So, let’s talk building a rally car. Frankly, it is not a small project. There are several things we did to start our build. First we utilized the Rally America Rulebook. You can access it at www.rally-america.com and can review it as much as you need to. We printed a copy on our home computer and put it in a 3-ring binder in plastic sleeves so we could read it as much as we wanted and needed any time we needed to answer a question or find out if we were on the right track.
One of the smartest things anyone has ever told me is “start with the end in mind”. Meaning, picture your end goal and plan towards that goal. So, using the rule book we built our goal. We determined that Group 2 was where we wanted to enter rally. We could use a Ford Focus which is a car you can always find parts for, they are everywhere. Ford is a solid brand, with a proven history of performance and frankly we both really like Ford. Also a very important part of rally is building your budget. Deciding how your finances stand and what you can put into rally. If you need/want more, then you have to decide how you are going to adjust to make it happen. This isn’t fun, but it is real and it is important.
Once we decided on a build budget then Stephen really began looking for a car. Wanting to know the car as well as we possibly could and be as familiar with everything that went into it we looked for a car that needed some work but was drive-able. What Stephen found on EBay was a red 2002 Ford Focus SVT in a town south of Atlanta, Georgia called Hampton. It was a little over 11 hours from us. The ad and emails said it was totally drive-able and based on the year, make and model we thought we had found the one. The idea of an 11 hour drive (one-way) should have given us pause but it didn’t. The price should have made me stop and question if it was too good to be true, but it didn’t. The sellers warning that it ran great but it had rolled 3 times should have let me know just how much work was coming, but no. So for around $900 we bought our rally car and on a Saturday morning we headed south east. It was a fun trip in our little Mazda Miata Speed. We had a great time planning, talking and dreaming. We rolled into our hotel after 11 hours on the road, bone tired and ready for our break. Quickly realizing I should have selected a less cheap hotel as check in was a bit harrowing and our room wasn’t even fully cleaned when we got there. We got a new room and were off to bed.
The next morning, eager to check out of our hotel of unease we got up early and headed out for breakfast. Then continued on into Hampton. It was a cute little town and had a great little car show and fair of sorts in the city park. We went and checked it out while we waited to pick up our car. It was hard to be patient because the longer we waited, the later our return would be. Finally we got to see the car and the seller was surprised to see us arrive in a 2 seater sports car. We were asked where our truck and trailer were and would they be there soon. After a bit of confusion we were shown the car and understood why they asked about a trailer. The engine ran great, but the flat tire and shattered windshield were a bit of a problem. Despite the issues, we paid for the car and put the spare on and took off. We stopped at Walmart in Lovejoy, GA – HUGE SHOUTOUT to the folks in the TLE (Tire Lube Express) for all their kindness and help! They fixed the tire while we clear duct taped the windshield in place. All of this took time, valuable time for our trip home and worse, we learned a storm was headed our way. Little did we know, storm was not an appropriate term for what was coming and we were not prepared.