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If you’re a beginner and you just found rallynotes.com, keep reading, your quest starts here.

Rally car jump

Building a rally car is something that is very rewarding, time consuming and expensive. My formula is: Take the cost of ANY car and add about $8000 and you will have a good budget for your first rally car. Did eight grand scare you a little? Good, because used rallycars can be found for $5000. That cost doesn’t include the $2000 each of safety gear you’ll be wearing. ($ in USD)

You’re going to want to prioritize your to-do list and start by gutting the car. Any mechanical issues that the model has will need to be solved. (AWS on VR4, Neon head gasket, Rear beam brake bias on VW’s, etc.) This stuff involves lurking on car forums and doing research on what works and what doesn’t in racing. Talk to people who have actually rallied. Don’t spend 1000 hours re-engineering something from the factory. The manufacturer spent a LOT of money to ensure the gas tank was in a safe place. Why are you spending hours setting up a fuel cell in the spare wheel well? You’d be surprised to see how much factory stuff is just fine working under rally conditions. Don’t run too many rally experiments your first time out.

Find a reputable roll cage fabricator. You could do it yourself, but I don’t recommend it. These guys have rally experience, they know what works and what doesn’t. At least consult with one before you start cutting tubes. A basic cage that will protect you in a crash is going to be around $2300 – $2800.

friendsGet some friends to help. Your mechanic buddy might groan when you ask him for help on a Friday night, but secretly he loves it. He loves knowing everything about your rally car, he talks about it at work, and he’ll love when you finish your first rally and bring it into the winners circle with his help. Compensate these guys by paying for their rally weekend. Cover the hotel and food.

Once the cage is in and seats are installed. Upgrade the suspension, and come up with a clever way to attach some HDPE plastic and 6061 3/16″ aluminum skid plates to the underside. I used angle iron on the side sills and some metal skis off the K-member. Then take it out for testing at a rallycross, dry lake-bed, or closed dirt road. You should have already had a conversation with a sanctioning body rally car inspector. Getting a logbook for your first rally car is a major milestone!

Going to start with a brand new co-driver? Go to a rally school that teaches co-driving skills. Rally volunteers have some patience for noobs, but getting 10 minutes of road points because you don’t understand how a time card works is embarrassing.

Read rules, rulebooks, and car classes. You’ve read them once? Read then again. Now all the little details need to get in place. Your orange triangles, your first aid kit, tow hooks, extinguishers, etc. Only after this is all figured out should you sign up for your first event. Do you have everything you need to pass tech at your first rally? I highly recommend hanging out in tech a few rallies before your first one. I learned a lot just watching the scrutineering process.

Your goal is to finish your first rally. You will learn an amazing amount of stuff about your car and yourself in one event. Now you can go forward and refine your driving, your car, and your rally skills.

Want an idea of what it’s like to build and race a rally car? Check out some of the highlights of the rallynotes.com archive. Goals Achieved at GormanThe Olympus StoryThe Black Canyon VideoThe 2008 USRC Production 2WD ChampionsRally car project number 2
Thanks for joining us!
– Kris

The 2GN gets dropped off for its roll cage

Streetwise MotorsportsThere was some excitement this morning in the rallynotes.com garage. The 2GN was loaded up onto the tow dolly and brought down to Streetwise Motorsports for roll cage fabrication. We’re looking to get her back in July, but in the mean time we have some electrical issues to sort out on Ze’Neon (our first rally car) and some serious garage reorganization.

Quick note on choosing a builder: I’ve been talking with Doug at Streetwise about the 2GN rollcage details over the last month (and known him for about 4 years) and I think it’s important that you have a good working relationship with your cage builder – as their work is what really makes a strong and safe rally car. Sure, you and your buddies can weld up a cage, but consider that someone who has built a number of cars, and been around rally for years, is going to have a lot more experience with what works and what doesn’t.

Race seats will be on order shortly. Pictures of the build, fitment, and process to follow!

Seam welding, mock up, and fabrication

Seam or stitch welds.
Seam welding, or stitch welding, is where you take and join the layers of metal at the seams on a chassis. Modern uni-body cars are made up of dozens of pieces of steel that they spot weld together. Spot welding is fine for a street car, but spot welds start to pop in a car that is bounced, jumped, bumped, twisted, and raced. As we want to build in some serious longevity into this car, we’re taking the time to weld all the metal panels together.

My friend Erik came over with his welder (Thanks Erik! :D) and we started with the interior. I had prepped a bunch of areas by grinding the paint away and we were able to get through it quickly. We still have the rear strut towers, trunk, and undercarriage to do.

Dashboard mock up
I’ve had parts of the dashboard in and out of the car a dozen times. I want to see what is going to work and what won’t, and the best way to do this is to mock it up using a couple of bolts just to hold it in place. All of the extraneous plastic and metal is out of the dashboard and the HVAC system and piping has been reduced to a minimum. I actually think I’ll duct the floor heat, making it better then it ever was. 🙂

steering modification
The heavy fabrication was done yesterday with a new steering wheel, extension, steering quickener, and floor mounted gas pedal. I had just about given up on the “tilt wheel” with the Howe 1.5:1 quickener, but I was able to make it work after an hour of critically examining the steering. I modified the cast piece that hinges the column up and down, and was able to slide the housing of the quickener into it. Now I just need a bracket from the upper part of the column to support the quickener. While I was at it I solved an issue where the aftermarket steering adapters don’t reset the blinker. Adding two small threaded posts with a plastic covering on them I was able to restore functionality. Check out the quick video of the steering blinker reset in action.

Taking my time during fabrication means I’ll have no-compromise steering, A gas pedal in a Neon that I can actually heel-toe with, and a car that is ready for whatever rally can throw at it.

The Motor is out, now for serious business.

2.0L motor pulled from the Neon SXTLast weekend a gathering of rally friends helped take out the 2.0L 420A. This was made easier by taking a Sawzall to the radiator support. 🙂 As we were taking the motor out we discovered some pretty serious damage to the bottom core support and the wiring harness that goes to the lights. This had been ground into by the AC compressor upon hitting whatever bent the metal of the front end. 😮 This explains the melted connector on the back of the headlight switch and the crackle sparking sounds when I turned on the fog lights.

Next is a serious discussion about the roll cage design for the 2GN. When I built the first Rally Neon I was hesitant to put any info of authority on rallynotes. I was new and didn’t want to come off like some expert on the rules for roll cage design. This time around I’m still no expert, but I’ll show you what we’re planning.

Roll cage options for door bars.This is my proposal for a door bar layout. I think the door bars are one of the most critical areas and it’s important to balance safety with the ability to get in and out of the car.

The rules: NASA RallySport / Rally America Both sanctioning bodies have a slightly different view of the best method for coming up with a safe roll cage. I could write a book about the complex differences between the two organizations, but I’ll summarize what you need to know: Both organizations accept each others log book. NASA Rally Sport requires FIA seats and Rally America as of this writing does not. Which rule-set should you use? YMMV. Find someone who has been building rally roll cages for a few years and has some experience.

The sill bar. Back in 2003 when SCCA was running the show, there was a movement in the rules to get an additional door bar added. Before this, you only needed 1 bar going from the main hoop to the front A-pillar. I can’t even imagine sliding sideways at 90MPH with a single 1.5″ door bar… Then again, cars used to be made from steel and not hydroformed .0025″ thick zinc coated plastic sheets. 😉 The solution was to add a straight bar from the main hoop to the A-Pillar close to the floor on the sill. A lot of rallyists started adding the full “X” WITH a sill bar, but the minimum in the rules (as of mid-2011) is only 2 door bars. Sill bar and a diagonal, OR just the “X”. After seeing a car take a tree stump in the door with just the “X” – we’ll be adding the additional sill bar.

The bar from the corner of the windshield to the floor (along the A-Pillar) is now mandatory and we’re considering adding it to our production car. These cars are “jellybeans” and where a 1988 VW makes a 45% bend for the windshield, the Dodge “cab forward” design is this 15% decaying slope that needs to be strengthened if it’s to survive a hit there.

If this design looks impossible to get in or out of the car with, consider that the stock dash extends beyond where the A-Pillar diagonal is, and the proposed door bars are no higher then the ones in our Production car. Will the full “X” make it a little harder to get in and out? I’m sure. Will we be going a little faster then in our Production car? Absolutely!