The first full-blown road-racing car I ever built, I did with my brother in a dark apartment carport, in 40-degree weather. We built it with a half-dead flashlight, a set of Costco sockets, and a grease-covered Haynes manual. At the end of each night, we had to take all the tools back into the apartment and put a tarp over the car, hoping our shady neighbors wouldn’t figure out the car didn’t need a key to be driven away. I take pride in that we won some races with that car, but I never want to do that again. It wasn’t fun.
On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve had the opportunity to tour professional race shops, and I am always blown away by how clean and organized they are. I’m in awe at the design and ergonomics that go into building a proper race shop. I’ve often dreamed about what it would be like to design my own workspace. When my friend and racing partner, Keith Kramer, said he wanted to use some space on his property to build a racing shop for Double Nickel Nine Motorsports, I was ecstatic to help.
The first thing we looked at was what we wanted to accomplish. We have crap everywhere. Some stuff is in the trailer. Some stuff is in my garage. Some stuff is in Keith’s garage. We wanted a place where everything was in one location. We wanted to design a space where we could work on cars and store all our gear, tools, uniforms, radios, spare parts, etc., in one place. We also wanted a spot to store a motorhome indoors. Motorhomes get thrashed by the sun and we knew we could keep ours nice if we just kept it out of the elements while it was in storage. We included in the design of the shop a 130-amp plug for the RV and put in a faucet for water to clean the floor or add water to the motorhome.
Our first design priority was a two-post lift. For years we worked on our cars at Performance In-Frame Tuning in Napa, Calif., and learned there that there is nothing handier than a lift for working on racecars. These lifts cost $1,400 and are worth every penny. My days of jack stands and lying on my back are over — except at the racetrack every other weekend where I put the car on jack stands and lie on my back.
Once we had the position of the lift figured out, we plumbed in air lines on reels all around it to give us access for air tools. We also placed numerous outlets around the lift at 40 inches high so we don’t have to bend over to plug and unplug things. We used separate circuits from one outlet to the next, so if we were using two different high-amperage tools, we would not trip a breaker. We also added an outlet on the lift for powering a handheld light for looking under the car.
We painted the walls white and installed bright lights so we can see what we are working on. We added multiple racks to keep wheels and tires off of the floor and out of the way. We built three benches, each with a different job. One bench was for heavy fabrication. One was built for smaller projects, and one was built as a clean bench for cutting vinyl. We designed cabinets to hold all our gear. The cabinet under the fabrication bench goes all the way to the floor for storing engines and transmissions. The cabinets near the other benches have outlets inside them for charging radios, GoPro cameras, tools, transponders, etc.
We included office space in the shop for ordering parts, doing research, and taking care of the day-to-day business of race-team management. The office space included multimedia wiring/outlets for computers and video replay. The office also included cabinets for storing paperwork and binders filled with track and racecar setup data. We also installed a trophy case to show off all of our victories and a refrigerator to keep Double Nickel Nine IPA made by Tactical Ops Brewing cold at all times.
We added a large rolling toolbox, with magnetic labels on the drawers to keep things easy to find. The shop walls are covered in dry-erase boards for to-do lists and reminders. We added a sink for hand washing and included a first-aid station. The entire shop is wired with speakers, which run off a phone app to wirelessly rock out the tunes during all-nighter engine swaps.
Once the shop was built for function, we added some fun to the mix by hanging racecar body panels on the walls as well as inspirational quotes to keep us motivated for the goal at hand: winning races. We are happy with the final product and enjoy the space. The only problem is we like to sit in it, watch racing videos, drink beer and stare at our trophies. Nobody seems to want to work on the car.
To read more from Rob Krider, or to contact him, go to www.robkrider.com.