How to move from Stock or Street Touring to C Mod- An Introduction
All of us have been there. We've been autocrossing for a number of years, decided this is a hobby we are going to stick with, but can't decide what competition vehicle to purchase next. Yes, we have our dream list, but then reality sets in when you determine that it is cost prohibitive between the cost of the car, insurance, depreciation, performance upgrades, not to mention the cost of DOT competition tires (and it has nothing to-do w/ if there is a R on the side or not).
For over 40 years Formula Ford has been a mainstay of entry level, open wheel, road racing around the world; including the USA. In SCCA Solo Formula Fords (Formula F as of 2010) slot into C Modified w/ little or no modification from their road racing configuration, as our technical specifications are specified by the SCCA Club Racing General Competition Rules (GCR). The differences, if you choose: no fire bottle, no rear view mirrors, no rain light, and seat belts do not have a life span. Yes, the main differences are literally that simple.
The cars are mechanically simple, yet stout being that they were purposely built for road racing. No wings or aero to play with, you tune to maximize mechanical grip. Engines are the 1600cc Ford Kent (AKA Cortina GT) pushrod w/ a single Weber DGV downdraft carb pushing out about 110 HP (varies by builders dyno). The motor is of English Ford origin, but has been used all over the world in a number of different applications; including US Pintos and Fiestas. Sometimes it has been referred to as the English "small-block" such was its popularity and durability within the UK specialty car industry, including Cosworth & Lotus applications. The fuel of choice is 110 leaded race gas or low-lead AV gas.
The '09 Honda Fit motor is legal as of 2010 and conversion kits are being marketed by Honda Performance Development (HPD) for some of the newer chassis. This is not an inexpensive conversion at about $13k in parts alone and would take a long-time to pay for itself in a solo only car. You could get more than a few Kent engine rebuilds for that amount of money and be racing well into the next decade.
The gearbox is a true racing transaxle designed and manufactured by Hewland. The most popular will be the Mk 9 model, which is a traditional four-speed, h-pattern gearbox, using the VW Beetle magnesium case turned upside down and filled w/ dog-ring engaged racing internals. Newer cars may have a Staffs or Hewland LD200 box. Gears are easily replaceable and available thru a number of sources w/ Taylor Race Engineering being the most popular. The clutch is limited to single disc units; which may be stock (uncommon) or more popular a 7.25" Tilton, AP, or Quartermaster. The rear diff must remain open, but with a light, low horsepower car on slicks it is never needed. Shifts are fast, crisp, and clutch free once you are rolling.
Brakes are four-wheel disc w/ adjustable bias. Calipers must be cast iron, w/ AP LD-19s being on 95% of cars. Pads are available from all of your favorite suppliers be it Hawk, Ferodo, CarboTech, Porterfield, etc and are cheap. Most compounds being priced $50-75 a set, which will last approx three seasons w/ two-drivers.
At the moment the Hooser R25B C2500 has become the 'spec' tire for CM- 7" fronts & std FF1600 centelever rears. Good Year has not been producing their R120 compound in a number of years and Avon came, saw, and did not conquer the US FF1600 market about 5-6 years ago. They exited to concentrate on the F2000 market after not being able to come up w/ a suitable rear cantelever tire, which is unique to the American FF market. All cars run on 13x5.5 rims front and rear.
Now that we have the mechanical basics down what are you looking for...
The Solo Rulebook lists approved manufacturers for participation in CM. This list was compiled over 17 years ago with a reorganization of the mod classes, but could use some slight updating w/ a letter to the SEB & MAC starting the process. The list, however, will cover 95% of the cars you will see on the open market, which was its original intent. No single make or model has proven dominant at the National level. In general what we are looking for are the "orphan" cars. Those cars too new for club ford (w/ outboard suspension), not competitive in national road racing, or those cars which were deemed uncompetitive by the introduction of the Swift DB1 back in 1983. Formula Ford was huge in SCCA Club Racing throughout the 1970's & 80's and cars are in all corners of the country. The newer pushrod cars from the early 90s on w/ Hewland LD 200 gearboxes do not have the same selection of gears available w/out possibly spending big money on a ring & pinon (CWP) swap and also have longer wheelbases, often over 100+" compared to 96" common in the mid-80s.
Sports 2000 (S2) sports racers are also elgible for competition in CM. We have not seen any on the national level in a number of years, but Guy Ankeny did win the National Championship in a Tiga SC87 in the late 90's. S2's have a number of significant differences from the open-wheeled FF1600. First, they are powered by a 2.0 OHC motor, which is larger and has a higher center of gravity than the pushrod 1.6, but it does come w/ approx +40 hp. Other key differences are the larger 6"-Front & 8" rear wheels and often a right-hand drive seating position, though right-hand shifting is retained. With the full width sportsracer body S2s are often referred to has "two-man" cars, as they are not easy to work on w/out assistance to remove the nose & tail. but do fit a wider variety of driver sizes with the roomier cockpit. With the additional power, larger wheels & brakes also comes an increase in minimum weight to xxxx#. S2 prices have been climbing the last few years, as many are now accepted by vintage organizations, with clean cars now $25-35k.
For the more popular FF here are some popular and competitive choices w/ 1983 being a good barometer, as this was the year front & rear in-board suspension cars really took the market by storm:
Crossle 55+ (used to build all the cars for Skip Barber prior to Mondiale, 30 series are popular Club Fords)
Lola 640-644 (Michael Andretti ran factory backed cars in US, Charlie Matthews has successfully autocrossed 644 in CenDiv)
Reynard FF82+ (These cars put Adrian Reynard on the map, great parts availability, large cockpits, driver friendly)
Van Dieman RF85+ (85 was a Swift copy, which evolved from there, can be tight fit for larger drivers)
Swift DB1 (most expensive on list, but also most plentiful, can be tight in shoulders for larger drivers)
Citation 85+ (beautiful cars built in IN w/ support still available from ICP. Peter Raymond/Josh Sirota/Jim Garry car has been very successful)
and many more choices available...
Make sure you test fit the car before you buy if possible. If you're 5'8" and 150# you'll fit in anything, but if you're 6'2" and 210# you may need to shop around a little for soemthing which you're comfortable in. Even make a post on ApexSpeed to test fit a similar car locally before traveling. The pedals and steering columns are adjustable, as well as using custom molded bead or foam seats, but cockpit dimensions limiting shoulder room and footbox dimensions can be deal breakers. Don't plan on fitting in the car w/ your running shoes on. You will need a true racing type driving or wrestling shoe to properly operate the closely placed pedals. Size 12 feet and up beware of potential issues and the need for possible modifications, but its Mod you can do that:)
Prices for complete cars will be $6500 on the low-side to the best of the best Swift DB1s pushing $20k. Purchasing a FF is no different than purchasing any other used car. Look for the cleanest car you can afford, lack of (or properly repaired) crash damage , does it have its logbooks and homologation certificate, does it have maintenance and set-up records, what about a spares package (wheels/gears/etc), is it an owner you feel is trustworthy, etc. With SS starting at $20k for a used C5 ZO6, which hasn't been prepped, and 89 Civics in ST having more in parts then the cost of the car; CM w/ fully-depreciated cars offers not only great performance, but great value.
The FF community has a very active and helpful group of enthusiasts at www.ApexSpeed.com. Questions are answered honestly, quickly, and without mud-slinging being that they are a more mature and affluent group.
Do not let parts availability or engine durability scare you, their are numerous resources around the country (world). As mentioned the engine has been used throughout the world and a number of different aftermarket replacement parts have been approved including blocks, heads, cranks, cams, & pistons. The other mechanical parts are often shared w/ production cars (wheel bearings & fuel pumps for example) or are open market performance items (rod ends, spherical bearings, braided hose, etc)
Here is the start of an essential internet & reading list:
Cars For Sale:
www.batinc.com (English Ford)
www.davebean.com (English Ford)
www.racing-stuff.com (General & Reynard)
www.hewland.com (Manual & Gear Charts)
www.taylor-race.com (TRE- Hewland & Driveline)
www.twodogg.com (TDI- Driveline & Reynard)
www.porterracing.com (General & Crossle Parts)
www.iveyengines.com (FF Engine Specialist one of about ten around the country)
www.hoosiertire.com (Tire Specs)
www.midatlanticmotorsport.com (Hoosier Tires & Panasport Wheels)
www.srpengineering.com (Shocks/Hyperco Springs)
www.formulacars.com (Reynard Parts)
www.fastforwardracingcomponents.com (Swift & Piper Parts)
www.primusracing.com (Van Dieman Parts)
Carroll Smith Series (Pocket Engineer is an awesome quick reference guide)
The Anatomy & Development of the Formula Ford Racecar- Steve Nicholls, history thru early 90's, long out of print & expensive on EBay or Amazon, but a great reference guide to the different manufacturers.
How to Build & Maintain a Competitive (yet legal) Formula Ford Engine- Jake Lamont & Tom Andresen (available at Pegasus)
Weber DGV Downdraft Carb Service Manual (many different books on market check out Amazon or Ebay)
Hewland Mk9 Service Manual (PDF available off Hewland website) including gear charts for 22.5" tire w/ 9:31 or 10:31 R&P
The biggest between event ritual is to-do a nut & bolt of the car to make sure nothing has worked itself loose, as well as a wipe down of dirt & grime. The basics of the car are simple: Plugs 1x/yr ($10), Oil Change 1x/yr ($50-60 w/ synthetic & filter), Gearbox Fluid Red Line Shockproof 1x/yr ($10-12), Fuel 1-1.5 gallon per day w/ two drivers, Bleed Clutch/Brakes 1x/yr ($15), Pack CVs every other season w/ synthetic grease, fuel filter every other season, clean air filter, cap/rotor/wires are good for multiple seasons, as is Pertronix ignition module,
1x/yr, adjust engine valves 1x/yr. All simple, basic, & affordable.
If you like the science of developing a car to your individual tastes CM is for you. Working off the basic platform you will have more adjustments to fine tune the handling and balance of the car then you ever imagined on your stock class car. Yet, it is all accessible, quick, and easy: alignment- camber, toe, caster, ride height, rake, corner weights, shocks, springs, sway-bars, etc. Don't be intimated, read, ask questions, test, and tune. The cars can be very forgiving, but once you hit that sweet spot you will wonder why you it took so long to see the light of CM affordability vs performance.
An open exhaust FF1600 can blow up to 105db if not properly muffled. Adequate race mufflers are on the market, which will quite the car and not effect performance. My Swift was blowing 88-89db at all national events w/ sound control in 2010, down from 102db in 2009 w/ a straight pipe.
You will require autocross gears for your Hewland transaxle, with first being a fixed-layshaft gear. These gears rarely come up on the used market, but are available from TRE new and may be your largest single initial outlay at approx $450. The second-forth gears are std slide-on ratios and may be purchased new ($207-227), used on ApexSpeed, or traded. Make sure the car you purchase comes w/ some spare gears, as they have real dollar value.
As mentioned Hoosier has become the defacto spec tire. A complete set runs approx $800 w/ life expectancy dependent on surface, car set-up, and driving style, but 75+ runs per set is not unheard of w/ the current generation Hoosier compound. The tires will heat cycle out before they physically wear out, so for locals if you want to practice car control go for it.
Dedicated rain tires are available and I have found that most folks go 'dead' sitting in their trailers they are used so infrequently, but for big events it is one of those things you must have at your disposal. I personally get much more use out of having a second set of older mounted slicks for local events, if you are limited in your number of wheels.
The cars are light, approx 900# empty, combined w/ a small single axle trailer they can be towed by virtually anything. S-10 or Ranger p/u no problem and no need for a big one-ton diesel dually! Tools & support equip go in the back of the truck.
Your dedicated racecar will not be covered by your auto or home owners policy and will require specialized insurance if you desire. Storage, Transportation, and Paddock (STP) policies are priced for an agreed upon value and are very affordable at $250/yr from Heacock Insurance. When applying for a policy do not insure for what you purchased the car for, but what it would cost you to replace it. As many of the entry level cars will be worth more in parts. For example if you buy a $6500 car, I would not insure it for less than $10k, $10k car I personally would insure for $15k. It has no effect on the cost of the policy until you get into much higher values. Often your trailer can be added to the policy too, if it is not already on your tow vehicle insurance.
C Modified....real racecars, real speed, real affordable. Come join the fun, your fellow competitors are here to help the transition.