In its four years of racing our Buick has earned some respect from the other idiots doing this idiotic “racing” thing. In a race series were some cars don’t last a full race, or even fail to start at all, nine races on the same chassis is pretty unprecedented. Perhaps that is why in each race I see more and more GM’s W platform cars. They are relatively big, which makes them safe, they are cheap to buy and repair, and they are pretty quick.
Posted on northern New Jersey’s Craigslist is this ’04 Chevy Impala. It’s an Impala I know fairly well as I have raced against it and I know one of the people who used to race it – hi, Wayne! But there is something more interesting about this ad than just a description of crapcan racer and the sum of its parts.
Thanks for the tip, Howie!
From the ad:
2004 Chevy Impala Race Car 24 Hours of Lemons and Chumpcar Ready – $2900 (Montvale)
This has been with our race team for eight years. Formerly known as Vlad the Impala from 2009-2010, it was re-christened the “B69 Penetrator” in 2011, in all its WWII D-Day glory. It has run 8 races and has covered 3,853 track miles providing our team with fun, laughs, plenty of late-night tears and has made us consume equal amounts of beer as its 3,200 pound self. It is quick, reliable and fun. We’ve completed nearly every race it has entered and it has been from one end of the country to the other. It has run Buttonwillow in SoCal (2:20), NJMP Lightning (1:27), Watkins Glen (1:36) and Stafford Infield (0:31). The fully legal rollcage was professionally installed by a circle track racer with NASCAR door bars and the car has a Recaro race seat on sliders, Sparco steering wheel with quick release, and nicely finished paintwork. Lemons requires a fire extinguisher (which we will include) but you will need to add a fire suppression system if you run Chumpcar. Tires are easy-to-get 225/50/16s. We used BFG Rivals, Yokohama Advans and others just to see what was best (BFGs rocked.) Suspension is lowered Police Suspension components with cut factory springs to give us increased spring rate and reliability. Sway bars are huge cop car items and the massive brakes are Police spec and work great with EBC Yellow pads. Has ABS as well to give you an edge on the rainy days.
As for consumables, this is what we know – brakes last a weekend, tires two weekends, CV axles two sets a weekend and engine mounts once a year.
Ultimately, your friend will tell you that he can build a car like this for less, but he will not. You believe him at first. Then, he will tell you that he can build this in his spare time in one month. But he can not. As time goes on, it’s been three years and before you know it, you’re just watching other people race and you’re still not on track. For guys who’ve never done this before, I don’t blame them as we too, in 2008, thought that we would just buy a salvage title car for cheap, gut it, slap a cage in and go racing. We were wrong. To put it into perspective, it took two years to fully sort this car out. Just the seat, cage and steering wheel alone were $3,000, and the time we burned up can be measured in the burn rate of DiLithium Crystals.
While others laughed, but forged ahead and chose this car because of parts availability. You can get just about any part you need for an Impala at any parts store in the country and they will be in stock. Need an axle? Sure, $50. Need lifetime brake pads? Sure, $60 and in 8 hours, you can get replacements. One time, we had a parts counter guy say, “Hey, some guys just came in before you looking for an ignition module and a left caliper for a 1992 Isuzu Impulse Turbo thinking we carry them. You know those guys? They were covered in grease” … “No, we do not, where’s the nearest bar?”
Over time, we have spent $12,000 on learning what it needs, wants and how to make it reliable. In endurance racing, that’s what matters. We don’t rush with fuel stops, we finish mid-pack. We just want lots of seat time so we don’t have to replace engines. We’d rather drink beer, which is what we do when the track goes cold. The car has everything from wheel bearings, lug nuts, and so forth all gone over. Engine/trans came out of another cop car (we bought three of these) and now has 50,000 miles. I will go over everything with you so you too can have a fun and reliable car. Email with questions. Thanks.
Emphasis is mine. What this guy is saying is very true. Many teams think that they can just build a Lemons car in a month and DOMINATE their first time out because they did track events and won arguments on internet forums. No, that’s not how it works. Of the teams you see win, very few of them are rookies. Most of those teams have been doing this for a long time.
But the truth is that in Lemons, unlike other forms of racing, winning should not be a priority. For me, for us, for my whole team, it’s not about how we finish, our fastest lap time, or quickest pit stop. For us it’s about having a fun weekend with maximum race time. We don’t spend all this money to go out there and have to rebuild our car before the green flag ever drops. Nor are we interested in solving calculus equations as a form of a penalty. We just want to go out, race, maximize our track time, finish, and come home in one piece. And yes, we do want to be competitive, too.
If you have similar goals then I highly recommend a W-chassis car. More than that, I recommend one that has already been build. No race car is ever a turn-key car and whoever buys this car will have some issues of their own, but that team will be a light-year ahead of a team who chooses to start from scratch. Ask me how I know.
But this car isn’t perfect. I would upgrade to 17″ wheels with 245/45-17 tires which we have been using forever. A swap to a supercharged 3.8 is super easy and yields a lot more usable horsepower – ignore those who say “LS4 FTW” as they have no clue what they are talking about, you’ll be snapping axles and mounts. And finally, while $2900 is a great price for this package, it is going to be hard justifying it to the judges who live by the $500 book.