Evil Genius Cage Class: Learn to Build a Cage the Right Way

evil genius roll cage building classI burned all of last weekend building a cage on someone else’s car and paid for the privilege to do so. Our instructor was John Pagel, the evil genius of Evil Genius Racing, but he might sometimes go by Tom Sawyer as well. Nine of us met up at the Bay Area wrenching co-op Rack Hack Shop to learn John’s methods for building a cage and use his professional-grade tools to do so. The bulk of the attendees focused on Jeff’s Willys Aero (future) LeMons car while myself, Jeff and Gene teamed up on to put a Rally America spec cage in a 2007 Yaris. Owner Ian was cool enough to volunteer his car for a “haircut at the barber college” discounted cage.
Not unlike many of our readers, most of us could weld passably and could probably flail our way to completing a mail-order you-weld-it kit cage or slap one together with “hobby” grade bending and notching equipment. Of course, it’d take us two months and the results would be iffy at best. John walked us through his methods for where to start and how to measure for bends and notches that demystify the process…

However, out of both laziness and courtesy, I’m not going to repeat everything here. You need to take the class for that, and there will be future classes.
For me the biggest gains were welding coaching/practice, a systematic way to lay out main and down-bars and (most of all) learning which things were crucial versus which weren’t worth sweating over. Hearing “yeah, just give that bend about two inches of stickout by eye” saved me five minutes of precision measuring I assumed I needed. After taking this class, I know I’m in a position to make my own cage, provided I’ve got access to a high-end notcher and bender. Luckily for me as a fabricator and you as a reader, John and I will be working out an arrangement shortly…

Personally, I’d like to thank Jeff and the rest of the Rat Hack Shop crew for facilitating the class in the Bay Area, my teammates Jeff and Gene for being awesome to work with and of course John for packing up five tons of metal, car, and equipment into his trailer and burning a weekend with us low-lifes.

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  1. CruisinTime Avatar

    Never too old to learn new tricks,nice job.

  2. Tanshanomi Avatar

    Almost porny. As some who spends 40+ hours a week in virtual space, and then spends my off-hours just talking about stuff in virtual space, the urge to actually build things is sometimes overwhelming.

  3. 0A5599 Avatar

    So at the end of the class, are students able to build “barber-quality haircut” cages that will breeze through tech, or is the purpose of the class just to make you aware of all the prior mistakes?

    1. mad_science Avatar

      I’m going to do the cage in the new Ranchero. The only thing I’m concerned about are the difficult welds on the top of the down bars.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        Are you familiar with the technique of cutting holes in the floor, doing the upper welds with the cage lowered through them onto the ground (perhaps with the vehicle on a lift for even more clearance), then raising the cage into position and mounting it on plinths? That’s what Doug Chase did with the cage in the 96 when I begged him to preserve the original paint, rather than cut into the top for access.

        1. mad_science Avatar

          Depending on what my floor plates look like, I might do that. I’m also not afraid to circle-hole saw the roof if need be.

          1. mdharrell Avatar

            But… but… just think of the damage to the patina!

          2. mad_science Avatar

            I’ll weld the cut pieces back in afterwards…

          3. Vairship Avatar

            Thus adding patina. Excellent!

      2. Jeff Glucker Avatar
        Jeff Glucker

        The only thing I’m concerned about… is whatever you’re concerned about.

  4. mdharrell Avatar

    “…Jeff’s Willys Aero (future) LeMons car….”
    I nearly drove my brother’s Aero into a ditch when I was about five years old. To this day, well over forty years later, he’s never again let me get behind its wheel. An outstanding choice for LeMons.
    Should the team need an experienced driver, my brother may be prepared to vouch for me.

    1. 0A5599 Avatar

      Hopefully, you retaliated by not letting your brother drive your Skyliner.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        Well, fair is fair after all. He has, however, helped me push it.

  5. dukeisduke Avatar

    A Willys Aero as a LeMons car? I don’t know what to think about that. A mixture of horror and intrigue, I guess.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      No need to be horrified. They’re cutting up a sedan, not one of the hardtops:

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        Sedans of the world, unite! You know there will be nostalgia for the “good old times of the sedan” once the shape is almost dead and everybody is being ferried around in XUV shaped, matrix-connected pods. It looks good in the half-dark, too:

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just playing to the stereotype that only convertibles and hardtops are worth saving.
          I’d have to say, though, that in my experience a LeMons car is no closer to its last breath than anything else I’ve owned.

    2. crank_case Avatar

      I didn’t even know what a Willys Aero was til now, so good job everyone.

  6. jeepjeff Avatar

    How do I find out about John’s next class? Because I would like in on that. Even with my emaculant booger welding skillz.

  7. engineerd Avatar

    Nice! A cage is something I, personally, will always leave to a pro. Because I can’t weld worth a damn.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      Plus, cages can sometimes lead to disastrous structural failure: http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/salvage-attempt-on-catalina-seaplane-used-in-nic-cage-f-1715722705

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