Our Build Part 2: Building A Cage

This is the second of a short series of posts covering the process of building our car, and cage.

“That car is too nice to ruin!”

We ignored everyone who said that to us. Even if it had 220,000 miles on it and was primer grey when we started this project. It was also a mostly straight and rust free example of a 2.6 5 speed 190E that had the desirable palomino interior. We wanted to start with something that was “too nice to race” to spoil ourselves.

Compared to the cars I was used to having growing up, working on a nearly 30 year old car without rust was a treat. Having a sound car also meant the body was more rigid and we didn’t have to waste time patching rust at anchor points.

Pictured above are our stock springs and diff on the right.

With the car mostly stripped it weighed just 2400lbs.

We then ran the car in a test session at Putnam Park (in our home state of Indiana), with a stock bugeye WRX seat and had the stock exhaust on the car. This was meant to be “shake down” of sorts to see what reliability issues needed addressed, and to get some seat time in the car.  We were all just itching the drive the car, even if the suspension tuning was going to change with the addition of a cage. With our best driver behind the wheel, Jimmy Boylan, the 190 went toe to toe with a Z06. The in car video shows how little of the stock car was left at this stage.

With the Gingerman Race around the corner it was time to build the cage.

Our tubes arrived in late spring pre-bent by Roll Cage Components, ready to be coped and welded. We were able to have the tubes bent to fit our car based on measurements we provided. This ended up saving us the trouble of having to find a tube bender locally. Saving time at this stage was critical as our first event in August was getting closer, and we had a lot of work to do.

We elected to go the route of cutting holes in the floor and dropping the cage through to weld, and then paint the areas of the cage that would ultimately be touching the roof. This was to accommodate our tallest driver, Jon. The other popular ways of cutting holes in the roof, and building support boxes after the hoops are welded seemed intrusive, and time consuming. Interestingly enough, placing the tubes where we did also created a new center side jacking point!

If you want to build a race car make sure you have friends who can weld.

We were able to save hundreds of dollars building the car by having Jon painstakingly TIG weld the cage. He only had a 110v power source too! Building the cage ourselves also allowed us some flexibility in placing the tubes, for more space and ease of egress. A custom build allowed us to meet the rules for LeMons, Chumpcar, and WRL as well.

Jon’s handywork

Send nodes.

With our team’s engineering and FSAE background we set out to build a cage that would be safe, and one we could be proud of. A properly noded cage is a strong and aesthetically pleasing structure.  Just look at those load paths!

The stock dash still fits!

After gutting the car, cutting up the body, and removing everything we didn’t need; we were able to use the stock dash with the addition of a few tabs to the cage. It still does a great job of holding the gauge cluster and our switch panel. We used Ford Grey tractor paint for the floor and cage to prevent rust. We wouldn’t want it to start getting rusty on us, after all…. it had made it this far.

Author: Max Frohnen

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