So I Entered a Race…

The problem with building a gravity car in your spare time, with no clear idea of when it needs to be ready, is that it takes ages. With a family, two kids and a dog it’s hard to make time to get into the workshop and get things made. Especially things like welding, where you really need to put a few uninterrupted hours to one side to actually get something measured, cut, cleaned, welded and finished. However, as I said, if you’ve not got a deadline I guess it can take as long as it takes and it’s not a problem.

I am impatient, however.

A few months ago at work a client wanted a bespoke made architectural swing sign to go on the side of a building in York. Having a big mouth I said “I can make that!” and hey presto, I was responsible for making it at home, on behalf of the company. You can read more about the infamous cheese shop sign HERE.

Obviously, the client didn’t want to wait forever, so I really had to pull my finger out to get it finished. This meant making time at home on a weekend, and nipping out to the workshop for coats of paint etc etc whenever I could. It was a struggle at times, but also very satisfying. Eventually, the sign was complete and fitted and I had learned a valuable lesson. If I have a deadline, I can get things done.

So back to the gravity racer. I had 75% of an idea, a box full of parts chosen to suit the design, and some of the steel I’d need to make it. I needed a push to get things moving, so guess what? I entered a race…

The race in question The Harewood Soapbox Derby, was (at the time) 42 days away, and located fairly near to where I live. It was a smooth track that would suit my design, and was also being attended by some of the gravity racing people that I have met over the last few weeks. It was, in short, perfect. I paid my entry fee and was immediately gripped by anxiety. What was I doing? You can enter a race with no car!! Well, I have. Here’s a video of the race from 2016.

So yeah, extreme anxiety. So, I got in the garage and got to work. It doesn’t look like I’ve got a lot done to be fair, but now I have the two main chassis “rectangles” cut and welded nice and square, I have the basis that everything else will go onto. Here are most of the parts, ready for construction. This little brown box of bits is ever growing, and currently threatening to tear the shelf off the kitchen wall…

Gravity Racer Parts

As you can see, I have the wheels, track rods, steering wheel, bearings, spacers, brake blocks and discs and enough nuts, bolts and washers to make thirty cars. Since this photo was taken I’ve added even more, and as far as parts go, I reckon I’m almost there.

So it’s not like I haven’t even started building it, right?

So last weekend I started on the frame. I’m using 25mm mild steel box section with 1.6mm wall thickness. I even made a shelf/worktop wall bracket out of the same stuff a few months ago, just to get used to TIG welding the stuff. Upstairs for thinking, eh?

Steel frame components being cut to length for gravity racer
Steel being measured and cut on the Rage saw. A very useful piece of kit!
Finished box section rectangle for gravity racer frame
One finished rectangle. Bob on for square, too! I made two of these.
Welded box section frame for gravity racer
Closeup of a TIG welded corner. My TIGging isn’t always pretty, but it’s fucking strong…


So now I have the bottom part of the frame to work with. I’m not going to weld the top and bottom halves together just yet, as keeping them separate for now will enable me to use the pillar drill for my mounting holes. The front steering parts are made and ready (thanks Andy Ash) and the rear axle/brakes are almost ready to make. it’s just a case of bolting it all together until I practically have a flat rolling chassis.

Then I weld the top half on, add the seat and steering mechanism, bodywork and graphics, and we’re good.

30 days to go. Wish me luck…


One thought on “So I Entered a Race…

  1. Stay on it is all I can say. I have about 45 days to complete mine and need about 60. Good advice from experience: tack weld everything no matter how much you convince yourself it’s exactly right. Do the final weld after you have the COMPLETE car done. I have found that Bondo makes my welds look a lot better….heh heh.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s