Stick your head inside Andrew Clark’s Spec E30, even for just a second, and one thing stands out: It’s clean, really clean, even at Buttonwillow Raceway where spec-class cars often get covered — inside and out — with a fine layer of dust.
Keep looking and you begin to notice how well the car is screwed together, how well thought out it looks and how tidy the installations are. It’s also clear that Clark is particular in choosing the hardware that goes into the car.
The car was originally conceived as a track-day brute that he could drive to the track, flog it and then drive it home. That’s also one of the reasons the car is so nice. Clark wanted to retain the creature comforts: stereo, air conditioning, defroster, power windows. He also went the extra mile and fabricated aluminum panels to cover the gutted doors, rear interior quarters and the area behind the rear seat and the trunk, because he didn’t want to drive a gutted car on the street.
“The plan at the time was not necessarily to turn it into a Spec E30. I wanted it to be street legal, but also have enough parts on it that it would be a real good track car,” Clark said. “And that’s what I did. Well, one thing led to another and over the course of two or three years or something like that, it slowly turned into a full-fledged Spec E30.”
The creature comforts are gone now, and the process of it becoming a race followed a familiar recipe for anyone who’s built a car in his garage at home. The only thing Clark didn’t build on the car was the roll cage, but he did everything else. Even after he had the roll cage installed, he fabricated a number of pieces behind the dash to get the air conditioning and defroster duct work to function properly because he was still driving the car to and from the track.
When it did become apparent that he was going to make it into a full-fledged racecar, he began devoting a lot of thought to solving problems, choosing the hardware, painting components and hand-building a lot of the parts that make the car so trick. These are the pieces you notice when you linger and look a little closer.
For example, to cure the E30’s tendency to starve for fuel in right-hand turns, he found a surge tank advertised in Hot Rod magazine, of all places. It was the size and shape that would fit in the place he had in mind, right where the factory charcoal canister used to mount on the left front frame rail beneath the intake manifold plenum. To mount it, Clark made a beautiful bracket and painted it bright red. He also wrapped the tank with gold foil tape to protect it from engine heat.
“My car was pretty bad. I would always have fuel-starvation issues, but I didn’t really like any of the solutions,” he said. “Not many people run surge tanks, and when they do, it’s usually a fabricated deal in the trunk … and I wasn’t really thrilled with any of those solutions, and so I just kept looking and looking and thinking, and trying to figure a way to incorporate everything I wanted to do into one simple solution.”
That problem solved, he moved on to driver comfort. He added an acrylic left quarter window with a NACA duct that feeds air through the back of the driver seat. That doesn’t provide as much cooling as the custom Cool Shirt tank he built.
Because his car has trouble making competition weight, whatever he came up with had to be lighter than a traditional cooler setup, and what he came up with is really quite brilliant. The “cooler” is a large Hydroflask. It’s plumbed to the shirt with the insulated tubing you’d find in a conventional driver cooling system, but it uses a small inline 12-volt pump that looks like something out of an aquarium. At $12 apiece from Amazon, he can afford to keep a spare.
He fills the Hydroflask with ice and water. The system also is plumbed to provide him with a few sips of water on grid and during the cool-down lap. He controls the system with a dash-mounted switch, which cycles the system on and off and allows the small reservoir of cold water to last an entire race. It’s mounted to the upright on the main roll-cage hoop with a Drake fire bottle mount.
There are thoughtful touches throughout the car. He fabricated the dead pedal. The aluminum interior door panels are custom fitted and use the factory door handles. When he couldn’t find just the right brackets for the inside rearview mirror, he made his own. The same is true for the bracket for the battery disconnect switch, which has a custom tab for the cables, which lead to a handle on the dash and a simple pull loop at the lower right corner of the windshield. He also made custom brackets so the fire system nozzles point in just the right direction.
Then there’s all the paint work, the cleanliness and detailing that combine to make this car stand out. It’s a treat to see how much effort he has put into the car, which makes you look at your own car and want to up your game.
“I call it farmer ingenuity, not that I’m any smarter than anybody else,” Clark said. “I grew up around a farming community, where that was just kind of the way you did things. You just kind figured it out and made stuff. That was just kind of how I grew up. I get a big kick out of the challenge, and the surge tank and the water bottle are probably the two best examples of that. I don’t know that I necessarily needed that, and there are probably easier solutions for both of those, but I do get enjoyment out of the challenge and trying to figure that out myself.”
|Weight:||2,700 lbs. w/driver|
|Engine/Horsepower:||2.5-liter six-cylinder/160 hp max.|
|Transmission:||Five-speed Getrag 260|
|Suspension Front:||Bilstein struts w/ Eibach/Ground Control coils|
|Suspension Rear:||Bilstein struts w/ Eibach/Ground Control coils|
|Tires Front:||Toyo Proxes RR 205-50R-15|
|Tires Rear:||Toyo Proxes RR 205-50R-15|
|Brakes Front:||BMW E30 calipers w/ Hawk pads|
|Brakes Rear:||BMW E30 calipers w/ Hawk pads|
|Data system:||AiM Solo|