So You Want To Build a Racecar?

So sometimes you just get down about a project. Saturday I worked on the Talon for a little bit, but as usual; other things were pulling at my time. My brother needed me; my wife is painting. If this keeps up, I won’t ever get this car done. I did, however, get to catch up on a little reading of my chassis book. Dave Morgan wrote a book on chassis’s back in the late 80’s, but it’s still a great book in my opinion. The book is called Door Slammers: The Chassis Book, and it’s a great great resource for me. It’s a short read, but has technically complicated descriptions of how things work in a door slammer. And that’s perfect for me. Anyway, if you’re trying to figure out how to setup a four link or ladder bar, and need some insight or assistance, then you should check this book out. I’ve read it cover to cover, and am now going to go through the numerous setup sidebars that Dave provides. And, if you want to buy it through that Amazon link, that helps me out a little bit :-)

Back on the topic of the car: I worked on a bunch of random things on Saturday. I replaced a few sensors that I didn’t care for; installed some more plumbing, and started mingling in getting the gauges setup – although I called that off for the day because I didn’t have the required hole saws. Anyway, after that I worked on the wiring harness. I feel good working on the car, in general.

I told my friend Kevin that planning a life and a racecar at the same time is generally a bad idea. Since he’s building himself a car, too, he totally agreed with me. I will hold this belief for the rest of my life. I will also have the experience of actually doing this and understanding what it really takes to do this. Most people will never experience it. I even thought I’d have an idea when I started this project – I was mistaken. Sure, time, money, time and time are easy things to consider, but that’s only the tip of it. There are things that have drained me so much more than just time and money. It would be so much more simple if my priorities were the car, but they’re not. I have responsibility to other people – my family; my friends. I also have things like bills, and a normal 9-5 job. Even without the car, I have little spare time. Things come up, people want things, or I inevitably have something to do. On top of all that stuff, I’ve dreamt of just getting the car done for the past three years. that’ll affect you without having these other factors.

And sure, I’ve taken my time with things. I want to build this right. I don’t want to have a great car with a rat’s nest for a wiring harness. I don’t want a four link to run 12’s. I don’t want to compromise on many parts of the car because of the integrity of the whole thing. because of that, I’ve spent much more time on this car than most people do on their doorslammers. And the flip side of that is, of course, that other people do a much nicer job on their cars than I have on mine. and I can’t even imagine what they go through. I know one guy who’s six figures into a new car, and it’s not ready to run yet. That takes balls. And cash :-o


I’ve been doing an extremely unrealistic amount of work with other things lately, so work on the Talon hasn’t happened. It’s a shame, but looking outside and seeing snow and high 20 degree weather doesn’t exactly kick me in the ass and make me want to get it running, either. The truth is, however, that I would love to. But, for the past three or four weekends (I can’t remember anymore,) there’ve been way too many things going on. Weddings, family coming into town, helping other people with things, stuff at work coming up. And now, this weekend, it’s Easter and we’re going down to Tennessee to visit family. Okay, so next weekend we’ll work on the car.

GT4202 Turbo Mount and Electrical Wiring

Well, work has been slow lately, but it’s still coming along. Mark is going apeshit on his house, and I’ve had things going on over the weekends, but we’re still trying to get some stuff done.

Last time we both worked on the Talon, we started knocking out the turbo support. 42 pounds of GT42 needs to have a sufficient mount, or it will want to destroy the header. So, that’s coming along. We also finally finished up the oil pan – I added some baffling which should help with oil crawling up walls and generally going places I don’t want it to go. So, that stuff is getting worked out.

Last time I worked on the Talon myself, I finished up some more wiring. Someday, the wiring will be done ;-) I literally have one more wire to run in the engine harness, and then I’m going to sheath it up. I’ve already sheathed part of the harness in the engine bay, although there’s still a lot more to do. I also confirmed that the Haltech that I have does, in fact, work. I was worried that it might not. I purchased it off some guy who was putting it in a Supra, but his plans changed, and he no longer needed to use it. Anyway, it was pretty much all wired, but never used. Because things belong in different places on a Supra, I basically went through the whole thing and pulled the plugs off the original harness, and created my own. Anyway, the whole point to my story is that I’ve finally successfully connected my laptop to the Haltech, and I can see that sensors are working. Unfortunately, the engine RPM is still at 0 ;-o

Anyway, I just want to finish up this post by mentioning a visit by a guy named Dexter. He stopped by one night to pick up an engine block from me. I opened up the garage door, and he and his friend proceeded to oogle over the Talon for about half an hour. He said something about the website not conveying the complexity and the sheer awesomeness of the car… or maybe I’m just mis-remembering that? ;-) Anyway, he seemed to really like the car, but the website needs work right? Fair enough I guess. Anyway, I’ll work on the website. In the meantime, you guys should check out the Forums where you can create new topics and discuss stuff. The more you guys post, the more questions I can answer about the car :-)

Driveshaft Fitment

The driveshaft was cake :-)

I called up Bob from KL Driveline again in Lansing, Michigan. Bob, for those of you who haven’t read other parts of the site, put together the Chevy 10-bolt that’s in the Talon. I asked him how to measure the driveshaft, and he told me to measure from the reasr diff yoke flange to the transmission output shaft. Cake.

6 days later, I had an aluminum driveshaft that bolted right in. See? cake!

Fuel System

The fuel system on the Talon consists of a custom 3.2 Gallon Aluminum fuel cell custom mounted into a fuel cell cage as required by the NHRA. This cell was built by Mark and I, and includes a sump area, and a quick fill cap, along with AN fittings to keep installation clean. Plus, it looks good ;-)

The Fuel tank connects through -8AN feed lines to an Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump, which is solidly mounted to the fuel cell cage. This setup should allow us to feed 850 horsepower worth of fuel through the aluminum hard lines up to the FIC 1600CC injectors in a stock Mitsubishi fuel rail. After the rail, an SX fuel pressure regulator keeps the fuel pressure to a desired pressure level. The system is then completed through -6AN hard line back to the fuel tank. Nice, and easy :-)

The Rear Frame

The rear frame was a weekend project, no doubt about that. Mark and I actually did a really good job of knocking out a bunch of work that weekend – we completely cut out the old rear frame, prepared the car to receive the new frame, and then welded the new frame into the car. It was nuts :-o We went through countless blades on all of the cutting tools we used – the Sawzall, an air powered body saw, an air powered die grinder with cutting discs, and a cheapie 4″ angle grinder. All that stuff was used to break through a lot of the stock factory sheetmetal. I had always had the impression that these cars were tough, and that was reinforced that weekend – the stock factory crossmember and subframe are up to six layers in some places! In order to grapht the new frame into the old body, we had to weld the new frame into existing factory steel – and we wanted it to be strong – that part was very important. So, we basically projected a plane onto the factory steel where we wanted to put the new frame, and then cut on that line. Lasers are awesome :-) We basically created a ledge to sit the new crossmember on, that existed on top of the factory framerails. It was a challenge cutting the ledge, but only because that part of the stock framerails ends up being every which way but straight. So, we managed a reasonable facsimile of an L on the stock factory steel, and then set the new crossmember on top of it. At the end of the day, after getting it all tacked up – it was all square, straight, and level – imagine that :-D After that, we spent a considerable amount of time reinfocing the stock steel so that the rear frame would be well supported. We made some 1/8″ steel plates that we welded to the stock framerails, that also welded to the new crossmember to give it a lot more rigidity, and to help the cute thin factory steel support the weight of the crossmember. When we were done, it all came out really well, and the crossmember was firmly planted in the car. What we did would have easily been sufficient to just weld into a street car, and go. Solid!

Fuel Cell

The parts of the fuel cell, all tacked together

The parts of the fuel cell, all tacked together

The fuel cell, welded

The fuel cell, welded

-8AN bungs on the fuel cell

Bungs on the fuel cell

Filler cap, return line

The filler cap and return line on the fuel cell.

The Fuel cell in the Talon was a relatively quick and easy item to get all squared away. While Mark and I were building the Intake manifold, I had some time to kill. I had ordered some random AN bungs, and a fuel cell sealed cap from Summit.

While Mark machined up the intake manifold flange over the fourth of July weekend, I spent time in the shop measuring and cutting a sheet of 6061 T6. Once I figured out the shape, and the size of the tank, and the sump, I went to work meauring and cutting up a bunch of aluminum. We ended up doing this out at Mark’s work.

It wasn’t until we got back to the shop that I welded up the aluminum cell. With the math, the cell was approximately just over 3 gallons. We confirmed that once we welded the cell up completely. The bungs went on the tank, along with the cap, and we started measuring. Using water, and a graduated container, we actually got more than three gallons out of the cell – it’s around 3.2 gallons.

The next step to the tank was mounting it in the car. This was a little more tricky than normal. Because of the way the cell was mounted between the framerails with nothing to protect it, NHRA required a 1-1/4″ by .063″ wall cage be mouted around the fuel cell. So, we built a cage that’d mount the cell, and the fuel pump (to be replaced later by twin pumps – more on that in the future) All in all, it turned out great :-)

Transmission Specifications

While starting the project for the Talon, one of the larger decisions would be which transmission to go with. There wasn’t much discussion of whether it was going to be an automatic or a manual – more of a discussion concerning which automatic we might go with.

The only thing we ever really even considered was a GM transmission. Dave Buschur at Buschur Racing sells motor plates, along with a flywheel, and converter in order to make bolting a GM Powerglide to a 4g63 a relatively painless proposition. The only pain is caused in the wallet ;-) But, this still gives us a lot of options.

TH350? TH400? 200R4? PG? WTF?

Originally, I started looking into whether we could get a TH350 that was stout enough to work with the 4G63. After all, this 4G63 was already putting out over 350ft/lbs of torque, and that’s what the TH350 was originally designed to handle. Our best Guesstimates would put the engine in the Talon at no more than 600 ft/lbs. Some research showed people having success with big iron running over 550 ft/lbs through a TH350. I also happen to run across one that was a good deal, but was stock. It would have to be modified. The price was right, though, so I grabbed the transmission, and we used it for some mock-up.

Mark wanted to go the 200R4 route. Not only did it have another gear, it also had provisions for locking up the converter during the run (or whenever we felt like it). While I wasn’t against the lockup converter, or the extra gear, I was against the cost difference. In addition to that, my step father owns a GN making a bunch of power, and the original transmission was swapped out for a TH400 in order to regain some strength to the drivetrain. Either that, or the original owner grenaded the stock transmission while making too much power (either one is a likely scenario.) In any case, this option was considered, but I didn’t really want to go this route.

So, we went with a TH350. At first. We cut up the floor, and then found that the converter that I had laying around wouldn’t fit between the transmission and the engine. It was too large. So, I called up Dave Buschur, and at the end of the day, walked away with a Powerglide. Why?

Well, here’s this powerglide that Dave had in his tube car. All parts total added up to about $6,800 worth of transmission. Vasco gearset (spendy), Dedenbear case (it would eliminate a shield and blanket on the car), Dedenbear tailshaft, Dedenbear pan, hardened input shaft, trans brake, and stuffed with goodies. It had just been gone through. It came complete, with a converter that should be just right. So, Dave sold me on it. The price was right, and it it the ultimate transmission. So, Dave sold it to me, and I picked it up the next day.

Parts Cost

If you have to ask, you probably shouldn’t attempt to afford it :-)

First, let me say that there are a lot of variables when building the car that you just can’t assign a cost to. Whether it’s a material you already have, or an extra hour or three that you work, you just can’t calculate some of the expense involved with this stuff. I’d also like to note that I have not kept a strict price list on this stuff. Yes, I did that for a reason – if you keep too much track of it, your head will hurt. The objective is not to account the hell out of the project, it’s to enjoy your hobby.

Buschur Racing RWD motor plate and flywheel kit
The Buschur Racing Motor plate and flywheel were purchased second hand from a NABR member. I think the original cost was ~$850. I think I purchased it for $525

Competition Engineering Four Link Kit
I purchased this kit through a local race shop that gave me deals on things, so I got it at cost. The frame rails are 24″ outside-to-outside, and I ordered the 150 pound coil-over option with the kit. $1,250.00

Chevy 10 Bolt rear differential
This was purchased through a local company, K&L Driveline in Lansing, Michigan. Bob and Jeff worked their magic for 6 weeks, after which, I had a rear end that just bolted into the car. Thanks guys :-) $1,650.00


Weld Racing wheels for the front and back of the car. The wheels were actually purchased through Summit Racing, because my “cost” price was actually more expensive. Weird, huh?

The rear tires are 29.5×10.5W Mickey Thompson Slicks. The fronts are Moroso DS2’s, 26″ tall, to fill the wheel wells. The fronts were ~$135 a piece, the rears were right around $200 a piece. I also purchased tubes for the tires. I think they were around $65 a piece.

Chromoly Tubing
All chromoly on the project was purchased through Chassis Shop here in Mears, Michigan. Another company here in Michigan with car parts – imagine that ;-) Purchasing this stuff made me take a trip up to Silver Lake (right down the road from Mears) to check out the sand dunes on the beaches of Lake Michigan. It was beautiful. I made a few orders with them, too, and had some other materials delivered as well


Roll Cage
The roll cage is made of 4130 Chromoly tubing, purchased at The Chassis Shop because it’s a business local to me, sort of. I spent ~$450 on the tubing for the cage itself. Maybe a little more, maybe a little less.

Summit Racing
Since February of 2005, I’ve spent $1892.64 with Summit Racing :-o That’s a huge surprise to me. Which really just goes to show you why you *don’t* want to add this stuff up sometimes.

Haltech E6S
This was purchased as part of where the car was going, but it’s really part of the list of things that’re going on the car currently. I got a deal on this item, too. I paid $650 for it.

Garrett GT42 Turbocharger
This turbo was a bit of a nightmare to obtain. Originally, I was going to purchase the turbo in late 2004, but one thing led to another, and before I knew it, it was already summer of 2005 before we got to a point where we’d need the turbo. So, I called up a supplier I was going to use, and found out that the price on the turbo jumped from $750, up to $1350. Holy shit. So, I looked around, and asked Ron Shearer when Jay, Mark and I went out to Dave’s shop to drop Jay’s car off. Shearer knew a guy in the area that had a GT42 for a project Corvette, but wasn’t going to finish it. He gave me the guy’s email address, and I emailed him. Brian (the guy I’m talking about) replied, but had unfortunately put the turbo up on eBay. So, I bid on it :-) Thankfully, I received the turbo for ~$850, which was a much better price than the $1350 price tag that the turbos now carry.


The Intercooler is a Bell Intercooler brand core, that Mark built tanks for, and I welded up. I’m damn proud of that liquid IC, because it’s something nobody has ever done on a DSM. Liquid core, no pumps. Fuck yes! I think it was $360 for the core, but I don’t have a clue off the top of my head.

We’re using an aftermarket Fluidyne brand Aluminum Sirrocco radiator, purchased from Summit, for $199.

The tranmission for the Talon is a GM Powerglide transmission that’s been heavily massaged. It’s got a Deadenbear case, tailshaft, and pan. All of these items together are ~$1500 new. The tranny sports a Vasco custom gearset, with uh, 1.84 first gear (? might be wrong on that) and a 1.0 second gear planetary. In addition, it’s also got a pro trans brake on it, so that’s just cool :-)

Other items yet to be priced:

Summit orders prior to 2005
engine parts
other raw materials
machine work
custom front suspension

Chromoly Rollcage Construction

Driving to Silver Lake, MI

Lake Michigan

Chromoly Steel Tubing

4130 Chromoly tubing, all loaded up and ready to go

Model3 Tubing Bender

The model 3 tubing bender in action

repositioning the tube

Repositioning the tube for another test bend.

Chopsaw Main Hoop

Chopping the main hoop.

The Drivers side door bard and a-pillar

The Drivers side door bard and a-pillar

Tacking the main hoop

Mark’s favorite pictures involve me welding something.

Mark and Rick hanging out inside the car

Mark and Rick hanging out inside the car

To tell you the truth, the roll cage in the Talon took a whole lot longer than expected. There were weeks of literally nothing happening because we spent a whole lot of time aquiring parts and tools. I wasn’t completely opposed to buying apre bent roll cage kit, I just didn’t end up finding one that I liked. So, the option of making my own roll cage cameabout as a neat idea, so I started looking into tubing benders. I made the mistake that a lot of other people make. I went out, and purchased a cheap ~$125 bow and arrow type pie bender. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it – I figured it would work just fine. Let me tell you a little bit about those types of benders: There’s a main die, with two other dies that work by cramming the main die through the smaller two die, making the schedule 40 pipe bend. This method does not work with what is considered thin-wall tubing. NHRA required .125″ mild steel, or .083″ chromoly tubing is way to thin for this type of bender. What does it do? It wrinkles the hell out of the tube, that’s what it does :-o Well, this wasn’t found out until I already obtained the tubing. Chassis Shop is down the road from my house. And, by down the road, I mean 120 miles away, in scenic Mears Michigan, right next to Silver Lake Michigan. Right next to lake Michigan. It’s a beautiful facility filled with all the chromoly and just about any other type of raw material needed to make a dragster, a dune buggy, an off-road vehicle, or just about anything else. While I didn’t exactly get the grand tour, I did just stop by a few days after placing an order for about 500 feet of chromoly total. I could be off by a few hundred feet – I can’t remember anymore. In any case, I did get to see the back room, and run around the aisles a little bit. *sigh* If I only had $100,000 to spend in that place ;-) So, anyway, back to the story, right? Getting back to the shop with a bunch of chromoly was fun. We got back, and chucked up some old mild steel that was once a roll cage for the Talon, and wrinkled the absolute piss out of it. This brand new chromoly was thinner wall, so it would have been even worse with wrinkling. Shit. What would we do? Well, looking into it some more, the type of bender we’d require would be more like a mandrel with a follow bar that helped the tube bend more as it bent. Also, something with a reasonably sized diameter for the die, so that the resulting radius would be larger so that the pipe wouldn’t bend. Well, shit, there’s no reason to go out and get all this chromoly, and half-ass this cage. So, I went out and bought the proper setup, a Model 3 tubing bender. This thing is bad ass :-) Now with the tubing bender, we were able to create whatever we wanted to. So, we started off with the main hoop. Cake, right? Okay, now onto the halo and A-pillar bars. These were tough. I wanted this stuff to look nice, tightly follow the stock factory body, and look fucking sweet. We accomplished all of this. The halo wasn’t any fun at all, but it turned out nicely. :-) Also, since I’m young and relatively agile, I opted for the 1.5″ X-bars instead of a single bar for the sidebars. Basically, all you need to do is check out the pictures. :-) They explain it all.