Do you want your own F1 car?
I have started to write this page as I am often asked how you can build or own your own car. I will update this page on a regular basis as there is way too much information to write up in one go. This page is based on my own experiences, so proceed under your own initiative, likewise you may have your own knowledge so happy to hear your comments and views via :
Above is the first F1 I managed to build. It was a 2001 BAR03 chassis and was a T car (Chassis 2). I used Williams side pods, Super Aguri wishbones and it looked great in my shed. I had to build a shed large enough to take it but the car featured in Race Car Engineering magazine
Step 1 - Plan and take your time
Sounds logical but most of us do not plan with our heads, instead we plan with our hearts. What is that you actually want? A show car, a car to drive, a Pit garage mock up with a monocoque, a car to look at when you go into your garage, a car to build, a car to say "That's mine" or a piece of F1 memorabilia or History?
The biggest issue you have is that parts do not match. A 2000 Formula One nose will not usually match a 2001 monocoque, even if its from the same team. An F1 car is a prototype and linked to that the rules change almost every year so everything is made specifically for that car in that year. Please don't do what I have done and assume a 2003 BAR Honda nose will match a 2001 BAR Honda chassis.
My "Top Tips" in planning
- Know what you want (A show car, memorabilia etc.)
- Know what you want - Seriously as you cannot change your mind mid point and the most expensive part in an F1 car is the carbon chassis. These cost anywhere around the £4,000 but can cost more depending on what they are. This is cheap when you consider an F1 team will spend around £200,000 building it. The Caterham 2014 CT05#3 chassis sold in 2015 for £9,700. It had history, a chassis plate and was very modern so rare. An old chassis from the late 1980's can be bought but does it have history and can you find that history. More importantly can you find more spare parts for it to build it up? The older the chassis the harder it is to build up as the spare parts needed tend to spread around the world and get harder to find.
- Create space - An average F1 car without the nose cone on is around 14ft long and 6ft wide. You need at least 14ft x 14ft for a car without its nose cone
- Go and buy one already built (it is cheaper and often a lot easier). You can buy a show car for less than £20,000
- Be kind to people selling parts. I have had "Jack the lads" show up in a hire van to tell me they were the original Stig and they will only give me 50% of the price as they are "in the trade". They only show up once. People with F1 parts may know more about the parts than you do so please don't start this project and think Red Bull will be signing you up as they wont. People with F1 parts also know where more parts are so be kind to sellers
- Always tell someone selling parts what you want them for as they may be able to help and have more parts
- Take your time. Don't plan on having your car built in six months, it wont happen. Spend at least that finding a chassis or monocoque. If you want a show car to look at then you can buy a fibreglass Marussia monocoque for about £2,000 and then add genuine body parts. The moulds used to make the carbon car were used to make the fibreglass monocoque so real carbon car parts will fit. As an example, when I started building a 1999 BAR car the engine cover sold in 2009, I found the chassis in 2010 and the nose only appeared on the market in 2016. Time is everything.
- Don't copy others. If someone else has a 2006 BAR Honda then more than likely they know where parts are and want them for themselves. Fighting someone for parts means that each of you only has 50% of the total parts available so that will slow you down. Be original and choose the car you want or think you can complete.
- Use your head. You cant build a 2014 Ferrari T14 as Ferrari tend to have done that and don't release all the parts. Building a lookalike is an option but Ferrari paint is a trade secret. I have seen cars painted in Ferrari red and they look "Red" but not like a Ferrari. McLaren wont let you use their name or copy them in anyway and most of the current teams don't want to be associated with people building their own cars for liability and brand reasons. Find a team that either no longer exists (unfortunately there are plenty) and use them as a base. Jordan's look cool and you can copy their colours, BAR Honda, Tyrell etc.
- Have a budget and stick to it. Don't try and beat it but a reasonable build will cost in excess of £20,000 which is why I have placed bullet 4, it may be cheaper to buy a show car from one of the on line sellers such as Memento Exclusives, Heritage F1 etc. They will probably be able to have it repainted in "your teams colours" as they know people who can do most things. I built my own car as I found a chassis that I knew and had seen several times, this was emotional and the worst thing I could have done
- Plan everything. From parts needed to where you will buy them and how much they will cost, write up a plan. Over the coming months I will add these points as it may help.
- Research . before buying anything look at pictures of your chosen car on the internet. Did it have side pods and an engine cover or a one piece "clam shell". Is the year before and the year after different in the design and build up. I must have spent at least 500 hours researching my Caterham so far and I still haven't finished. Its the cheapest option when buying parts as time is free but F1 parts are expensive
- Never give up . This is going to take at least 2-3 years, unless you want a wall car or a simulator
- Buy in haste, repent at leisure. Don't rush off to buy anything to do with the team you like. I have spent all my money before on something I thought I would like to add and not had the cash when it was needed to buy a genuine part
Over the coming months I will add tips on wheels, tyres, steering wheels, suspension, floors, engine covers, steering racks, nose cones, front wings, rear wings, driver seats, gearboxes
Option 1 - The cheapest option is what I would call the "Wall hanging car". These are absolutely lovely and not a full car but show a car. By far the cheapest as you need the following:
- A wall
- An engine cover, front nose and wing, rear wing, head restraint, floor if possible, seat (doesn't have to match), harness
As you can see from this picture that I took in Japan in October 2016 the Toyota F1 car parts. When building this type of display its not essential that all the parts match although it does help. A 2001 nose would work with a 2000 car or rear wing as long as the paint matches. The floor and engine cover (clam shell in this instance) really need to be from the same year. By the way, if you look closely the guys in the garage are fixing a Delorean road car.
The budget for this would be anywhere from £2,000 to £10,000 depending on what you want hanging on the wall but I would estimate a floor would be £1,000, an engine cover £1,000, rear wing £750, nose cone with wing £2,000, head restraint £350, seat £350, harness £100 so in total around £5,550 but this is a rough guide as I have seen these built for much less.
Option 2 - A pit garage "mock up". This is perfect for a single garage, shed, out house or similar as the space you need could be contained within a 10ft by 6ft area and to be honest, they look pretty cool. Its like a giant full size model. For this you need
- A Monocoque (either race used, mock up or fibreglass)
- 2 tall axle stands or a large heavy carrier such as a work bench
- About £5,000 upwards or you can start with a fibreglass monocoque only at less than £2,000
- Its always cheaper to buy ready made rather than build so for suspension try and buy a full set that all matches because buying a front wishbone for £350 is much cheaper than having a replica fabricated.
- This is a guide only, not exact science and for show only, never to be raced or used but it gives a flavour of what you can do. I'm not responsible for what you do and how you read the below guide!
I would always suggest this is the best goal to start with as you can always add to your monocoque with an engine cover when you find it at a later date.
First step is the monocoque. As mentioned you can pick up a fibreglass one for as little as £2,000 from E-Bay. I have found a seller who has a Marussia monocoque mould and will sell you a fibreglass monocoque. Its not complete but this is a project after all. As you can see from the pictures you can use motor cross stands, wood or go and buy a set of tough axle stands for around £50, available everywhere but try e-bay if in doubt.
If you want a monocoque with a chassis plate then add money, quite a bit to be honest and wait as these are getting very rare. You can check out a chassis history from Autocourse. Its an annual and you can buy old copies from online auction sites for as little as £10, depending on the year and what happened that year as a 1976 copy will cost a fortune due to its Historical nature. You can get to know what races and which drivers used your chassis. It will tell you if it was a "T" car if its in the correct era which means it ran at every GP event with the lead driver but may never have raced.
Once you know the races the car drove in and which tests then check out Google or one of the professional photography sites to buy some pictures of your car in action.
I wouldn't recommend a bare chassis being painted or wrapped at this point as you may need to adjust parts of it whilst adding the front suspension. I would recommend lining the interior of it if you have a fibreglass tub though so either carbon fibre cloth which you then apply resin to (like fibreglass matting) and the inside of the tub will look as it should. Don't forget that you need a seat. These are available from most memorabilia sites and you can add a 2013 Marussia seat to a 2010 Force India tub, in short for this purpose they are interchangeable. The head rest is more picky and a 2007 headrest wont necessarily fit in a 2013 tub. Its up to you whether you want to cut or adapt anything as long as you remember this is a mock up, if you want to end up with a running car then scrub everything above and remember that every part has to match.
The front suspension holes in the tub were made for the exact suspension in the year of manufacture. This is a mock up so you can adapt the monocoque to accept a full set of suspension. My recommendation is for mock up purposes you drop a mail to one of the parts sellers or "Memorabilia" Companies such as Memento Exclusives, Heritage F1, Race to the Finish, F1 Parts finder (the list is endless) and ask for a full set of suspension and tell them what you need it for. You may get a bargain. I once bought a full set of R27 front suspension (upper wishbones, lower wishbones, and push rods) for around £600 as I went to collect them and paid cash.
You may even be able to buy front uprights and brake tins off the same seller. Below are the main front suspension parts from a 2014 Caterham CT05. As you can see even without a set of brake cake tins and ducts it looks complicated but slow down and think about what you are after. It is made up of (1) An upright with hub (the piece the wheel sits on and rotates), (2)Upper and lower wishbones (to hold the upright) (3) push rod or pull rod. This connects to the steering rack and either pushes or pulls the axle to turn the front wheels (4) Upright bar, this is connected from high up in the monocoque to the centre of the wishbones for vertical stability. Then you have a brake disc, brake bell (this bolts the disc to the upright) and calipers for braking.
Mid 2000's Benetton and Renaults had a large shared lower wishbone like a giant triangle so again this makes life simpler. The suspension must match and that's why its probably best to ask a seller if they have the full set of upper, lower wishbones plus the uprights.
I know this is a very simplified version of the truth and any mechanic would shout at me right now but this is a display mock up you are building so will never run on the road, just look mean in your workshop.
Above: A couple of Minardi images that show how you could make a pit scene work
Above: a steering rack from a 2013 Caterham CT03, this is a hydraulic rack but a travel rack looks just as good as neither are being used in a pit garage display. Above: My old BAR03#2 chassis, now lives in Sweden
With the basics in place adding a seat, some cockpit controls, a set of 5 point harness and a steering column is pretty straight forward, check out memorabilia sites and as mentioned it takes time to find the parts you need so sometimes expect a year between concept and actually having a steering column and steering rack.
Paint really should come last or wrap. I am having my car wrapped for just over £1,200 in total and that's because its a metallic and expensive wrap. Speak to a wrap shop, tell them what you need, hire a van and take it to them. If you want to make a Ferrari wrapped monocoque then expect to pay extra for design set up over the cost of material. A wrap shop can do all of that for you.
After you have the front end sorted you can start thinking about decorating the workshop with a matching engine cover, wheels etc. Please note all engine covers a different and a 2000 Williams one will not match with a 2003 Williams monocoque. Please only buy parts you know will either fit or will work even though they don't fit.
Hopefully this will give you the basics to create your own F1 pit garage scene. Now you need a nice smart grey garage floor paint and some large white hardboard sheets for the walls. The a few spotlights and you have the start of a pit garage scene. Please note: This is all a guide only, its up to you what you do and how you do it.
For added effect try and find a good solid gearbox back end. The one used in my Caterham is from a Midland F1 car with suspension points adapted by Tom Sweet from Sweet Fabrications near Silverstone.
Option 3 - A "Roller" - Estimated cost of around £15,000
Now we are getting in to serious money. I managed to build my own "rolling" chassis back in 2010 and it took a couple of years to build. Total cost back then was around £8,000 but I was tight and no one else was doing this sort of thing so it was easier for me to do. For a roller you must improvise so please don't get too hung up on having the right parts, you may take 20 years to build it and you are better off buying a ready built show car. For a roller you need
- A Monocoque (Around £3,000 upwards)
- Floor (About £1,000)
- Nose cone (maybe depending on size of storage)
- A set of wheels - (With tyres, around £2,000)
- An engine frame (Made for around £600)
- A gearbox (Readily available for around £1,000)
- A rear wing set (About £1,000)
- Suspension - (Hand made or maybe available on lines)
- Uprights that match the wheels and suspension (About £500)
- Engine cover
- Steering rack
- Steering column
- Steering wheel
The key is to have a monocoque that matches your engine cover, the rest is bodywork management and adaptation. You can use a professional like I did (see bodywork page) or do it yourself. I did my own on my BAR03#2 and whilst it wasn't perfect it was just about right for me to see and never show the car off. I would recommend spending time working out what you want to build and then seeing if its easier buying one ready made