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BoxheadCougarTim
BoxheadCougarTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/12/18 6:08 p.m.

So, I have this Formula First that I bought in "race ready" condition. It's certainly race ready by the definition of one of the old timers in my local SCCA chapter[1].

The main problem is that the car is turning into one of those Russian Doll projects - you open one can of worms only to find the next one nestled inside. Some of this would've been visible with a better initial inspection, but some of it required taking the car apart further than I originally wanted to.

For example, a busted spark plug thread turned into a partial top end rebuild. I now get to redo part of the valve train because it looks like the aftermarket rocker shaft has been assembled and shimmed wrong by a supposed egg-spurt (which at least explains why I had trouble pulling the rocker shaft off). Oh, and the transmission input shaft appears to have a lot of sideway play. I'll have to research that, but I suspect that a VW Bug transmission input shaft probably shouldn't have a lot of sideways play. At least, it doesn't feel right to me.

Other issues are a broken brake bias adjuster that appears to have a few parts missing, plus some additional issues I found last night I can't even remember.

So all in all, it's a project. And at the current pace, a project that will be done in a couple of years' time. It's not like I want to go racing or anything...

Short of slapping it back together and hope for the best - which is the current plan - what's GRM's opinion when one should pull the plug on a (cheap, it's one step up from an FV) race car and look for a better basis? Especially as I expect to only race thing car for 2-3 years anyway before moving to something with a bit more Oomph.

[1] His definition of race ready was "ready to be taken apart before you can race it".

imgon
imgon Reader
2/12/18 6:37 p.m.

It is a slippery slope. If you dive in and fix everything you will at least have a *known" vehicle at least as far as all your repairs. But if you think that that will be more $ than you care to spend then try to unload it and look for something in a little better shape. Maybe look for a replacement first to see what is available. I swore after I built my first car that the next one would be already set up, however when it came time to replace the first one I could not find anything I thought was reasonable, so built a second one. In the end it cost a little more than I wanted but I am confident in all the components and feel it was worth it. I feel like you can invest some good time and money because you end up knowing that everything is in good condition and working properly when you are screaming around a track. 

Donebrokeit
Donebrokeit SuperDork
2/12/18 6:39 p.m.

This is not a easy question to answer. The two driving points for me are time to complete and total cost but there is also the dedication side of this project.

 

What about keeping it and just renting a seat for the season? This way you can still race and not have to worry about making the grid on Friday.

 

Paul

BoxheadCougarTim
BoxheadCougarTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/12/18 6:47 p.m.

In reply to imgon:


It's not so much the dollars that are the issue - most of the parts that are stock-ish VW are pretty cheap. For me the big issue is time, I have much less of that than I have cash. Not that I'm swimming in the latter. I get the bit about spending some time on the car to make sure it's right, but I suspect I'm a little too detail oriented and can't let things slide that I probably should let slide.

BoxheadCougarTim
BoxheadCougarTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/12/18 6:53 p.m.
Donebrokeit said:

This is not a easy question to answer. The two driving points for me are time to complete and total cost but there is also the dedication side of this project.

Definitely aware of the dedication side, it's the time to completion when you're away from home as much as I am. That's why I tried to find a turnkey car in the first place.

 

What about keeping it and just renting a seat for the season? This way you can still race and not have to worry about making the grid on Friday.

Yeah, been thinking about that. I'm keeping renting as an option, but I'm not sure that I want to keep renting a faster car (as I'd probably be looking at a Formula Ford or similar) while I'm trying to build up the slower car...

I'll have to see what people are selling in the classes I'm available and also see if I can actually see the car on the track before spending money. Although the car I bought was on track a couple of months before I handed over the cash...

loosecannon
loosecannon Dork
2/12/18 7:01 p.m.

When you find the answer, please tell me

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/12/18 7:24 p.m.

In reply to BoxheadCougarTim :

I would have cut bait on the Vette last year if I'd a.) not felt guilty for having such a long build thread, then just dropping it, and b.) reached a point where I'd not lost my ass selling it. 

If I were in your position, I'd fix what I reasonably had time to do, hire out what I didn't, and get it to the point it's ready to get out on track - even if it's not sorted. At that point, decide if you want to take it through those next steps, or sell it and move on. 

Donebrokeit
Donebrokeit SuperDork
2/12/18 9:14 p.m.

Tim, based on what you have posted if I was in your shoes I would sell this car and see if you can find a seller who is willing to let you "rent/ test drive" the car he is selling. I have seen this happen a few times over the years, the buyer seem to feel better about buying a used race car after putting a few good runs on it.

 

Paul B

intrepid
intrepid New Reader
2/12/18 10:21 p.m.

There really is no such thing as race ready, at least that is the best policy to start from with any car. The one good thing you can say about formula cars is that they are relatively easy to take apart and get back together. I can certainly say it gets easier after you have done it two or three times.

Some of this sounds like typical stuff for a race car. I've got a club ford that I bought "race ready" two years ago. I've been working on it sporadically since I got it, and it might be ready in two or three months if I reallly push.

I can really only offer one thing regarding the specific issues you raise. The tranny input shaft play may not be a problem. At least, I had a similar experience with a hewland on another car, and several people told me it was not a problem. I put it all back together, and it has been fine for six years.

In any case it is not a daily driver, so you might want to take a few days and see how you feel after some time away from it.

Good luck,

-chris r.

intrepid
intrepid New Reader
2/12/18 10:28 p.m.

In reply to intrepid:

One other thing...I assume you are a member of ApexSpeed? If not you should join ASAP. You will probably get more useful advice regarding formula/race cars there.

-chris r.

ckosacranoid
ckosacranoid SuperDork
2/12/18 11:21 p.m.

It might be worth getting a race shop to look over the car and give you a heads up of what might be might need to done to get the car ready to race and then that way you decide what to do and have list of things that if you do want to get rid of the car you can past that list onto the next person to buy it.

BoxheadCougarTim
BoxheadCougarTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/13/18 10:56 a.m.

In reply to ckosacranoid :

The idea with the race shop did cross my mind, problem is there aren't many out here and the one I semi-trust is booked solid for months. So right now it's on me to get the car at least somewhat race ready.

In reply to intrepid :

Yep, I'm on ApexSpeed. Guys over there have been very helpful so far. Part of the issue is that there are very few cars of this class on the West Coast (they're more of an East Coast class), so not many people have experience with them out here. Which makes ApexSpeed invaluable.

Spending a few days away from the car is the norm for me - which is partially why it's taking me this long to work on something relatively simple. I'm usually out of town Mon-Fri and have to cram in time with my wife, home maintenance, some DD maintenance and race car wrenching all into the weekend. Which is why I tried to find a proper, buy-it-and-stick-it-on-the-track car. Hey, we all have our hopes and dreams.

In reply to Donebrokeit  & Pete Gossett:

I definitely want to get to the point where the car is back together and running, but I am keeping my eye out for a reasonably affordable car that I'd be interested in at the same time.

BoxheadCougarTim
BoxheadCougarTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/13/18 11:34 a.m.

Oh, and apparently, having scary amounts of play in the input shaft is normal for these gearboxes due to the way the input shaft is supported (or rather, not supported when the gearbox isn't hooked up to the motor).

intrepid
intrepid New Reader
2/13/18 5:02 p.m.

I understand the time issues. I work in high tech, and struggle with the work life balance. Adding racing into the equation really upsets what little balance I might otherwise achieve. Unfortunately, I don't know of any race cars that work for arrive and drive for those of use who lack bags of spare cash. They all seem to require constant attention. So, to support my racing habit, I try to avoid tv and the internet (at least sometimes) and spend evenings in the garage.

One thing that has helped somewhat is that I farm out most of my engine work to an engine builder. Yes, it costs more and sometimes I feel a bit guilty that I could, at least theoretically, do the work myself; but it does help with the time issues. I can at least mostly treat the motor as a sealed unit that I just take in and out of the car as needed. I still adjust valves and change the spark plugs and oil and other things like that, and I fine tune the carb jetting and timing, but I don't really worry about the big stuff. This has worked well for me for ten or more years.

The other advantage to this approach is that I usually have a high degree of confidence in the power and reliability of my motor and I can worry about other things during most race weekends. The motor arrives dyno tested, so I have confidence that I can just drop it in the car and it will work and produce the expected power. I don't know that this approach will help your current problems, but it might be something to consider in trying to achieve that work/life/racing balance.

One day, if I ever get to retire, I may get to try building my own race motor.

 

-chris r.

 

wearymicrobe
wearymicrobe UberDork
2/13/18 7:00 p.m.

Sorrys its a vw. The transmission play is normal. Find a set of heads cheap on apex or craigslist and a bias valve at summit and slap the thing back together.

All of these things are cheap to fix and any competent shop can handle it cheap as well in a afternoon.

The real issue is that there is way way way more then that buried in that car. If you found this with minimal issues then there has to be other nastiness hiding. Dragging a car to the track and having it fail is not my idea of fun.

Get it running, pass on the bad juju to the next owner.

TasdevEngineer2of3
TasdevEngineer2of3 New Reader
2/13/18 9:28 p.m.

From my perspective, your experience has some parallels with project management - with many projects it all boils down to 3 things usually being the most important - schedule (or time), quality (or reliability/performance) or cost - at any point during the project you can pick two of the three - you cant have all three.

During my years of FV, I had two cars. The first was your average 20 year old car in decent but not great shape - many folks but not me would consider it race ready. I spend weeks with a frame up clean-up/inspect/fix - spent a few bucks but not that many. Most of my spending on that car came from "its not fast enough." My upgrades spending was about 50% the initial investment.  Yup - I sold it after 4 or 5 years in much better shape than when it arrived.

Second car was brand spanking new - from a "kit." I added running gear and again weeks of labor. No upgrades were ever needed - just an improved driver. However many bucks spent on maintenance (aka that hulking  59 horsepower air cooled wonder). Yup - sold it after some years in top notch shape - well beyond race ready. All told probably spent 30 percent more than the first car.

From my project management perspective  above - I picked cost and quality and spent a ton of time in the garage. Yup - have a full time management job (hours/week??), a full time wife, and a son that was 3 when I started and life in general. It was a sweet time in my life.

I saw too many folks that "raced" that didn't choose or didn't realize you could only pick two of the three. Typically they were late or broke or broken or dnf or dns or pissed or at home watching the ball game.

Of course, your experience may be different. Regardless - enjoy.

BoxheadCougarTim
BoxheadCougarTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/14/18 10:44 a.m.

Yeah, it's definitely a project management deal, and that's more or less what I'm treating it as.

Schedule and Quality are the two picks, and of course that means everything is taking forever. But the closest track is a 150 mile tow...

APEowner
APEowner GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
2/14/18 11:15 a.m.

It seems to me that you're not at a place in your life where owning a racecar makes sense.  I think you're a perfect candidate for some kind of arrive and drive program.  If you only do three or for races a year you may even find that it's cheaper. 

docwyte
docwyte SuperDork
2/14/18 12:38 p.m.

In reading all your threads, beyond some consistently bad luck with vehicles, I'm struck with one real thought.

You just don't have the time to handle all the project stuff you want to do.  This is complicated by the lack of a good, trusted shop that you can farm all the work out to.

Honestly I'd sell anything that's a "project".  Sell the RX8, sell the race car/trailer, sell anything that's not late model and doesn't need anything but oil changes and gas to keep it going.

Then decide what you want to do.  My suggestion is either take the ND or MINI out to auto-x and/or light track days, or see if you can do an "arrive and drive" either in a race or DE setting.  Even tho arrive and drive seems like a lot of money, I think it may be cheaper for you.

You'll save a ton of time (which is short supply for you) plus save in prep costs,repair costs, etc, etc.  You can do what you really want, which is to have a fun time at the track...

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
2/14/18 1:09 p.m.
docwyte said:

In reading all your threads, beyond some consistently bad luck with vehicles, I'm struck with one real thought.

You just don't have the time to handle all the project stuff you want to do.  This is complicated by the lack of a good, trusted shop that you can farm all the work out to.

Honestly I'd sell anything that's a "project".  Sell the RX8, sell the race car/trailer, sell anything that's not late model and doesn't need anything but oil changes and gas to keep it going.

Then decide what you want to do.  My suggestion is either take the ND or MINI out to auto-x and/or light track days, or see if you can do an "arrive and drive" either in a race or DE setting.  Even tho arrive and drive seems like a lot of money, I think it may be cheaper for you.

You'll save a ton of time (which is short supply for you) plus save in prep costs,repair costs, etc, etc.  You can do what you really want, which is to have a fun time at the track...

Winner winner chicken dinner.

 

Tyler H
Tyler H GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
2/14/18 2:07 p.m.

The thing is with race cars, especially old ones -- you're in for this much or more prep/repair after every weekend, or even during the weekend.  

Prep, repair, and getting your credit card statement the Monday after the race are the biggest parts of the racing experience.

What I'm hearing is latent stress from your job.  Forgetting about that for a couple days is the second-biggest part of the racing experience.  

You're presumably rational.  At one point, this seemed like a good idea.  Push through and get through one race weekend in it before you pull the plug.  Only after that can you make an informed decision.

Good luck!

loosecannon
loosecannon Dork
2/14/18 8:19 p.m.

Are there any karting clubs close to you? Karting gets you plenty of seat time for relatively little expense as long as you don't crash, and all you need is a small trailer and some hand tools. Plus there is a class in autocross for karts.

chada75
chada75 Reader
2/14/18 9:09 p.m.

In reply to loosecannon :

So much this. 

See if there's a kart track near by. Gopro in Mooresville, NC has the LO206 class that including Entry Fees, Maintenance, and a new set of tire every 4-8 Races, is cheaper than an entry fee for a local SCCA race!

MrJoshua
MrJoshua UltimaDork
2/14/18 9:12 p.m.

after it finishes charging?

BoxheadCougarTim
BoxheadCougarTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/14/18 9:27 p.m.
MrJoshua said:

after it finishes charging?

Now why didn't I think of that?

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