K-PAX Racing's attempting to turn an off-the-line Volvo C30 into a world-beating race car in 60 days. Driver Robb Holland's going to give us weekly project updates. Part two: reducing two cars to a million parts. —Ed.
Welcome back all. For those who missed last week's episode here's a quick recap: racing Volvos not crazy, Volvos look cool with all 4 wheels off the ground, crazy Swedes like racing wagons, C30's at the shop, oh, and apparently Paris Hilton jokes are kinda played out.
Now one of the coolest things about this project is we (K-PAX Racing and 3Zero3 Motorsports) get to take two brand spankin' new C30's with less than 50 miles on their respective clocks and completely strip them down to the chassis. No road grime, no oil leaks, just squeaky-clean hotness. I kinda feel like the kid who takes his father's brand new watch apart just to see how it works, only my guys are much better at putting things back together (sorry Dad).
Typically, the only place you would see cars stripped like this, the guys doing the work are more worried about Johnny Law then they are about making sure that things are done right. Our lead build tech Teague Oliver has a different set of priorities.
The big worry when stripping down a modern car you have to actually put back together is that everything on the car is integrated through the CAN/BUS system. With literally thousands of small bits and pieces, the worry is that if we misplace the screw for the cup holder the car might not start because the ECU is worried that we might spill our Big Gulp. That might seem like an exaggeration, but I have been in a racecar that wouldn't rev past 3000 rpm because it couldn't tell if the parking brake was on!
So Teague & Co. have the unenviable task of not only stripping down the car but also making sure that each and every part that they remove is labeled and cataloged so that we can find it again in the event that we need it to make the car go. Everything must be meticulously labeled and put into bins according to how it came out of the car.
Because we're building two cars simultaneously, each part has to also be tagged as to which car it came out of so the guys don't end up with leftover parts for one car while missing parts for the other. It'd be kind of like doing two identical puzzles, simultaneously and someone comes along and mixes all the pieces together. Not impossible to do, but a royal pain in the ass, and with 53 days to go it's a headache that we just can't afford right now.
Watching the first of these two cars come apart you get a new found respect to the engineering and forethought that Volvo puts into building the C30. Even though none of our guys had ever worked on a C30 before, the first car came apart in under two days and that includes cataloging each and every part that they removed. The expectation is that the second car should come apart in less than a day.
The most telling thing, though, is that all mechanics hate bad design and my guys are no exception to that. You know what I'm talking about: having to drop the engine to change the spark plug 1960's British engineering type of design. But when I swung by the shop after they had finished the teardown, not only were the guys not complaining but they were actually commenting on how intuitive the C30 was. My guys are a bit stingy with the praise so that's really saying something.
Now that the cars are all torn down and we have everything organized and cataloged what's our next step? For most teams running Touring Cars, the next step after the cars are fully stripped down would be building the cage, but the K-PAX guys don't do anything half way. To that end they invested in a FaroArm, which is basically a digital measuring device that allows you to accurately recreate objects (like parts off a car for example) in a CAD program like Solid Works.
What good does recreating a few parts in a CAD program do for a Touring Car program that has to use mainly OE parts? Well, it does a bunch of things for us. First you recreate enough of those parts and eventually you have a whole entire C30 modeled in CAD!
This allows us to measure things like suspension rates, bump steer at various ride heights, and design our shock package all with amazing accuracy and in a very short period of time once everything is scanned in.
Now that things are moving well with the first car and our engineers have all of the numbers they need to get all of our suspension sorted out I get to have a little fun. Next week, we hit the track with the second car to find out just how good the stock C30 is at speed and give us some idea of how much ground we need to cover in order to make it competitive in World Challenge. Stay tuned...
Robb Holland is a professional racecar driver with K-PAX Racing and 3Zero3 Motorsports. When he is not racing in World Challenge, Holland works as a performance driving instructor and owns a travel company that takes US clients over to Europe to drive the Nurburgring. You can follow him on his Facebook page.
Photo Credit: K-PAX Racing