Part 2 - Building a Pole Winning B-Spec Car - Selecting and Finding a car
Updated: Nov 4, 2019
On August 5th 2018 I bought my first B-Spec car, a 2011 Mini Cooper built by David Ellenwood as part of a challenge to build a B-Spec car for less than $8500. The Build was well documented on his blog and the results were demonstrated on the Facebook Page. In December 2018 I bough my second B-Spec car to rent, a Honda Fit that had been campaigned in the 2015 SCCA Runoffs at Daytona. It did not take long for me to figure out that carrying around two different cars meant twice the parts, wheels and tools. So I sold the car and decided to build another Mini.
Question 1: What car should I build?
Each person has their own preferences and the answer for me is very likely different from your answer so we will not answer that here. Besides, a key difference between B-Spec and Spec Miata is that we all enjoy the fact that the cars don't all look the same. Look at your brand loyalties and consider a range of factors like availability before deciding which car to build. Each brand has advantages and disadvantages. The Mini is the only car in the class with an independent rear suspension and rear disc brakes, but the replacement parts are fairly expensive compared to the other cars in class. The Mazda 2 currently has the best contingency program. The Honda Fit is plentiful and replacement parts are inexpensive. Perhaps best of all the Fit gives a ton of interior space for extra tire storage. The Kia Rio has won a National Title but performance suspension parts are hard to procure. There are similar positives and negatives about each of the cars in class. If you are unsure of what to build, ask the B-Spec Community on the Facebook page. You are forewarned - they will all try to tempt you to build a car like theirs, and in some ways that is very healthy. A consideration in any build is how much expertise is available to help you in the process. Don't try and do this in a vacuum. In addition, many cars are for rent as listed above so you can always test a car before deciding what to build. What did I do? I decided to build a Mini. But as I hate pulling the super-pain-in-the-ass restrictor plate on my 2011 MIni, I made the decision to build an earlier Mini that does not require a plate.
Question 2: Where do I get the donor for my build and how much should I budget?
A good budget to start with for a donor car is around $2-3,000 with one of three options to get there.
1) Find a car in a salvage yard that has had some minor body damage but is mechanically sound. The great thing about airbags is it does not take much of an impact anymore to total a car because of the amount and cost of airbag replacement. A car with 75,000 miles seems to be the ideal combination of depreciation curve and low miles. This is the recommended way as mechanical age is an important part of any race car since wear items can be time consuming to replace and costs add up fast. Plus its a race car, the body does not have to be perfect. Any race car that has seen a few miles will likely have a bit of road rash os some sort anyways. A great place to find cars in this condition is CoPart.
2) Find a car with a good body and broken engine and fix or replace the engine. Certainly Craigslist is a favorite here.
3) Find a worn out high mileage car where everything works. Caution, you may think you are saving $$$ but will likely spend more in replacing all those wear items than the savings is worth. This option becomes much more palatable if you are already the owner of the donor car. In that way you at least know the history and have some experience with repairs.
For us we took option 2 - Our Mini expert David Oliveira found us a flood damaged Mini Cooper that was sans functioning engine and procured a used lower mileage engine to install. One thing we considered with our new build is to go ahead and replace the typical wear items while we had the engine out so that we did not have to do it later. This is not a required part of the process but recommended if you already have the engine out. Our cost? $500 for the car, $1,500 for the engine and $1,000 for the wear items (timing chain set $450, clutch & flywheel $180, water pump & thermostat $120, misc gaskets and new fluids $250). We took David's advice and went with actual BMW parts for the timing chain and went online for the rest. The Mini is fairly expensive for these parts, other brands can be done cheaper. In addition the 2008 Mini is allowed a header per the rulebook so we ordered that from OBX for $500. We also paid David to install the engine but that is not included here because it was a time consideration (I don't have any) and not a required part of the build. Downside of paying someone else to do your mechanical work is that they generally don't go with you to the race track. I learned this the hard way when they asked to see my restrictor plate at the 2018 Sonomo runoffs. I literally had no idea where it was and how to remove it. Budget so far? $3,500. Here is Part 3 https://www.b-spec.org/blog/part-3-building-a-pole-winning-b-spec-car-safety-first