Knowing how to work on our own vehicles saves us considerable amounts of money. This is huge, because knowing how to work on our own vehicles usually means we’re spending the money we save (and then some) on improving them. And, as anyone who’s ever built a legitimate race car will tell you, playing by the rules gets expensive quickly.
We’re all familiar with how quickly performance modifications add up to big money. What’s the saying? Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go? I know, right? For a minute, forget about any and all performance modifications to your would-be rally car. Let’s talk about getting an otherwise completely bone stock car – and complete rookie driver – ready to register for that first rally.
You’re going to need a roll cage. Not some hastily bent-up pipes by your buddy with a Harbor Freight MIG, but a real, actual, built-to-the-rule-book safety cage. You can expect to spend a couple grand – easy – on a proper cage. You’re going to need FIA certified seats, seat mounts, and harnesses, too. Probably another grand, there. Let’s call it US$3,000 for all of the above.
Now, you don’t have to upgrade the brakes and suspension. You don’t have to install skid plates and rally tires. You don’t have to finish, either. You probably want to, but since you don’t actually have to, let’s cheap out and not count the US$3,000 you could easily spend on entry level, not-destroy-the-car hardware here, and instead have a look at personal safety equipment you’ll need to have before you will pass tech.
Got a helmet? How about Nomex fire suit? Fire resistant underpants, gloves, socks? What about a HANS device? Pretty much every sanctioning body out there requires the $500-and-up head and neck restraint systems these days for both driver and co-driver. Let’s ballpark this gear at another US$2,000 all-in.
Back to your ideal rally car. You can expect to sink at least US$5,000 into your rally dream before you even pop the hood – and that’s assuming you want to run tired, OEM struts, last year’s winter tires, and a cardboard skidplate under your oil pan. (I suspect you don’t.)
While we’re thinking about it, where is this rally you want to enter located, anyway? If it’s within a 2 hour drive, consider yourself very lucky. Of course, if you want to enter other rallies in the championship, you’re probably going to have to tow the car across state lines with a truck getting pitiful fuel economy. You’ll probably have to spend a couple nights in a hotel, too. And you were going to cover food and lodging for your volunteer service crew, too, right? How much will all that set you back, you figure?
We all know playing with cars can get expensive very quickly – especially when we’re building real, actual race cars for sanctioned motorsport. I think rally ups the ante a bit more than most pursuits. There’s really no way to escape the costs, but if you build a team before you build a car (see #1), you’re doing better than most.
The big lesson here is make the car legal and reliable before you worry about making it fast. I usually tell people they can expect to spend US$6,000 – on top of the car – to prepare for their first rally. That’s $6k on top of whatever you pay for the car, be it a slagged-out, $14k Evo or an equally abused, $500 Volvo. One is $20,000, the other $6,500. How fast do you want to go (rallying)?
I’d appreciate if any seasoned rallyists could comment on these numbers. Since I’ve not actually spent this money (gave up on my own race car build), I’m leaning on numbers I remember from when I was building a rally car. Have YOU built a car? How much would YOU tell people they can expect to spend on a basic build?