Racecar Enthusiasts: How to Have a Racecar Look-Alike
Forget baseball, NASCAR is the new American pastime. NASCAR has quickly become America’s favorite spectator sport and the races are viewed in an additional 150 countries worldwide. The sport began on the back roads of North Carolina and Florida during the Prohibition, and has quickly turned into a franchise that nets billions in revenue each year. If you are a diehard NASCAR fan and want to turn your vehicle into a race-ready stock car, there are several points to consider.
Before You Modify
Before you visit your local auto parts store, construct a realistic budget. The average NASCAR team spends at least $20 million maintaining a fleet of 14-20 cars. Your budget will probably be much more modest and must be kept in mind when it comes time to choose realistic car parts and modifications. Don’t be surprised if your mid-level stock car modifications cost upwards of $10,000 and this figure doesn’t include the price of a car.
Now, it’s time to choose a car to modify, if you don’t already have one sitting in the garage. Keep in mind the vehicle’s base price, the price and availability of aftermarket parts and your comfort level. Generally, the Honda Civic and Accord, Nissan Skyline, Toyota Supra and Mitsubishi Eclipse fit the bill. The 1980-2003 Ford Mustang or BMW 3-Series are also excellent choices if you’re looking for a different flair.
There are several upgrades almost any homegrown mechanic can do. If you’re stumped or uncomfortable performing these upgrades yourself, don’t hesitate to contact a professional, or at least a knowledgeable friend, for assistance.
- Air Filter – Upgrading the air filter is a relatively inexpensive and rudimentary task. The upgraded filter slips in where your factory filter is found, although your performance increase won’t be too significant. Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $200, or more, for an air filter.
- Cold Air Intake – The cooler air directed into your engine equals more horsepower. The installation isn’t tricky, but requires precision to be effective. A cold air intake will run anywhere from $200-$1000, depending on your personal vehicle and budget.
- Synthetic Oil – Switch to synthetic oil to lengthen the engine’s life and improve performance. The oil runs anywhere from $7 to $15 per quart.
- Tires – Upgrade your tires to control all the extra power in your car, and to prevent under and over steer. Once again, the price of new tires varies and a mid-level set of racing tires can cost around $250 a piece. Top of the line tires are well over $1000, or more, per unit.
Leave These to the Professionals
Unless you have a garage that’s fully stocked with top-of-the-line tools and equipment and a friend with years of professional experience, there are some stock car upgrades that are best left to the professionals. This is only a sampling of the possible modifications required to create a well-balanced, street legal stock car.
- Engine Swap – Here’s an example of a typical, legal engine swap. You have a 1998 Toyota Supra. The price of a high performance, twin-turbo engine is anywhere from $6,000 to $7,500. Expect to pay an additional $1000 to $2000 for labor. A lesser priced engine and labor will run anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 for the both.
- Performance Brakes – At this level, the stock brakes won’t have enough power to handle the new engine. Once again, leave this to the professionals to ensure the quality product is installed correctly. Pricing varies, but expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $1000 for the parts and labor.
- Replacement ECU — The ECU, or engine control unit, is the vehicle’s “brain” and controls several vital functions. If you’re upgrading your engine, a new ECU is the next step to attain maximum performance. The prices of an upgraded ECU vary, and will cost from $600 to $2000 installed.
Changing the Body
Achieving that NASCAR feel at home is as much about changing the car’s appearance as increasing its performance. Body kits are readily available for several vehicles, and easily installed at home if you have the right tools and experience. Use caution, as improperly installed body kits not only look ridiculous, they also significantly hamper the vehicle’s performance.
Finding the Parts
You’ve decided which modification you can handle, now it’s time to find the parts. There are a slew of stock car discount auto parts supply stores online. These are your best bet, especially if your local auto parts store doesn’t carry what you need. Do your homework and compare prices to find the best deal. Also, read the previous buyer’s comments and check the store’s return policy before purchasing
With your vehicle’s increased horsepower comes the responsibility of learning how to handle it safely. Enroll is a professional racing or driving school to not only become a better driver, but a safer one as well. Drive safely and obey all the traffic laws to ensure your new stock car isn’t destined for the next police auction.
Edson Farnell has been a car enthusiast his entire life, and has written about everything from Mercedes Benz parts, to restoring a 1953 Buick.