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Discussion Starter #1
I am seriously considering building my first rally car (Ford focus ZX3) and I know the majority of the people on this site state that everyone, when they first start, should buy insted of biuld. I would like to know if there is anyone who built their first car and what trouble(s) they ran into? Does anyone have suggestions on getting around the trouble(s) they ran into?

I am interested in having someone build the cage for me in the car and doing the rest myself. Im located in the North east and I don't plan on running every event maybe just 5 or 6 a year(all that I can make) starting next year 2009. I have about a year to complete this goal.

I have sufficent time off during the week and I have a full two car garage to work in. I have a good amount of mechanical expirence and I stopped racing enduros/harescrambles on motorcycles to compete in this sport. I would appericate any help and/or direction I can get from people that compete in this sport already, because you know it the best. Thank you for your time.
 

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From what I have learned, it is pretty straight forward. Building it your self you will know exactly what is going on with your car. What was done right, ok and not done at all.

I have done a few Foci. Spec Focus, Group 2 and Production.

Let me know if I can help.

Doug Davenport
www.davenportracingusa.com
doug at davenportracingusa.com
 

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If you're sure you want to build then just do it. If I was going to do it again, I would start with a better platform. I built a mk2 golf, but it was the base model and needed lots of work (although was virtually free). The only things left stock on the car are the shell, the dash, and the master cylinder...absolutely everything else has been swapped for something better. I remember Morison telling me that "a free car isn't always the best starting point". The lesson: a 16v golf gti in good shape (although more money initally for the car) would have been a much smarter starting point, and I would have ended up with the same thing for less $$.

When/if I build again, I'll start with a car that only needs the basic rally equipment (cage, seats, etc) and will be ready to go.

However...that said, I'd still recommend buying your first car from a purely economic point of view. There is always plenty to fix and you can learn about the car that way. If you do a couple of races and are able to sell it for nearly the same price, you'll be ahead of most the rest of us.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the input...with that being said, is a 00-08 focus ZX3 a good platform to start with? I just want to run a FWD, non-turbo, production car, only changing what is unrestricted. Looking at the car I think the radiator and transmission is in need of skidplates and gaurds becuase it looks very unprotected(especially with a newby driver like myself). Driving the car I think that the transmission might need to be re-geared but, I guess this is something that I will learn as I go.

I know there is going to plenty to work on wether I buy or build due to my lack of rally expirence. On the other hand I am use to figuring out ways to make whatever I operate as indestructable as possible.

Did you build you cage or did you have someone build it for you? If you had it built who did it for you, I am looking for someone to build one in the northeast (if I go that route); building it yourself you have to have an inspector look at it right to start a log book?
 

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Even if you do have someone build the cage you have to have a scrutineer look at it to get it logbooked. What i would strongly suggest is to stay in touch with the scrutineer during the build. Most scrutineers will even aprreciate it since you will not be putting them in a tough situation. It is definetely feasible to start by buying a car as you will be out on stages a whole lot sooner than you would by building. Usually, even a pre built car will have to be improved as you go along. In other words there is always room for improvement. Like D. Davenport pointed something are done right, somethings are done just to get by and some or untouched. It will also be a lot cheaper to buy built. 5-6 events a year is more than what most people do in a year in the US.
I bought a semi built previously logbooked and raced car and am not complaining. I was able to get it upto spec in a few months, a little later than i initially planned. My advantage was i bought it relatively cheap but did put in a decent amount of money into it. I probably could have bought a prebuilt, upto spec car for the same amount it cost me. Even as we speak i am upgrading things.
Focus is definetely a good platform. Everyone i spoke with running one is happy with it. What i would suggest is to get in touch with people that run them (mostly East coast spec guys) and if you are not planning on running the spec class they will have some pointers for you. WHen i tell people i would be interested in building a specific civic they tell me "why reinvent the wheel?" Choosing a proven chasis is important and fixing things which tend be weak experienced by others helps.
 

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L4 into trees
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I was involved in building a car sort of. We bought a car that had a cage in it for a different form of racing and tried to turn it into a rally car. Bottom line...we took our estimates as to what it would cost us and doubled it. We still underestimated it by almost 100% and in the end dnf'd 1 event and sold the car. Looking back, I wish I had bought a car or rented. I'd be way ahead of the game both in experience/seat time and money.

The one good thing I'll say is that I now know a ton more about working on that specific car and cars in general than I ever came close to before and if that is a primary goal then go for it. Was it worth it for me? Not really.

If you're definitely into running the focus, you may want to talk to Andrew Frick and Simon Wright. They're both great guys, both built spec foci and probably both would be able to give you tons of pointers along the way as well as help you estimate what it's legitimately going to take to get it on the stages. (and it'll be more than just a couple of skid plates...trust me).
 

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your other left, you idiot
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You don't say where in the NE you are (and your profile is incomplete), but you definitely should come to Wellsboro PA this weekend and talk to folks (especially the Foci drivers), and solicit opinions and get ideas. Maybe volunteer to crew. See you there?!

At one point Simon was looking for crew.

http://www.stpr.org/

press on,
 

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Discussion Starter #8
re:

Thanks for the info. I have volunteered before at STPR for sweep truck and EMS and I am planning on going again this year but, I can't volunteer due to the fact that I have to work but, I will be there saturady and only for a couple of hours friday. I hope I can get some good ideas if not find a good Focus that will be for sale at the end of this year season.

I know that 5-6 events a year is a lot, but a guy can dream right?

Jimmy hope to see you there.

if anyone has any more info on Focus please post it thanks.
 

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Derek,

My son and I built our ZX3 at the end of '06. We have now successfully finished ten rallies. You can read some of our building escapades on the Rally Spec Focus blog on our website. It's in reverse chronological order so you may want to start in the Archives at the bottom of the page.

And, of course, I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have.

I puzzled over the build or buy question and went with the buy for several reasons...

* Gain experience with the mechanics of the car - we're pretty familiar with every nut, bolt and part now.
* We had the car in our possession (it was my son's DD).
* Spent some valuable quality time with my son (and codriver)
* Had fun

We did outsource some of the work. I designed the cage (with Mark Bowers' input) but had it built by Chris Schimmel of Competition Cages in Hillsborough, NC. And I had the transmission overhauled (and updated with different final drive and differential) by Cameron Conover of Conover Motorsports.

We've been very pleased with the car - an excellent platform to learn rally and build skills and, in the Rally Spec Focus class, not too many decisions about how to build it. We have run it in G2 and 2WD classes too. In fact we took 1st place 2WD in the New York Rally 2007 Championship and Rally Spec Focus 2007.

Good luck.

Simon
 

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Hello Derek,

Others have added some good advice about who to talk to about building your first car. I have been at a rally where someones cage got rejected and I would hate spend all the money on the car and have that happen. Check out Simon's car at STPR it is well put together and has a great finish history.

The focus is a pretty good platform to build a car from especially if you keep it simple and only change the stuff that really needs to be. I started with my daily driver focus as well when I built mine. I did 6 events in my car before I touched anything in the drive train other than replacing worn parts and fluids like you would on a daily driver.

I would love to see another Spec Focus out there, and with the new rules this year you are free to make some different choices in areas like suspension that will reduce the cost of the build.

Here is what I would do if I were building another focus and wanted to get the car on the stages and have some fun:

- Rally Brake kit from Ford Racing, or junk yard for rear disks, svt knuckles, and 05+ front brakes, which is what the kit is made up of
- Rally Suspension, Hotbits, DMS, JVAB, RS+SP, etc.
- Cage
- Seats, Harnesses
- General rally stuff like mudflaps, fire extinguishers, triangles, etc.
- Skid plate for the front
- Plastic sheeting to protect the fuel system / bake lines
- Plate the tops of the front strut towers to prevent mushrooming

Go racing.

You can skip a couple of these things if you want to stay in P/S class. There are always more places to spend money but if you keep the build simple and close to stock you should be able to build the car within a budget.
 

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stay less flat...
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I bought my first car, I personally built my 2nd car (not the cage), I am privileged to have had pros build my third car - I've learned a lot from these three cars. all gp2, MK II VW's

here's what I think:

building a rally car is a major project that requires a lot of mechanical skills and attention to detail. if you have talent in those areas and workspace and time and MONEY build a new car. be honest with yourself - can you build a proper car? there is nothing lamer than poor execution and it will be a big waste of time and money.

if you can do it, I think the main reason to build a new car is you'll have a modern cage in the car and therefore it will be safer.

splurge on the cage, the seats, the harnesses and your personal safety gear.

in terms of performance the key ingredients of a gp 2/ NA 2wd car are:
- the diff and the final drive
- the suspension
- the brakes
- the driver

not in that order... and presumes the obvious: that the car is mechanically sound and reliable.

avoid the temptation to address the powerplant before those areas.

go to rallies and look at lots of cars and take pictures. crew for teams running the Focus. Make friends with professional rally car builders - even if they don't work on your car, their attitude, knowledge and process will rub off on you.

good luck.

Scott
 

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I vote build the car, but get the cage done somewhere else. I decieded to build my own cage... its interesting. It came out really well, and I'm very happy with it, however, I know if I had shipped the shell off to Dave Clark or Cascade Autosport, I would have had an even BETTER cage, sooner.

Remember that.

But I would build your car just so you know how everything goes together, and if you're anal like me, you'll know everything is put back together right.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
You guys have been and are awesome!

Simon your car was already on my list to check at STPR, same goes for Frick's car if is at STPR. Spec Focus is not production it is a seprate class, correct??, or does it depend on the organization your entered into?

A cage was rejected? was this because the owner did not have one of the inspectors look at it while in construction? Or was the car already logged somewhere else? I like the look of Simon's Cage but, I have to find someone in or near NE PA to build it for me and then have an inspector look at it to get it logged(unknown how complicated this will be).

Simon and Frick I was wondering if you guys would post how much you guys had spend on your cars to get them prepared for their first event (not matter how scary the numbers are).

I am too farily articulate on how I want things done (anal). I like the idea that I will have a better understanding of my vehicle's strong and weak points. And yes it would be a lot of fun to biuld this vehicle and of course to drive it when I am done. I just like the idea of building vs. buying, even though it is not the cheapest way. And I WOULD never disrespect a class, car, or organization by building a car that was a catastrophe...I believe do it right or don't do it at all!

Thank you and please continue to post. I will see some of you this weekend at STPR.
 

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Simon and Frick are running spec focus which require specific parts (even DMSs which are no longer required) so theres would not be a good example since they couldnt use cheaper parts. That is of course if you dont plan on running spec focii. Its pretty simple; add up the amounts for your safety gear first, including 2500-3000 for the cage. Everything else is up to you. In other words you could run $4000+ suspension or $1500, $1500 seats or $300. You can get away without things like a diff for a while or you may just want everything from the start. If you want a fully prepped focus with all trick parts etc I bet you are looking at 30K plus, with you doing some of the work. On the other hand, you can probably build something fast and reliable for 15K. To see what a typical spec focus would cost take a look here; http://www.nasaforums.com/viewtopic.php?f=41&t=10220
You dont have to run all the trick parts but some were required at the time like seats, suspension etc as they were handing out contingency money.
What you should look into first is what class you plan on running.
 

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The Scorpion King
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What's the reason you want to build a Focus? There's nothing more inherently wrong with the platform than any other car (and perhaps less than many) but there's really only a few compelling reasons to build one.

--
John
 

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John,

Please post a good starter car as opposed to the Focus.

I am also in the works to build a Focus and would like to hear your input if there is a better platform to start with.

I have not purchased the chassis yet so please give us virgins some guidance.

Thanks,
Royal Rally
 

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What is a "good starter car" depends on your goals and what you expect to get out of it. There's no universal answer.

John just made mention of the lack of "compelling reasons" to build a focus. The spec focus class is about the only one I can think of. There was supposed to be some money in that class that was intended to help guys out and help offset some of the costs involved in running. Maybe some of the participants can comment as to how that has worked out.

Along those lines, the Mazda contingency is fairly substantial right now. If I was getting into a 2wd car and could afford it, that's probably what I would look at. You may want to talk to lurch for more details and what the future of that program looks like.

If you're just looking for something relatively inexpensive to build and run...there are some left coast people who will avail you with tales of the volvo 240 and xratties and all the wonderful junkyard upgrades you can do. They have some valid points. And of course everyone in 2wd has or has had a Mk2 VW at some point. Parts are everywhere and so is knowledge.

If you're not dead set on 2wd, you could always join the church of Randy and build a N/A Subaru. Cheap to build...infinitely upgradeable...tons of knowledge pool...relatively low powered (just like most G2 cars) but spreading that power between 4 wheels instead of 2=less driveline failures and great traction.

Bottom line...the road to the promised land is not the same for everyone. It depends on what you want to get out of it.
 

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The Scorpion King
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Exactly. I am not saying that the Focus is a bad choice, just that there could be better choices, depending on your situation. The original poster didn't state any assumptions that I would say disqualify the Focus, but I was just curious about the reason that the Focus was picked.

--
John
 
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