While restomods and daily drivers are certainly popular, and just about any car that passes safety inspection can make a pass down the 1,320 (or the 1/8-mile if that's all you have at your local dragstrip), it takes a much more dedicated and prepared car to have fun on a road course. Even the late-model guys will tell you that the stock suspension and brakes on their cars can only take them so far, and their stuff is worlds above what a vintage Mustang or Ford came with when it passed through the factory doors. Reaching out to someone with track car experience for this segment was an easy choice for us. We've known Paul Faessler and his Paul's Automotive Engineering for nearly 20 years. Paul's shop has put some of the hardest running vintage track cars out there and their cars have won six consecutive American Iron/American Iron Extreme National Championships! So Paul and his crew certainly have the credentials to help us help you with a track car budget build and where best to put your money.
"First thing for a track car is safety, which includes proper belts (at least four-point), a bolt-in rollbar (four point attachment minimum) with a horizontal bar to properly wrap the shoulder harnesses to. I always recommend the same safety equipment for the passenger seat, as beginners will normally have an instructor. Any beginner should always try to get an instructor every time they go on track," Paul's first comments were to us. Something else Paul couldn't stress enough of is another facet of safety--to bring a properly maintained car to the track. This includes at least new brake pads, fresh brake fluid, (Ford DOT 3 High Performance is a very good fluid), check all suspension mounting points and fasteners, and more.
"Reliability is the key to having fun and wanting to come back again," Paul added. This means having good prep, quality parts, and lots of seat time.
Cooling is very important for a track car. An oversized radiator with a properly sized fan will go a long way towards having a fun weekend at the track versus strapping a wounded track car back onto your trailer after your first session.
"The last thing I would worry about, and which is usually the first thing people spend money on, is more power. You will ultimately go faster by learning to brake late, and carry speed through the corners than flying down the straights and then over braking (usually too early)," Paul cautioned.
For a budget build of $5,000, Paul recommends leaving the trick coilovers and rack-and-pinion upgrades on the shelf.
"The stock suspension design's main weakness is the compliance in the control arm/strut rod/ spring perch/rear spring bushings. We use Cobra Automotive's components to remedy this," Paul explained. Paul recommends a nice budget brake cooling duct solution by using '67-'68 front parking light body bezels to make a nice air inlet for a 3-inch hose that can be routed to the center of the front brake rotor. "Weld in subframe connectors (we never install bolt-on subframe connectors), are a big help as well," Paul stated.
As the budget level increases, Paul starts recommending a good set of matching track wheels and race compound tires, and bigger brakes.
"Most people throw on a set of wheels and tires without considering the front brakes, and when they put on the big brakes, they have to get new wheels to fit the brakes," Paul cautioned. When you start getting serious about your track excursions, your brakes will be where you will spend the most money. However, it's where you will get the best value as well. Paul's shop uses Brembo race brakes on all of its American Iron cars. These packages start around $4,000. "That has been the best money we have spent on our race cars," Paul said.
At the higher budget levels, you can also start concentrating on a track-ready engine package, better rearend, and more. These upgrades are more for reliability than all out power. As stated earlier, the key to a good track car is suspension, brakes, safety, and ultimately your driving ability. We've seen plenty of 300hp cars run circles around 600hp cars because the 300hp car has a better suspension setup, better brakes, and/or a better driver. There's a lot of truth in the statement, "a road race is won in the corners."
"Everyone has seen the guys with a lot of power fly down the straights, but have a train of cars behind them when they get to the corners. Learn to drive the car deep into the corners and carry max speed through the corners, and it will surprise you how your low-horsepower/reliable combination will out run the high powered cars," Paul stated.
19 Overdrive transmissions...
19 Overdrive transmissions are one of the top upgrades we see for daily drivers. A quieter drive, better fuel economy, and less wear and tear on the engine are among the worthy benefits. If you plan to do a lot of driving with your restomod, an overdrive trans is certainly a vaulable consideration.
20 If you're planning a fuel-injected...
20 If you're planning a fuel-injected engine, be it pushrod or modular, remember to budget accordingly for the fuel system expense. To do it right, the pump should be mounted inside the tank, plus you'll have the cost of the high-pressure EFI pump, filter, regulator, and pressure and return lines and fittings to consider.
21 Sometimes it's best to...
21 Sometimes it's best to keep it simple. As Dave Stribling mentioned in his comments about basic restomodding, you can't go wrong with Cobra valve covers. The timeless look of these and a matching air cleaner, along with a few chrome bits and a coat of paint mean a great looking engine bay on the cheap!
22 Some custom touches should...
22 Some custom touches should be left to the bigger budgets. Shaved drip rails look good, but there's a lot of labor involved in getting the metal just right, plus the cost of paint. This is not something to tackle on a finished and painted car.
23 A Mustang-II-style front...
23 A Mustang-II-style front suspension can be a great value, as you're obtaining an easier to adjust, better handling suspension along with disc brakes and rack-and-pinion steering. However, once you add in popular options like adjustable coilovers, power steering and so forth, the price starts going up. For a daily driver or even a restomod, that's money that can be better spent elsewhere (or saved all together) unless you have to have the room for an engine swap.
24 Trick custom interiors...
24 Trick custom interiors are a hallmark of a restomod. We've seen several people tackle the modern dash swap into a classic. When done right, we think it really works, but unless you're getting the dash for next to nothing and have good fab skills, it's going to be an expensive conversion.
25 Easier on the wallet,...
25 Easier on the wallet, while still adding a great custom touch for a restomod or daily driver for that matter, is a custom console. Building a console or adapting one from another car means having all your switches in one handy location and allows mods like a tunnel mount parking brake handle and aftermarket shifters fit in neatly.
26 We've yet to see this...
26 We've yet to see this done in a vintage car, but for a daily driver, the Ford SYNC/My Ford Touch system from a newer Ford would be an incredible feature. Hands-free access to navigation, audio, HVAC controls and even a rear view backup camera are all things we'd use every day if we had a system like this in our vintage daily driver.
27 Another feature daily...
27 Another feature daily driver builds can consider, even at the lower budget levels, is a power window conversion. Even if you only do the front glass on a coupe, having power windows makes life easier when you hit the drive-through or need to roll the windows up when the rain starts coming down. No more leaning over and taking your eyes off the road; just hit the window switches.
28 Throwing a built 9-inch under your car is on everyone's wish list, but if you're talking a daily driver or a track car with less than 300 horsepower, you can easily get away with an 8-inch unit with a nicely built center section and new gears.