The Car

So we had a team together.  Now we had to find a car.  Between us, we have tracked and/or raced a Pinto, an RX7, a Thunderbird, a Miata, a Firebird, a Ginetta, motorcycles, a motorcycle-powered car, a Fiat, and other stuff.  But for endurance racing, we decided our car needed to meet 2 criteria: (1) Rear wheel drive, and (2) 4 cylinders.  Why RWD?  Look at that list of track cars; not a one of them had the wrong set of wheels providing propulsion.  Why 4 cylinders?  Fuel mileage and reliability (or so we thought...).  Those two criteria certainly narrowed the field a bit.  We ended up with a '92 Nissan 240sx with 160,000 miles, slipping clutch, no AC, been hit in the front and undergone a half-ass repair, interior shot, etc.  In other words, the perfect race car.

So, what makes a car a race car?  If you start with a street car, isn't it just a car that you're racing, but not a REAL race car?
Excellent question.  The way to turn a car into a REAL race car is simple.  Step 1:  Spend a month undoing everything that the factory engineers spent thousands of hours designing and implementing to make the car nice to drive.  Power steering?  That's for wussy street cars.  Air conditioning?  Please, we're making a race car, not a Barbie dream car.  Sound and heat insulation?  We don't need no stinkin' insulation; there's no stereo anyway. 
We completely stripped the interior and gutted the doors.  The only things currently left in the car are the dash pad and the gauge pod.  And that fancy sunroof the original owner paid extra for?  Gone, with a panel welded in its place. 
We used  dry-ice to get all the sound deadener up.  The dry ice freezes the insulation so you can shatter it with a hammer.  It works great.  But take a tip from Tobey:  don't set your leg down on a chunk of frozen CO2.  It makes an ugly blister that takes a while to heal, although it won't hurt.  -100°F temps do funny things to the nerve endings.
Now it's on to step #2 of making a real race car.  You have all the creature comforts removed, and have made the car loud and uncomfortable.  You now have to make it difficult to get in and out of.  Real race cars just require that kind of committment.
We took the car to Lucas Motorsports in NW Houston for a custom cage.  They did an excellent job.  Look at the pictures, you can't get in the car without climbing over some bars.  Even on the passenger side; that's just how committed we are.  In addition to giving it that real race car look, the cage will provide excellent protection that we hope we never need.

The cage made the car extremely stiff.  So much so, that it's hard to make it sit on 4 jackstands.  No matter what you do, one stand just isn't quite the same height.  So it will rock on 3 stands, 1/2" off the 4th one.

It is also extremely well reinforced where it joins the floor.  The first pic is the passenger floorboard.  Note that the plate is also welded vertically up the sill.  Second pic is the passenger rear shock tower.
Here is what's left of the door.  The roll cage door bars go all the way out to the door skin.
Let's recap:  We've made the car uncomfortable to drive and hard to get in and out of.  What's next in the making of a REAL race car?
Step #3:  Finish destroying all those things that the OEM spent so much money developing.
Uniquely keyed ignition?  Gone.  Who needs a simple key when 3 switches can do the same job? 
Windows in the door?  Not when we can use nets.
Fancy glass panels to protect from the elements?  Please, some plastic (Lexan) cut to fit with a jigsaw is what makes a race car.

On the electrical system, we didn't gut the harness.  We still need tail lights, brake lights, headlights, wipers, etc. 

Then we installed the Recaro seat, 5-point belts, Hawk blues all around, and a window net, and we were ready to go.  We pretty much left the drivetrain untouched, other than new fluids and a new stock clutch.  We're still using the factory air box and a paper filter. 

And of course, we can't forget Step #4:  Slap a number on it and cover the car with advertising (we're still working on that advertising thing).