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The Z Transformation pt 4 – The Build Begins

By March 25, 2011April 10th, 2011Automotive, Neil, Racing

I think that any amateur racer, or weekend track day warrior eventually comes to a decision point in their hobby. Do you continue down the road of using your street car to do track days, maintain the status quo and stay within your comfort zone,  or do you jump in head first, take the next step and transform your car, your driving, and your hobby into a no-going-back lifestyle? To me it feels kind of like that moment before you jump into a cold swimming pool. You always consider turning back, but the feeling of being in the water and the fun you’ll have once you’re there make you jump in every time.


For some, taking that leap is too much, and they resolve to play it safe. But for me, I love and thrive being on the track. The feeling is inexplicable. If you have ever been in the driver’s seat on a track by yourself you know what I mean. I often wish that I could put people in my seat with me so that they knew, and could relate to the experience. Maybe it’s too much petrol in the brain but something just takes over you and everything else in your mind just disappears.

The process of transforming your car is definitely not an easy one. Unless you’ve got endless amounts of spending money, making this transition takes a lot of time, patience, sweat, and tears. Since mine is definitely a budget build, I’ve tackled each project in pieces. And the place I chose to start with expanding and upgrading my safety equipment.

The reason I chose safety first, for a lack of better wording is that as you become more skilled as a driver, you move faster and are continually pushing the limits of both your car and your own ability. The more risks you take, the more your instruments need necessary upgrades and expansion to meet the needs and use you are putting them through. Some of these include:

  • Roll Cage: “a specially constructed frame built in (or sometimes around) the cab of a vehicle to protect its occupants from being injured in an accident, particularly in the event of a roll-over. Roll cages are used in nearly all purpose-built racecars, and in most cars modified for racing. There are many different roll cage designs depending on the application, hence different racing organisations have differing specifications and regulations. They also help to stiffen the chassis, which is desirable in racing applications.” – via Wikipedia

    Being that welding is not my forte, I oped to save money over time  and outsource the build to a specialist. I chose Izzy’s Custom Cages in St. Louis, Missouri. Scott Rhea does awesome work and is quite the perfectionist. I felt that he would treat my car just with just as much care and concern as I do.
  • Racing Seat: A racing seat is built with high bolsters to hold the driver in place when turning. It is not good to be slipping around in your seat while trying to focus on driving. A racing seat also has holes for 4, 5, and 6 point harnesses. Some racing seats also have padding around the head area so in the event of a crash your head is contained in place. I opted for the OMP RS-PT2. It was a great value for the money.
  • Harness: Unlike a 3 point seat belt (one point at your shoulder attachment, one point at your buckle, and one point at the floor attachment) a racing harness is meant to not only attach at more points, but also is meant to be worn very tight. Think of when you ride a roller coaster. Most strap or tie down across your chest. This works on the same concept as racing harnesses. After a lot of research, I chose a Schroth Clubman 6 point harness.
  • Fire System: I have yet to purchase a fire system, but it is on a mile-long list of things I still need to purchase. There is no reason not to install a fire system in your car. In the event of a crash, or even in the case of engine fire, you really want to have a system available to put it out quickly. Most fire systems have 2 or 3 nozzles in the car that can be activated from a pull cord easily accessible from the driver position. Needless to say, a fire system is high on Jessica’s list of things to purchase for the car.

These four upgrades cover major areas of racing safety concern, however there are a good handful of smaller items that can be added to support and add to their function. These can include, but are definitely not limited to cage padding, engine kill switches, window safety nets, and special fire resistant clothing.

But enough with all that, lets check out some before and after shots of the progress since last Fall!


It is time for all that to come OUT!




As you can see here there is a good amount of sound deadening material on the floor of the car. This roof shingle tar like stuff is used to dampen and minimize road noise and vibrations. However in a race car it is only makes for added weight and therefore needs to come out.


It is a nasty, nasty job removing this stuff. I used a heat gun to soften and make the  material pliable, then scraped it off using plastic scrapers. Goo-Gone was my best friend for this sticky tar mess.


passenger sound deadening removal


I slowly filled a plastic grocery bag full of it.

Sound deadening junk

Another popular method to removing some of the more stubborn and stuck material is to use dry ice. The dry ice makes the material so cold that it turns brittle and you can then chip it away with the plastic scrappers and/or a rubber mallet.

Dry Ice on sound deadening stuff

It is not a short and easy job, and I split it up and worked on it over several days. Once the material is removed, the clean-up can begin.


Driver side stuff out

The scene from the herb garden…

workin hard

After a lot of work the material is removed and all cleaned up.

driver side front clean

rear clean

passenger side front clean

And finally ready to be transported to the builder (Izzy’s Custom Cage) for cage fabrication and install!

Up Next: Cage, racing seat, harness, and a new steering wheel are in the car and things are looking sweet! Stay tuned….