Here Are 22 Strapped-for-Cash, Make-It-Work Tech Tips

By Alan Cesar
Oct 8, 2021 | Tech Tips, Low-Buck Tech | Posted in Shop Work , Features | From the April 2013 issue | Never miss an article

Photography by Alan Cesar

[Editor's Note: This article originally ran in the April 2013 issue of Grassroots Motorsports.]

Fixing things well and fixing things cheaply aren’t always mutually exclusive. Just ask Angus MacGyver. That fictional character is the guy we all aspire to be when we don’t have the “right” solution immediately on hand or within budget. 

Unlike the protagonist in most other spy action shows, MacGyver carried a Swiss Army knife and a flattened roll of duct tape, but never a gun. Car enthusiasts on a budget often have to engineer their own solutions to potentially expensive problems, and sometimes without a full set of tools (either in their hands or heads). Here are some of our favorite low-cost ways to improve your ride.

Tips from the American Road Race of Champions

This Porsche 911 flywheel was held in with cap screws, one of which rounded out inside. Chris Krebs spun off the screw with the deliberate taps of a chisel.

Spec Miatas tend to pop their throttle cables loose thanks to frequent contact on track. OPM Autosports adds a zip tie as extra insurance to hold the cable in place. This one is on Danny Steyn’s car.

Tips from the SCCA Solo Nationals

Why buy a steel door when a plastic one will do? Darren Kidd worked it into the shape he needed, and he latches it shut with a drop-in pin.

OEM shift boots can be pricey or hard to find for older cars. Jeremy Salenius’s 1988 BMW 325is shifts with Crown Royal. 

Skip the shop. These Longacre Racing toe plates, combined with a pair of tape measures, can help you quickly adjust turn-in without needing to make an appointment. 

Tips from the One Lap of America

That’s a gel-filled wrist support for people who work on a computer all day. Mike Hedin and Chris Lewis knew they’d be cramped in a ’99 Miata for many, many hours, so they found the spots where they’d likely be banging body parts and glued these comfort pads there.

A little fresh air is a good thing. That same One Lap Miata has aircraft window vents attached to its nonfunctional triangular window.

Tips from the $2000 Challenge

An intercooler works best when it’s cool. There’s not much airflow in the back of the Evil Ducky Racing Toyota MR2, so between stints on the autocross course or drag strip, the team puts a bag of ice on it. If you don’t pierce the plastic, the bag contains the wet mess.

This is why you should always keep a magnet in your toolbox, whether it’s a telescoping magnet on a stick or a big one you salvaged from a blown subwoofer. When the Dodge ScAries snapped a halfshaft, the splined end was stuck inside the transmission case, only to be removed by a heavy-duty magnet.

Faded paint but no budget for a respray? Before Team OMGWTFBBQ pushed their Volvo past the concours judges, they ran to the local home improvement store for some shelf paper. No, you don’t have to go for the wood grain.

Old license plates become stylish air deflectors for a roof rack on Condor Speed Shop’s BMW 2002. 

Team OMGWTFBBQ took the iced-down intercooler to the next step, topping theirs with a built-in icebox. For short runs, this can be more effective than just blowing ambient air through the heat exchanger.

Run out of paint? Team BURP just applied more GRM stickers to their 1992 Honda Civic.

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View comments on the GRM forums
Olemiss540 Reader
10/2/20 8:54 a.m.

I have found old license plates to be INVALUABLE for making track side repairs and modifications. Flexible enough to contort into needed positions but strong enough to handle air speeds at terminal velocity when appropriately mounted with self tappers.

frenchyd PowerDork
10/2/20 8:55 a.m.

In reply to Alan Cesar :

I've done several of those things. 

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