Buying a Rally Car- Rally Cast

Jeff Celica Safari (1)Episode 4 in our series of how to get into Rallying.

We discuss in depth how to go about buying a rally car give out some great tips and provide info to help avoid some of the pitfalls.

Download here: Get_ into_Rally_4  or right click and “Save As” (MP3, 33 minutes)


Show Notes:

Topics for this episode?-

  • As this is such a big area, we’ll break down into Sub topics Buying a Rally Car this episode, building a rally car covered under the next ep.


  • Back to Ep 2, where we talked about end goal in mind. Aspirations to go further.
  • WRC, ARC, State or Clubman.
  • In the EP, we’re going to be looking at a Clubman Cup Car. So the first rally car then?

Clubman (WA) & ARC

  • Clubman Cup (WA) and ARC are 2WD only formats so you can pick either front FWD or RWD. Why is national level championship (ARC) 2WD only?
  • State Level and WRC- To win, you realistically need a 4WD car. Why the difference in types of car between different championships?

Buying a Car

  • So where to from here, do we just get on Gumtree, Craig’s List or Ebay and buy a rally car? No, it comes back to the big classic mistakes.  So how do our listeners avoid this one as it sounds like it can be very costly?
  • You can go for a done for you service, where we can find and inspect a rally car for you. Or you can find a car and we can attend and inspect or to contact us or you can do it yourself.  Top Tip: Buy with your head, not your heart.
  • If our listeners are going to do it for themselves, what do they need to do? First thing is to do some research and make a list. What type of car FWD/RWD, what cars are on the market and at what cost and does that fit the budget we talked about in EP2. is pretty good, as are a few face book pages and forums around Australia, ask at your car club in anyone is selling etc.
  • Once you have a few prospective cars, need to research weak points or known problems with that type of car. Why? Well, you can then look through info on a car or check and see if the car has had the weak point/problem addressed? When you say problem, you mean in road cars? Both road and rally cars. Some types of cars are prone to sensor failures or maybe head gasket problems as a road car.  Or sometimes when certain cars are built into rally cars they develop problems such as a weak point in the body shell. So having that knowledge will make it easier when checking further into a rally car?
  • Ok, so got a list of prospective cars, then what? Next thing is to start asking around your car club or the rally community before looking or enquiring on a car. Why? Most likely someone will know the history of the rally car(s), if it has been well maintained and if it has had any major accidents, the person that has owned the car etc. You don’t want to buy someone else’s problems.
  •  How do you go with buying internationally or from another state? If buying a car from overseas or interstate, some forum searches may bring up info on the cars including photos or videos. If you don’t find any info, what’s the next step? You have to be really sure before committing to buy or to travel to go and look at a car.  It can be very, very tricky. It is not always easy to verify what is in the car and how much wear and tear a rally car has had.
  • What happens if you don’t find anything worthwhile or what you’re looking for?

Found a car

  • Let’s say that you’ve found a car with all the right history. BTW, do you do the research before you speak to the owner of the car? Yes, research the car before you call the owner. You get a clearer picture of the history and the owner and then you know what questions to ask. Right, so now time to call the owner and arrange to have a look at the car? Yes. Call the owner and have a list of questions to ask. Based on the answers, you can decide whether to go and have a look and also parts etc to verify.
  • Rally cars are more specialised than normal road cars, what do you need to look at and where?Top Tip- If you’re not sure what you’re looking at, take someone with you who knows about rally cars.


  • Taking a friend who is a mechanic or in the automotive game is only half the story. Rally cars are specialised and you need someone who knows what they are looking at. If not, you could end up buying a rally car that you are not allowed to rally or needs. What do you mean? There are certain eligibility criteria and the cars must meet those in terms of safety compliance and technical compliance. Rally dictionary? Safety and technical? Roll cage, seats, harnesses, etc. Technical such as the right engine, correct paperwork (called a log book in Australia), rally registration etc. An experienced rally person will know these requirements and what to be aware of.  What is a log book? A log book is used in Australia (issued by CAMS) to help keep track of the events the car has competed in and also if the car has passed/failed scrutiny or been crashed. A word of warning though, often scrutineers do not have the opportunity to write in a log book if a car is damaged during a rally.   Also international events are not recorded in a log book and occasionally log books are lost by a previous owner and so there may be an incomplete competition history and a car may have had accident damage and it’s not in the log book. Again that is why asking around about a certain car may help to establish the history.
  • Do you check everything else such as all the mechanical components, body work, rust, accident damage/repairs  etc as well? Yes, everything else needs to be checked as well as the rally items, just like a normal road car. The thing to remember is that a rally car is not going to be used as a daily driver under normal road conditions. Rally cars need to be prepared and maintained to run at high speeds on gravel roads. They take a lot more punishment than a normal road car and you need to ensure that the car will get you to the end of a rally. It comes down to who has owned the car and how well maintained it is. Rally cars need to be safe and reliable.

It’s hard in a pod cast to cover everything that needs to be checked, however we have put together a guide on buying used cars that can help with a lot of standard items that need checking. You can find the guide here:    

Test Drive

  • Everything has checked out OK. Car seems pretty good. Time to test drive it? Yes and this can be also be a bit tricky sometimes. Why? Well, most rally cars have rally seats and are in fixed positions to suit the driver. If you are taller/shorter, or larger than the current owner, you may not fit into the seat or be able to reach the pedals. Only a minor inconvenience, however something to be wary of. Also certain performance parts and engine mods can make the car sound, feel or drive strangely at low speeds. Example? Race brake pads may not work well to stop the car until the brakes are hot, certain types of differential may cause the car to be harder to turn or make clunking noises on tarmac at slow speed etc. Performance tuning can also make rally engines seem to run rough or poorly when cold or at low speed.


  • If you are buying a car, should you get spare parts with it? Depends on the car and owner. Most competitors will have some sort of spares they keep for their car. For use on a rally if anything breaks? Yes. A rally car will need a spares package of some description, and if there are no spares for the car, you’ll have to factor buying some spares before competition.
  • What might be in a spares package?  It may be as simple as some spare wheels & tyres and a few small parts or it may be extensive and include a whole car for parts. It depends on a few factors. It is well worth having spares and if you can get them with the car, even better. The tip here is to check the spares and see what condition they are in. It’s no good paying for a pile of worthless junk you have to end up throwing out.

Buying the car

  • All good so far, time to hand over the cash? It will depend on your negotiating skills, how many performance parts are fitted, much work needs to be done to the car and whether spares are included. That is all up to you and any opinion you may be given if someone else is looking at the car with you. It does help to know what parts are worth for the car including any special performance parts. Think of it this way. Many owners pour $$$ into their rally cars whilst they own them. When it comes time to sell, rally cars are often advertised for a fraction of the price it cost to build or maintain them. Doing your homework will help to avoid buying a lemon.


  • Is there more paperwork than a normal road car to transfer ownership? Yes, there will generally be some sort of vehicle ownership transfer that goes through the local govt transport dept. You may also need to prove you are a rally competitor and produce a rally license for the vehicle to be transferred. Why? This is to help make sure that a rally car is going to be used for it’s intended purpose and not driven round on public roads by someone who has watched too many rally videos.
  • In Australia the CAMS log book will also need to be transferred. This requires the book to be sent away, the fee paid and CAMS will amend the details.

  Part 2 of this topic, building a rally car? Yes we’ll look at building a rally car.