Building Formula D Driver Robbie Nishida’s Bridges Racing Achilles Tire Lexus


Fabricator Gary Castillo tinkers with the cage as he prepares to permanently weld it to the car. Formula D's cage specs hue pretty close to those found in club and sport compact drag racing.

Handling chassis prep of the Bridges Racing Lexus SC 300 is one of the industry’s best, Gary Castillo and Design Craft Fabrication in Westminster, California. Among the shop’s many accomplishments, DCF put together the C-West Honda S2000 that won a time attack championship in 2008 and the Falken Tire Infiniti G35 that was the first import to win a Formula D event (doing so in 2005). Other works of the fabricator include the RS*R S2000 that drifted in FD’s early days, the FWD-to-RWD converted RS*R Scion tC once piloted by Ken Gushi, and Andrew Comrie-Picard’s Rally America Team Scion Rally xD.

Pretty: Design Craft's shock tower plates for the rearmost points of the cage are a bit fancier than they need to be, but you gotta' look good out there, right?

Castillo invited us out to his shop to chart the progress of the build, and while we learned there is a great deal of similarity to more conventional race car fabrication (safety, rigidity and weight reduction are common threads right off the bat), drift cars do have certain special considerations – most of them accounting for the facts that the cars need to go sideways and will end up at some point either in the wall or in each other.

 Chassis fabrication gussets
Gussets are good because they help distribute impact loads, but the added bonus is how much stiffer the car will be once the cage is done and properly welded.

We found the SC 300 rolling chassis at Design Craft in mid-January, just back from getting acid dipped. The chemical stripping is just as caustic as it sounds, getting into every nook and cranny of the previously gutted Lexus and removing even the most stubborn remnants of paint, seam sealer and sound deadening. While the obvious benefits in weight reduction have always been pretty clear to us, one thing we'd never considered is that the process also makes the vehicle's metal much easier to prep for welding.

 Door braces
DCF kept side protection simple but elegant – two non-parallel bars across each opening connected by two vertical sections of tube.

DCF is aiming to make the Bridges Lexus SC 300 as light as possible, and while that diet includes things like stripping the car down to its shell, replacing the windows with lighter polycarbonate glass, and the acid dip, the shop also got aggressive with the Sawzall, knocking out some less-important interior sheet metal.

 Stitch welding
A dizzying array of stitch welds – which add several bead welds along a seam to reinforce the OEM's spot welds – should keep the SC chassis pretty rigid.

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