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What we’ve learned after a lifetime of project cars | Articles

What we've learned after a lifetime of project cars | Articles

Our LS-powered Nissan Z is a fast, sorted track car. How’d we get it that way? By following a lot of our own personal project car lessons–ones learned via decades spent in the shop, on the road and at the track. When normal people are sleeping, we’re breathing this stuff.  

Comfort Equals Speed

Photography Credit: Dave Green

I think we accomplished a lot with our most recent Corvette Z06 project: national-level trophies in autocross and time trial as well as a popular series of stories that lasted longer than HBO’s critically acclaimed “The Newsroom.” But I also think very little of that part of the project was a surprise. The C5 is an incredibly effective and value-riddled platform offering lots of ways to go fast for one of the best speed-per-dollar ratios of any production-based car out there.

So in that regard, I didn’t “learn” a lot, but several points were reinforced. What the Corvette really, really drove home–something that was never on the planning sheets–was the importance of the human interface in going fast in a track car. 

The C5 was pretty much the fastest project car we’d ever built and certainly the fastest thing I’d ever driven for more than the occasional one-off event. And as we really got to the pointy end with it, I found over and over that some of my best gains on track came not from working on the chassis or tuning the powertrain but spending time on the seat, pedals, wheel and shifter.

Yep, the faster I went, the more it became imperative for me to be properly situated in the car. For me, this meant spending more than a few evenings building and rebuilding pedal extensions, adding steering wheel spacers, and cutting foam and making expanding inserts for the seat. 

I can’t understate the importance–particularly as speeds increase and reaction windows narrow–of being in the right physical position to implement those important decisions behind the wheel.–J.G.

Safety Shall Come First

Some venues require all the safety gear and some don’t mandate anything beyond the OE equipment. At the end of the day, we’re soft, squishy creatures that burn and cut easily, so we err or the side of caution: full fire systems in cars that go on track, head-and-neck restraints even when testing at…

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