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Buying a car to build a rally car


BUYING A CAR TO BUILD FOR RALLYING METRIX                                   

How to select a car to build a rally car?

Buying a car these days is a simple matter. The Internet is teeming with offers including offers of cars suitable for for historic rallies . We already know which make and model we want, but how to choose from many offers.  What is the most important. Paint condition? Little mileage? Rally equipment? Freshly overhauled engine? New clutch? Extra wheels? Good tires? How to compare the cars available for sale, according to which criteria to choose a car for historic rallying ?

The criteria are multiple. We list them in order of priority:

1/ Chassis:  This is the most important choice. The chassis should be in order of priority :

a/ Chassis should be rust free (to the extent possible). 20, 30 or 40 year old car is rarely rust free. But this is what you are looking for. Body work is the most time consuming and potentially expensive part of the job. So select the car which is as rust free as possible. If the seller tall you it is rust free – do not believe him. Check it yourself.

  • First, look under the carpeting on the driver and passenger side as well as the boot. Have the car lifted and look underneath for bubbles, rusty color, fresh patches of protective paint. This may indicate hidden rust perforations in the cockpit and boot.

If any the first elements fails the initial inspection look no further. Look for anoter car to buy.

If the chassis passes inspection look further:

  • Second, look at the doors. The doors are second most important element to check for rust, look carefully at the bottom of door frame this is where rust typically attacks first. Remove inside panel to check for rust indications. In some models replacement, used or new doors can be easily acquired, but in some short production series coupe models doors may extremely expensive and hard to come by.

  • Third, look at the fenders. Fenders are not part of the chassis structure, just add-ons to the chassis. They can easily be replaced of repaired, and their rust does not pose a big problem. Fenders are the least of your rust problems, but the less rust anywhere the less build time and less cost.

If any of the first thee elements fail the initial inspection look no further. This is not a car you want to buy.  

If the first three elements are OK look for added value:

  • Fourth, look at the paintwork. Maybe you will not have to re paint it, and putting on some car foil could just do.

  • Fifth, look at the front windscreen. Make sure it is not chipped or too scratched, Night driving with a 40 years old windscreen with dust and sand caused microchips in its surface is hard enough.  Replacement windscreen may be costly. If in doubt check for availability of new windscreen and if available and not too costly buy two !!!  Install one and store the other! Should you need to replace it , you will need it right away and not in two weeks time!  Complete windows will be an advantage, as you may decide to use it. If you decide to replace it with prosplex you will need them as specimens to be copied.

  • Sixth, make sure the chassis is complete, with all lights, complete dashboard, body ornaments, moldings, and badges (if present). It must have 4 wheel   wheels (best are steel wheels), all elements work () window lifts, hood releases, locks. Make sure the all electric circuits work and  wiring is in good condition (you may not have to replace it or repair it). Take your own batter to hook up to check it when going to inspect the car.

Once you are done with the chassis and bodywork continue with the mechanics.     


2/     Engine:  Engine is the least of your problems. Typically you will ultimately  replace it. But If what you buy it is in good running condition you may avoid rebuilding it right away. Make sure it is the right capacity engine. Check for leaks, check compression. Make sure all ancillaries are present and in working order. In case of some models you may buy a good used engine for few hundred Euro. Having a main and a spare engine is a very good idea.  


3/ Gearbox, suspension, drive shaft, rear differential. Make sure all is present, does not leak and is in working order. Make sure the gearbox and diff work smoothly, without extra noise.  Do not care about the wear of the clutch and clutch bearing wear, shift lever free play  – you will replace few parts and adjust as needed. The condition of the bearings and seals is irrelevant. The condition of the suspension bushings does not matter! It is important that the suspension is complete and not bent. (If the car goes straight without steering wheel corrections, that's ok!)


4 / "New brakes", "new discs", "aluminum rims", "low mileage", "new clutch", "new tires" - you are not interested at all. Don't take them into account, and their condition is irrelevant! The important review is fun, but we all know what it is


After checking the car, decide if the price is right. Watch out for "occasions", "only minor corrections", "Perfect condition!", "Original paint". The seller's ad is invalid until you verify it.


Don't be fooled by "freshly refurbished" incentives. They do nit matter, and the engine without previous overhaul is better for you than the one overhauled by Jo - the weekend mechanic.


Once you inspected the car, decide it the price is right.


Beware of costly “abandoned projects”. Typically the seller want to recover all costs, which makes no sense to you! Abandoned project is worth not more than 1/3 or the money spent, provided all parts are there. They sometimes do look good. The chassis is nicely pained, often already equipped with safety cage. Such project may be worth buying , but you cannot spend on it more than 1/3 rd of your budget. And typically the seller will want 80% of your budget. Just wait him out. Selling an abandoned project is not an easy job and requires a lot of time and major price reduction. Make him an offer ( show cash !), give him telephone number and WALK AWAY !  If he has any sense, he will call you with much better offer within a week.      


Summing up.

In reality, when you buy a car to prepare for a rally, you only buy the body, the rest are just added freebies. Chassis is the most expensive item to repair and is practically impossible to replace. If your bodywork fails the pre-purchase inspection, do not look at any other element of the car, just let it go!


Engine, gearbox, differential, etc. are of secondary importance as they can be easily obtained and replaced during the building process.


For these reasons to inspect the car take someone with you - preferably someone, who will work on your rally car body. A mechanic at this stage is less important than someone who knows the body and its renovation.

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