The Gorman Ridge Rally, we picked up a kit. We wanted a two person unit. We wanted the ability to run the ice water through my shirt first and then into Christine’s, and we wanted it to not cost a fortune. This took a little legwork, but we managed to save some cash on it. There are ‘Rally’ systems out there for deep into $900.
For starters, there is no way making the shirt yourself will save you any cash. The tubing is cheap, but for the $120, pay someone else to worry about stabbing a sewing needle through a piece of tubing. Fitting a 12V pump into a Coleman cooler is pretty easy to do, but I didn’t want to spend the time and money looking for PVC fittings and tube, and glue, and pipe, at Home Depot. Yeah, it’s $80 worth of parts for a $200 cooler – but you have to account for the 4 hours it’s going to take YOU to put it together. I thought there would be a bit more engineering hidden inside the cooler, but it’s a 12V submersible pump sealed inside a cooler with 2 dry break fittings and a wire hanging out. I’m sure I’ll tinker with the design. Some sort of ‘peltor effect’ cooler attached to the incoming lines? All the lines all use off the shelf shutoff valve fittings that took me 2 minutes to locate on McMaster. *cough 51545K74 & 51545K91 We bought the shirts from Safe Racer and the cooler from Fresh Air Systems Technologies.
Since we’re already modifying the design for use with a driver and co-driver, the insulated lines are where we saved most of the money for the system. Instead of buying $200 worth of lines and still needing to modify them by joining them together to work off of one cooler, we picked up about $60 worth of fittings and used $15 of thick silicone hose that we procured at a racer garage sale. Zip tie some pipe insulation to that and you have a custom rally setup for less then $550.
So, now the question becomes – Is it worth it? Yes! Everyone told me Gorman was going to be hot. Having spent a total of 12 minutes inside the car at a rallycross in San Bernardino told me it was going to be very hot. Adding the fire suit, gloves, socks, etc. could have pushed us to the limit. I put on the cool shirt and race suit Saturday morning and I started to sweat. Just standing around the hotel and I was already uncomfortable. I panted in front of the AC while we waited for our ‘out’ time. “This thing better work.”
Strapping into the rallycar, there is now one more thing to attach and detach. I belted myself in and started up the cooler. “WOAH.” We both said. The rush as the cold water hits the lower back wakes you right up. It’s quite like slipping into a pool of cool water. You stop panting. You sweat less. You forget it’s there. Don’t get me wrong – It’s still friggen hot in the car. The air is hot and you’re working to toss the car around so it’s no Barco Lounger in the shade, but it is much better then it could be. After 4 stages we ran out of ice water and I could tell. Sweat glands in my forehead started gushing sweat into my eyes. The last few minutes of the stage were rough and hot. At service I made sure to PACK that baby full of ice.
We wore them at the rallycross on Sunday. Then I knew we’d be in Vegas traffic when we left, so we wore them home. In a hot rallycar with no AC the cool suits are fantastic.