building

Resources for the amateur car designer and builder

Learning Car Design and Construction

Stock Car (Scratch-Built/Late Model)

Aerodynamic Design and Simulation/CFD

Building Your Own Race Car or High-Performance Vehicle

Building Your Own Race Car or High-Performance Vehicle

Automobiles first began with the DIY (Do-it-yourself) car builder. The first designers and builders had experience with mechanical devices and machines, but the art and science of car design had yet to develop. The first road cars and race cars, as can be seen from the photo below, were evolutions of horse-drawn carriages. Although the automobiles initial purpose was horse-less transportation, the competitive urge soon took over.

First American auto race, circa 1895 in Chicago

Would-be race car drivers and budding automobile enthusiasts had the desire to build these new Horseless carriages and to race them and win. They wanted to build the fastest machine to do it. They used the body of mechanical knowledge and the latest technologies of their time and began to innovate to find a speed advantagebetter handling, better braking, more power!

Fast forward to today, and almost everything you need to know about designing and constructing a car, even to the level of a Formula One race car, has been written or documented somewhere.

You therefore have the knowledge within your grasp to design and construct your own car, whether it be for racing or for personal pleasure. With time, dedication and hands-on experience, you can make your own home-built car dreams happen!

There are some great reasons to build your own car:

You want to improve on an existing car design

Cars are a constantly evolving breed. New technology, new materials, new ideas come along all the time and they create genuine opportunities to make a better car by modifying it.

You want to build a prototype of a whole new type of car

Sometimes you have a dream to make a whole new type of racing car or sports car or off-road machine or hybrid go-kart.

You want to learn about car engineering

Studying a subject gives us the knowledge and confidence to try it. Often the journey to building a car begins with you just wanting to learn.

The worlds greatest race car drivers have been noted for their engineering prowess. Bruce McLaren, Junior Johnson, and Jack Brabham all knew how to put together a car and their cars and championships prove that point.

Sometimes the car youd like to build is just way beyond your budget. A strong knowledge in car design and a willingness to do the construction work yourself can save a lot of money over purchasing even a modest purpose-built race car. When we talk about the price and uniqueness of Supercars, the DIY approach is probably the only way most people will step into a car capable of compressing their eyeballs. The bonus is that in the end youre smarter and you own the tools to do the job.

There are many different types of race and custom, high-performance cars, each with its own build difficulty level.As a general rule, the level of challenge increases the further you get from a stock production automobile.

The most basic racing or performance car can be had by modifying your own personal car. When raced, this type of race car is often referred to as an Autocross/Solo race car because only one car is allowed on track at a time. The competitors race in similar cars but against the stopwatch instead of on-track at the same time. This minimizes the danger of damage and injury.

SCCA Autocross car (top) and Stohr F1000 formula car (bottom)

For a reasonably low investment, Autocross racing enables you to learn mechanics, hone your driving skills and have a great time. The design and construction includes modifying your car within the rules to have optimum performance so it is a great place to start as an aspiring car designer. Plus you can still drive it on the road assuming you dont make illegal modifications.

At the other end of the spectrum is the scratch built car. Examples includeformula cars,supercars,drag racers,off-road trucks,sprint carsandstock cars. For an amateur builder, this type of car typically uses a custom fabricated steel tube-typechassiscovered with custom metal or fiberglassbodywork. The challenge level of design and construction is usually much greater than customizing a production automobile, but the performance that you can achieve is amazing as well.

There are also what might be called kit cars, which blend do-it-yourself assembly with pre-fabricatedchassisand components.

Here are some keys points to remember if you want to be successful at building your own car:

The more you understand about vehicle physics, about car components, about materials, and about the options available to you, the better the car youll build. Ask questionsthe knowledge of others can be just as helpful as that found in books.

Good luck to you on your project! Building your own race or high-performance vehicle is indeed a special accomplishment to be proud of!

Amateur built 750 Racers from the UK (Photo from750 Racer: Everything You Need to Know About Building and Racing a Low-Cost Sports-Racing Carbook by Peter Herbert/Dick Harvey)

P.S. If you need help, weve put together a newforum, where like-minded amateur designers can come to post questions and answers.

Post your questions and well try to help out.Sign upand join in today!

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