There are many forms of automotive expression. There are none more contradictory about safety and hazardous behavior than driving a caged car on the street. It’s like putting on a hard hat, shoulder pads, and a mouth guard, yet filming yourself jumping off a bridge into shallow, boiling water. This was, and remains, one of the dumber things I completed in my automotive-escapades.
Roll cages are primarily installed in case you well.. roll. In the case that you ham fist a corner and end up on your lid, you really don’t want to get smashed by the roof. The bars are welded or bolted to several points (typically six) at the A, B, and C pillars. Welding is the most permanent and safest route but is more work than a bolt in kit. I opted for the latter. For the large sum of ~$800 I was in business.
Why did I decide to buy, strip, and cage up a Z32 300zx? I am a Nissan fanboy and a 300zx 2+2 was one of my first cars. I love them... even if they are one of the most difficult cars to work under the hood. You don’t believe me? Do some reading about the 300zx and the VG30DE(TT); they built a beautiful car and THEN shoehorned in an engine!
This is besides the fact that I stripped out a
perfectly good car. My intention was to drift, autocross, and track day it at my hearts content. For a grand total of $2500 with one beat up fender and needing a clutch, it was a stock as can be candidate to thrash.
Especially after I saw this picture. KILL IT WITH FIRE! NOW! It had a PORNO-red interior. You might be asking? Why porno-red? Does this not remind you of an interior meant for a terrible 80's porno on scrambled cable TV? Okay, then it’s just me. Because of my evil intentions with the interior I really didn’t care what color it could have been. It could have been Saturday-morning-hangover-Indian-curry-beer brown and it would still be going in the trash can.
Bright and early at eleven o’clock we started stripping out the gross interior to put this heavy girl on a diet. This was the easy part. The sound deadening? More difficult. I ended up finishing the sound deadening over the next couple weekends. It is an utter pain in the ass to get this stuff out. It looks and feels like roofing shingles with tar and comes off about 20x harder. I used several different chisels to scrape this stuff away. I know there are easier ways but I was set on doing it my stupid way.
How’d it turn out?!
Okay. It turned out, okay. Not great. Not terrible. Okay is the best word I can think of. Maybe mediocre? Yeah, that might be a better word. I was excited for my first drive but sadly, you know what? IT SUCKED. This was one of the most disappointing builds I have done in my entire automotive-cirque-du-soleil career. Many things became apparent that aren’t when you’re actually racing with a full suit, shoes, helmet, and other gear on.
1. It is FRIGGEN hot.
How hot you may ask? I made the mistake twice to wear flip-flops while driving. Once at operating temperature the floor is scalding hot. I burned my big toe! I had never driven a race car without close toed shoes (except my pin heels, I look good in those). In cruising mode it was like having lava below the pedals. I wasn’t even driving hard. Just a cruise.
2. It SOUNDS like a freight train.
Again, when you’re wearing a helmet, it deafens most of the noise. This thing sounded like a tin can getting dragged behind a newlywed mobile whilst the crowd threw
rice boulders at it. It was obnoxious. I turned up the stereo but wait... I removed it! Why the hell did I remove it? Weight savings? Take a poop before a run and maybe practice more would be a better thought...
3. The ergonomics are NON-EXISTENT.
Remember that nice, cushy arm rest on the door? Gone. Remember the center console with all its plush elbow lovin’? Vanished. Glove box for your junk? I can’t see it either... Many of these things I ended up putting back in or in the case of the door panel; chopping it into piece to fit. The worst part? The upper A to B pillar bar is right at head level. Not the best thing when you get into a side collision. Even with padding this could cause some serious head trauma.
4. It DESTROYED the value.
Value. I consider this very important considering this automotive hobby of ours is expensive. Anytime you can salvage some money from one project to another, it is a win for the team. By removing the interior and sound deadening, it essentially turned the 300zx into a ‘salvaged’ car. Not that it officially branded the title or anything, but to buy another interior with quality parts would be financially crippling to any insurance policy.
I kept this car for about 3 years and drove it for about 2,000 miles. It was at a track once, for a drift event. This was after coil overs, Sparco seats, and numerous other ‘track’ oriented parts were installed. I invested about $4000 into a vehicle that was now disposable. During the drift weekend, it was found that the viscous limited slip was garbage. Another $2000 would be needed to build a proper R200 rear end - the straw that broke the camels back.
My brother-in-law luckly (for me) crashed his 300zx a few weeks earlier. I bought the entire black interior out of his Z with a couple plastics sourced online. I stripped the cage and sold it to another young budding drifter. I installed a complete black interior and sold the car... for less than I bought it for... $2250. I actually found that regardless of having sound deadening that it wasn’t hot or loud anymore. The sound deadening I don’t believe did that much... or save that much weight. What a waste of time.
What should you take from this? If you are thinking about stripping out your car as it will be more ‘fun’ to drive on the street. Think again! It will turn a good car into a ferociously terrible one.