Lamborghinis are boring. Bugattis are too slow. Rolls Royce might as well make tractors. Not satisfied with what automakers out there are passing as cars these days? Then the answer is simple. Build your own. Is this a simple task? Not even slightly. Is it cheaper than buying new? When you add up your time, not at all. However, at the end of the day you’re left with a unique vehicle that you know inside and out, which is something that can’t be said for any other vehicle on the road. Not to mention if you’re reading this, then you of a great source for low cost, high quality auto parts.
We aren’t going to tell you how to build a car at home, because we don’t want to be held liable know that each person is unique, and would ultimately want to create their own vehicle. What we’ll look at here is the basic building blocks that go into building a car.
Where To Start
First, what type of vehicle are you looking to build? A speed machine to make Lambo owners jealous? A rock crawler to put Jeep out of business? Knowing where you want to go will help you decide what type of body and frame you want. Modern supercars are seeing more and more of their frame and body components become carbon fiber, as it is stronger and lighter than steel. Carbon fiber is extremely expensive and difficult for amateurs to work with, so the best bet for a DIY option would be aluminum, as it is lighter than steel. Heavy duty off-road vehicles may want to skip the weight debate and opt for simple, dependable steel right off the bat.
The engine. Without one of these, your custom car is nothing but a custom soapbox racer. You have a number of options when it comes to engine power in a modern vehicle, with everything from fuel cells, to electric, to traditional combustion engines more readily available than ever before. Sourcing a quality EV or fuel cell engine can be somewhat difficult, but companies like Ford and Chevrolet will sell you a crate engine right off their website. Chevrolet offers engines ranging from 300hp truck engines for roughly 6k, all the way up to 770hp drag engines for the price of a new Volkswagen. In addition to your engine, you’ll need to figure out how it will start, so attaching things like alternators, starter motors and batteries will all be crucial (provided you want to go the ICE route), as well as the rest of the electrical basics.
Once you’ve chosen an engine, you’ll need to consider a powertrain. If you’re building a track racer or an off roader, you’ll need to know what type of transmission and differential you want. A big choice will come in choosing a differential. There are two major options, locking vs limited slip. Differentials are what allow wheels to turn at different speeds when cornering, increasing performance and handling. A limited slip differential will help in racing applications, as it will promote tight control without sacrificing handling. A locking differential will be beneficial to off roaders since it can increase traction.
You’ve got an engine, and you know how the power it generates will get to wheels. Unless you’re building (and really even if you’re building) a drag racer, all that power will need to be pointed in a direction that can vary from “forward”. A steering system can vary widely from its operation, from full mechanical linkages with no assistance, to power assisted steering, to steer by wire systems. By wire systems don’t use any mechanical linkages at all; the steering is done via signals sent by wires.
Power, transmission, steering, so far so good. The next thing you’ll want to consider is suspension. Not just for a comfy ride, but also for performance. The stiffer your vehicles suspension, the better it will perform on the track, and vice versa for off-road. That’s a bit of a simplification, but the basic idea hold true. When dealing with suspension, you’ll also have to factor in rims and tires to be able to adjust the ride height accordingly.
Right now you’ve got 700+hp strapped to a carbon fiber tub and a stiff suspension. Seems like a great time to hit the track and test it out. It would be, if you enjoyed flying off the track and into a wall. The braking systems are crucial for any application, from towing to tracking. What you choose here will again depend on what type of vehicle you want. Drilled and slotted performance rotors for racing, or standard cast iron rotors for off-road grip? No matter what, we strongly suggest you include brakes on your build.
Mechanically, you should have a working vehicle. Of course you’ll still need to consider what you what for an exhaust set up, lights, and other accessories. Now is the time where many at home car builders make a mistake, they think that because they can swap an engine, they can design a vehicle exterior. Companies like Pininfarina exist solely as vehicle designers. These companies aren’t engineering the vehicles; they create the entire art of the vehicle itself. Responsible for several Ferraris, Alfa Romeos, and other super cars, companies like Pininfarina pour hundreds of hours into each design. Keep that in mind when you’re slapping together a bondo wedge and calling it a Lamborghini “replica”. Steel will likely be your best choice for working with a body, as it is low cost and easy to work with. Aluminum won’t rust, but can be more difficult to work with than steel. Fiberglass is an alternative to carbon fiber, but is much more brittle and susceptible to damage than the stronger than steel carbon. If money is no option, then opt for carbon fiber (although if money is truly no option, you might have an easier time buying your dream car)
The rest of the vehicle is truly up to you. Leather seats? Sure! Heated mirrors? Why not! The best part of building your own vehicle is that there are no compromises; anything you want can go into the vehicle. While undertaking the task of building your own vehicle is certainly not for everyone, it can become a rewarding project. Be prepared to put in thousands of hours and dollars into a project like this, you won’t want to cut any corners. Should you decide to build your own car, AutoShack.com stocks a wide assortment of quality parts to get you out on the road for less. Best of luck on your future projects!
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