BARGAIN BASEMENT ST - Building a budget race car

BARGAIN BASEMENT ST - Building a budget race car

Author
Discussion

SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

38 posts

107 months

Tuesday 30th March
quotequote all
INTRO

Like many people I really enjoyed the Bad Obsession Motorsport series during lockdown, showing the team building a budget race car to compete in club level motorsport. It was a brilliant guide to entering motorsport and also very entertaining.

I watched the series thinking, 'they really are making that look easy', and wondering how much more difficult it would be for someone without a fully-stocked workshop and without any experience of engineering.

I've met plenty of people around UK circuits who compete in cars that were built on their own driveways, so I knew it was perfectly possible. I just wondered how much harder it would be than the Bad Obsession guys made it look; and whether you really can build a race car for circa. £5000

So for anyone who's interested, here's a thread on my efforts as a complete novice, to build a racing car on a budget...

Edited by SparrowHawk on Tuesday 30th March 15:16

SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

38 posts

107 months

Tuesday 30th March
quotequote all
CAR CHOICE

The obvious first question was which car to build.

Having owned mostly turbo-charged and all wheel drive cars myself, I was aware that I would not be able to build and run anything like a Subaru Impreza or Mitsubishi Evo on the budget that I was setting myself.

It was always going to be a normally aspirated car, and was most likely to be a front wheel drive hatch

I once owned a Honda Civic race car which was built to a good standard (by someone else!) and I've also had an MX-5 track car so these were both closely considered.

But in the end we decided to build a Fiesta ST.



There are several reasons why, but the main reasons were:

1. They are cheap, widely available, with great spares availability and inexpensive to upgrade and maintain

2. They are eligible for a large number of club level series & championships

3. We already own another Fiesta ST trackday car (it is my dad's car), which has been in the family for about 9 years now. Having done hundreds of laps in the car I feel very confident behind the wheel; and even more useful... we have good knowledge of these cars and also a fair amount of parts already knocking around. So getting another one to use for my race car build made sense.



Anyone who has been on a trackday in the UK will have been impressed with how these cars can often keep up with some much bigger and more powerful cars. The handling is great for beginners, and they offer some really close competition with other similar cars like Clios and Civics.

So the decision was made to look for a cheap ST150 to use as our base car.

Rockatansky

1,561 posts

151 months

Tuesday 30th March
quotequote all
Yes, you can do it for £5k!

It can be tight to bring it in on that budget, it's easy to overspend on each individual component of the build. That said, careful buying combined with doing work yourself will definitely help.

I'm the championship rep for the Scottish Fiesta st championship, and your second pic is 2019 ST Challenge champ Lorn Murray taking turn 1 at Knockhill.

Great cars.

Enjoy!

SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

38 posts

107 months

Wednesday 31st March
quotequote all
FINDING A CAR

Having decided to start with a Fiesta ST the next decision was which one to buy.

Some people advised me to use as much of my budget as I could, to get the best condition/mileage car that I could - in order to have a better base to build from. The better the car, the less remedial work or initial maintenance I would have to do.

However, the entire point behind this project for me was to build a safe and reliable race car within budget, and that would not be possible if I spent £2500 on the base car leaving only two or three thousand for the build.

So I opted to buy a cheap example of an ST, enabling me to allocate the vast majority of my budget to the build; with the view that I'd be replacing many of the components that suffer with age anyway. Components like the suspension, brakes, and some of the bushes etc, would be changed as part of the build.

What I wanted was a straight car that had a sturdy engine that I wouldn't need to change immediately. I wasn't too fussed about bodywork, colour, or spec; so I was able to look at many of the 'less desirable' Fiesta ST's out there being sold at the lower end of the market, which is where I found this...



The car was silver (not the most desirable colour) and had relatively high mileage. It had a list of things wrong with it, and was being sold as an MOT failure with just a week of ticket left on it. It was also absolutely filthy!

That would have been enough to put a lot of people off, but it also had many redeeming features. The car had lots of history, with evidence of regular servicing throughout it's life. The body was completely straight, with no crash damage and also no obvious repairs or re-sprays. It was also HPI clear. And importantly for me, the engine sounded great, ran smoothly, and I could detect absolutely nothing mechanically wrong with it.



The list of MOT failure items also sounded incredibly simple to fix, for someone who knows these Fiestas well and also has a bunch of spare parts knocking around.

So we bought it!

SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

38 posts

107 months

Wednesday 31st March
quotequote all
Thanks for the advice/encouragement Rockatansky.

The Scottish Fiesta championship has served as good inspiration, I've been looking at lots of pictures of your cars and the regulations, and I'm aiming to replicate much of the spec.

In the longer-term, I'm aware I will blaze way past my original budget as I look to upgrade the car further to match the spec of other Fiesta race cars, and add more performance.

But my initial aim is simply to build a race legal car within the £5000 budget, and then race it!

Great to hear you think it can be done

Rockatansky

1,561 posts

151 months

Wednesday 31st March
quotequote all
SparrowHawk said:
Thanks for the advice/encouragement Rockatansky.

The Scottish Fiesta championship has served as good inspiration, I've been looking at lots of pictures of your cars and the regulations, and I'm aiming to replicate much of the spec.

In the longer-term, I'm aware I will blaze way past my original budget as I look to upgrade the car further to match the spec of other Fiesta race cars, and add more performance.

But my initial aim is simply to build a race legal car within the £5000 budget, and then race it!

Great to hear you think it can be done
You're welcome, glad you've seen us online!

I think I spent about £4-5k in parts on my own build, but the donor car was £1k. I definitely could have saved a bit here and there and I know of cars (including the silver one in the pic) that were built for around £5-5.5k.

They're fun cars, and when set up to your preference they're great to drive.

Good luck!

SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

38 posts

107 months

Wednesday 31st March
quotequote all
CHECKING OVER THE CAR

So what kind of car have we ended up with?

Taking possession of the vehicle from the previous owner also meant driving it the 50 miles home again. So we did a quick safety check before setting off.

One of the points on the failed MOT was the exhaust/mounting. From the back of the car it looked badly corroded but was also hanging in the wrong position. A quick crawl around under the car showed that the back box was almost detached from the rest of the exhaust. It was safer to remove it entirely than to drive home with it cable-tied on.. so we pulled it off!



A check over the rest of the car showed that the tyres were quite near the legal limit but appeared to be safe and holding air. The brakes seemed adequate, although the rear discs were in bad shape, and the suspension seemed a bit tired at the front - but seemed safe to drive.



Once home it was washed and vacuumed and we decided we had bought a pretty good car. It drove well on the way back, the engine pulled hard in every gear, power delivery was smooth, the gearbox felt reasonably tight, and there were no worrying noises apart from a question mark over the front suspension.



So a good starting base. But there were a few issues to be addressed before we started on the rest of the build. The Fiesta only had a week of MOT remaining, and we were insistent on the car remaining road legal throughout the entire process if possible.

Therefore we had a list of jobs that needed doing before we started on race car stuff!

Those initial jobs (major defects from MOT) were:

- New exhaust (or at least a temporary fix)
- Replacement fuel cap
- New drivers seat or fixed adjustment mechanism
- Replacement bulbs in headlights and indicators
- Replacement wiper blades front & rear

There were also a number of other immediate things that needed remedying so that I could confidently and safely drive the car over the coming weeks/months until the car was finished. These were:

- Passenger window stuck closed
- Rear brake discs heavily corroded
- Front suspension struts need replacement
- Oil service
- New sparkplugs
- New air filter or induction kit
- New fuel filter
- Missing washer bottle cap
- Replacement tyres

So the plan was to get all of these jobs done first, get the car MOT'd, and then begin on the race car jobs.

whp1983

487 posts

103 months

Thursday 1st April
quotequote all
Love threads like this, reading with interest!

Duke Caboom

1,770 posts

163 months

Thursday 1st April
quotequote all
Looks good. Which championship are you preparing for?

andy97

4,151 posts

186 months

Thursday 1st April
quotequote all
I know that there are ST specific championships but it may also be worth talking to the Puma Cup folks who race within CSCC - they have their own fb page, “puma cup U.K.” - because there may be a lot in common with the ST and those cars were all built to a very tight budget, too.

SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

38 posts

107 months

Thursday 1st April
quotequote all
CHOOSING A RACE SERIES

Being based in the South East, we found it difficult to decide on a championship or series to aim for. The BRSCC Fiesta Championship meet mostly at circuits very far away from us, including a round at Croft and 2 rounds at Cadwell Park with no rounds at Brands Hatch; so it was less attractive. It would also potentially be out of budget for me to prepare a car to their regulations as they utilise the AST suspension, which has an RRP around £3.5K. It would be great to aim for this Championship in the longer term, but for budget racers like us it didn't seem the best option for 2021.

We have some experience of MSV Trackday Trophy and MSV Trackday Championship, which are both good options for novices and have a number of Fiesta ST's racing with them. There are also various CSCC series that we looked at, which all seem very well attended and well run. I've not looked into the Puma Cup but will check them out - thank you for the recommendation.

We have also been along to a number of meetings with the CMMC, they have a Southern series which races predominantly at the circuits more local to us like Brands, Snetterton, Silverstone and Lydden Hill. I know a couple of people who have raced with them in Tin Tops and it offers close, competitive but friendly racing. This is currently the plan... but we'll need to get the car finished in time first!



Edited by SparrowHawk on Thursday 1st April 16:26

SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

38 posts

107 months

Thursday 1st April
quotequote all
SERVICE AND MOT

Getting the car road legal was first on the agenda. First up was a thorough service to replace some items and give the car a flush out. Then we also attended to the other areas that were needed to get the car through its MOT.



The car was treated to new oil and filter and new sparkplugs. The oil that came out wasn't too bad, and I remained fairly confident about the condition of the engine. I wasn't overly impressed with the sparkplugs that came out, but given that the car was running fine and also seeming to make good power it wasn't anything to be concerned about.



To get the car through its MOT I then replaced the entire headlight units with a much lower mileage set that I had in the garage, these already had the correct new bulbs all fitted and also reduced the shabbiness of the car by making it look less tired. I then removed the faulty front seats that had broken release clips and damaged seat runners; and replaced them with the front seats from our track car (which now has bucket seats). In addition the car also got new wipers and a new fuel cap.



I then set about removing all of the airbox gubbins that sit on top of the Duratec engine. The Fiesta is well known for suffering from poor airflow, and a simple initial step is to remove this and replace it with an induction kit. As a placeholder I put on a simple cone filter that we had knocking around; which will later be replaced with a proper cold air feed system. We then managed to get the passenger window 'unstuck' by cleaning out the rubber seals around the window and giving a few firm thumps whilst operating the window button; no disassembly required... yet!



The final job before the MOT was to replace the missing backbox. I'd been looking online for a second hand Milltek system, but they do not come up very often. In order to stick within our budget a brand new system was out of the question (circa. £850 RRP) so the simplest solution to get the car road legal was to replace it with an OEM unit. The unit itself was about £100, but when I asked my local Autocentre for a quote it was less than £150 FITTED, so I opted for that.



Yes, it did feel like sacrilege paying someone else to fit a backbox on what is supposed to be an absolute budget build where every pound counts, but the convenience of driving the car there, having the part fitted, and driving away again was too appealing at that price so I did it. However, the joke was on me because the guy who fitted it did such a bad job that I would need to end up re-hanging it at some point anyway. Lesson learned!




Despite the exhaust tip being about 9 miles south of where it should be, the car passed its MOT the very same day and we now had a healthy and road legal car - ready for its conversion into a race car!


Duke Caboom

1,770 posts

163 months

Thursday 1st April
quotequote all
A good idea to choose championship, and therefore regs, before you get too far down the line. Will done on progress so far.

andy97

4,151 posts

186 months

Thursday 1st April
quotequote all
SparrowHawk said:
CHOOSING A RACE SERIES

Being based in the South East, we found it difficult to decide on a championship or series to aim for. The BRSCC Fiesta Championship meet mostly at circuits very far away from us, including a round at Croft and 2 rounds at Cadwell Park with no rounds at Brands Hatch; so it was less attractive. It would also potentially be out of budget for me to prepare a car to their regulations as they utilise the AST suspension, which has an RRP around £3.5K. It would be great to aim for this Championship in the longer term, but for budget racers like us it didn't seem the best option for 2021.

We have some experience of MSV Trackday Trophy and MSV Trackday Championship, which are both good options for novices and have a number of Fiesta ST's racing with them. There are also various CSCC series that we looked at, which all seem very well attended and well run. I've not looked into the Puma Cup but will check them out - thank you for the recommendation.

We have also been along to a number of meetings with the CMMC, they have a Southern series which races predominantly at the circuits more local to us like Brands, Snetterton, Silverstone and Lydden Hill. I know a couple of people who have raced with them in Tin Tops and it offers close, competitive but friendly racing. This is currently the plan... but we'll need to get the car finished in time first!



Edited by SparrowHawk on Thursday 1st April 16:26
CSCC Tin Tops has a Class specifically for Fiestas although I am not sure of the spec of the car as there maybe a wide variance. You will almost certainly have someone to race against though from whatever class.
40 min pit stop races for one or two drivers.
If you want to stay southern based then there are rounds at Snetterton, Thruxton, Brands GP, Silverstone and Donington but best be quick to get entries in. It would be worth contacting the CSCC office ASAP next week or emailing the series rep, Stuart Levers. There is also a specific CSCC Tim Tops FB page so it might be worth asking a few questions on there.
Could do a mix of CMMC and CSCC races.

SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

38 posts

107 months

Friday 2nd April
quotequote all
SETTING A BUDGET

Like most Pistonheaders I've spent countless hours looking at race cars for sale, and trawling the various race parts suppliers online. So I had a pretty good idea what gear I needed and how much all of those things cost in theory. And in theory you can build a car for around £3000.

But I knew this wasn't realistic. This is because, for example, I wanted a decent race seat not a £180 seat. Plus I knew I'd want to do things like put a new clutch in etc. So I set about doing some more detailed number crunching with the aim of setting a realistic budget that would bring me in under my £5000 target.

I decided that it was feasible. But only if I wrote off the money I'd already spent on the car (which really wasn't much) - and only if everything went smoothly. I also have a couple of items (for example a set of wheels and tyres) already knocking around, to help keep costs down.

Based on this number crunching, and a potentially reckless sense of optimism, I set myself a firm £5000 budget as follows:

1500 - Rollcage
450 - Seat
120 - Seat subframe + mounts
200 - Harness
165 - Extinguisher
150 - Polycarb windows
100 - Doorcards
150 - Steering wheel + boss
40 - Rain light
50 - Battery
50 - Service parts
250 - Strut brace + rear ARB
950 - Coilover suspension
150 - Geometry setup
400 - Discs, pads, + braided hoses
250 - Clutch

I knew I didn't really know how much the build would cost in total, or how much those things actually all cost when you take into account vehicle specific parts, buying additional parts you didn't know you needed, some of the forgotten costs such as electrical components, lubricants, and parts you have to buy twice because you ordered the wrong thing etc.

I also knew there were items not budgeted for that I would definitely need, such as spares, and even a few mandatory bits such as towing loops and the parts for the electrical cut off switch. But hey, it's called reckless optimism for a reason.

SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

38 posts

107 months

Saturday 3rd April
quotequote all
STRIPPING THE INTERIOR

Strangely, this is the part I'd been looking forward to. There is something satisfying about dismantling the interior, and it's such an easy way to improve the car's performance.



As with most things, it wasn't quite as easy as it looks on the internet. I'd intended to do almost all of it in one morning, but in reality this is more than a days work.



The big items like front and rear seats do come out fairly easily, items like the rear seat brackets, seatbelts, and fiddly bits like some of the plastics at the rear - these take a lot more time. I'm glad I had some specific interior trim removal tools, which made undoing some of the clips etc much easier.



I'd also highly recommend getting hold of an impact wrench for this job. Taking out the seatbelt mounts and various other bits with a ratchet will not be much fun - even with decent tools I still ended up spending around 2-3 days in total on the entire job, including dismantling the doors and removing the dashboard. A professional, or someone who's built several race cars might laugh at that amount of time; but as a novice and a non-mechanic that is honestly how long it can take to learn how to do this for the first time.



The reason this job takes so long is because there are elements that you don't realise will be tricky. Removing the carpets was not straight-forward, as they don't simply lift out; getting them out from behind/underneath the centre console is not easy. Another thing that took a long time was dismantling the doors.



You've also got other fiddily bits to remove like the stereo, speakers, alarm, and cabling to tidy up under the seats and where the roof lining comes out.



But once most of the stuff was out I realised that underneath the absolutely filthy interior was a very clean shell. The bodywork on the car really is great, with no rust and also no signs of repairs or even any dents worth mentioning.



I've decided to keep some elements of the interior plastics such as the handbrake surround and lower half of the centre console. This is because they weigh virtually nothing, and I'll still be driving the car on the road so makes sense to have some tiny level of comfort - like somewhere to put my phone.

All in all this was a fun job. One thing I've had friends ribbing me about is the fact I did not remove the sound deadening. I tried. No matter what anyone tells you this is not an easy job. Whether you have your own theories on freezing it off with liquid nitrogen, or setting about it with a blow-torch and hacking it off with a chisel - it is an extremely time consuming job.

I decided very quickly that the marginal gains from removing a couple of extra kilos were not worth the investment of another day or more of my time, time which would be better spent learning how to drive quicker! So the sound insulation is staying for now. Perhaps if the build goes well, this is something I can address later down the line. This is a budget build after all!

SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

38 posts

107 months

Saturday 3rd April
quotequote all
Thanks for the recommendation Andy97. CSCC looks really well run, and I've heard very good things about their various series. I like your idea of racing with them for just 1 or 2 races; perhaps my favourite circuits like Silverstone & Brands. I'm not sure if I can budget to join/enter two separate clubs, so I will enquire with them about how this works.

Duke Caboom you're definitely right, I need to be careful not to change anything on the car that would preclude it from entering any of the major series I might want to enter. The good thing is, with these Fiestas there aren't too many things that can trip you up on that; the main changes between series tend to be the suspension and the tyre choice. The other thing that could potentially be an issue is over-modifying the engine, but I don't have any plans for that at the moment anyway due to budget.

The aim is to get the car race ready, meaning all of the mandatory safety equipment, and key upgrades like brakes, suspension, fluids etc. More in-depth modifications like a diff, or lightweight panels etc will not be within budget.. yet!

SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

38 posts

107 months

Tuesday 6th April
quotequote all
ORDERING A ROLL CAGE

In my mind the biggest job is the roll cage. It's also the one thing I definitely did not want to do myself. Many people seem to fit the roll cage themselves, which is great if you have your own workshop or even better if you work in fabrication etc.

But I've also seen some cages that have been DIY welded-in, and just do not look safe. The roll cage is probably the most important safety item and as much as I'd love to learn to weld and have a go at some fabrication at some point; the roll cage (or roll cage fitting) did not seem like a sensible place to start.



I decided to go with a JP Cages full bolt-in cage. This is because I've seen JP's handywork on another Fiesta; as they made and fitted a half-cage to our Fiesta trackday car. The welding on the cage, the powder-coating finish, and the welds on the plates and box sections on the car were superb, so I had complete confidence that JP would build a superb full cage and fit it to a very high standard.



I called Josh at JP Cages and seemed to catch him on a good day, as he was offering a discount on full-cages that week. I ordered a JPC3 Full Cage, with X rear, double doorbars, harness bar, and centre brace. The full price of this cage is £1,140 +Fitting. However, with the online discount I paid £950 which I think is very reasonable. Fitting will be paid additionally at the time of fitting.



These stock images from JP's website show what the cage looks like in an ST150; however mine will differ slightly in that it will not have the additional bracing on the A-pillar (pictured above in the JPC4 cage). I opted not to have these additional bars for 2 reasons; 1. I find getting in and out of the car can be quite difficult already, especially when using a winged seat, and 2. It kept the cost down slightly without compromising on safety in my opinion. My cage will also be silver not blue.

So that was the cage ordered, it was going to take about 3-4 weeks for JP to build the cage which I am fine with as they had quite a backlog of jobs on. I would be stripping down the rest of the car (dashboard removed etc) and then taking it to them for the cage fitting.

That was the biggest job booked! Now onto the rest of the long to-do list...

SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

38 posts

107 months

Tuesday 6th April
quotequote all
NEW SPRINGS, STRUTS & ANTI ROLL BAR

As this was a budget build, I would be staggering some of the major purchases. This meant waiting a few weeks until I ordered coilovers. This also gave me some more thinking time, as the coilovers are probably the main piece of the puzzle that I can't make up my mind about.



But in the meantime something would need to be done, as there was clearly something not quite right with the front suspension - and the whole car was sitting very high. Despite the clear and obvious need to fit race-spec coilovers imminently; I decided that a good temporary measure was to fit some Eibach lowering springs that I already had lying around in the garage; with the addition of a rear anti roll bar.



This would give the car better handling until the full setup went on the car (important in case we wanted to do a trackday) whilst also giving me an opportunity to take everything apart and give it a check over.



The suspension looked ok at first, if a little tired. But when I took it apart the front top mounts were completely shot! This was most likely the noise/sensation I could feel in the front end that I'd wanted to investigate.



There was also a fair amount of corrosion and the struts themselves looked pretty ropey. I also found that the drop-links were past their best and would need replacing. The control arms were good, and the rest of the bushes looked ok. I had a new set of struts and top-mounts ready to go on the car, and the Eibach springs ready to go on. It was perhaps a sideways step fitting these new parts knowing full well they'd be coming off again; but I needed a temporary fix and it had given me a chance to take everything apart. It was also cheap as chips.



In addition whilst I was under there, I also fitted the new anti roll bar. This was from Whiteline and is a pretty essential bit of kit on these cars, making a noticeable difference to the turn-in capability of the car over a standard setup. The bar is the 24mm Heavy Duty Blade Adjustable type, and cost £175.



Taking the car for a road test afterwards, it immediately felt better. The handling was more crisp and responsive, and the noise at the front end had gone.



Coilovers still haven't been chosen/ordered yet so I'd welcome any input/advice from fellow Fiesta racers. I can't budget for AST so any other recommendations welcome (particularly if you have views on the Gaz Gold, BC Racing, MeisterR kits)...


Edited by SparrowHawk on Tuesday 6th April 14:37


Edited by SparrowHawk on Tuesday 6th April 14:40

deebs

345 posts

24 months

Tuesday 6th April
quotequote all
Great thread smile