As an avid buggy builder, I was intrigued by Aiton's section in the 2012 Raceday Preview, of which I got a sneak peek (through perfectly legitimate CIA operations)
In the past three years, we’ve seen the return of a trend that hasn’t been popular since the 80’s - retrofitting older buggies instead of building new ones. Before the move to monocoques and carbon composites, it was not uncommon for a buggy to disappear and then reappear with massive changes. Fringe and CIA were notorious for producing frankenstein buggies. Both orgs retired buggies in the 90’s which had everything replaced - including the entire frame.
So why are we seeing this trend now? Is it because of the cross pollination with derby racing, and the discovery of new wheels and rubber? Instead of every org having to make their own wheels and rubber, they now have a slew of off-the-shelf options. With a plethora of choices, and only one real way to test each option (put it on the buggy and try it out), does it make more sense for orgs to retrofit in order to experiment instead of building a whole new buggy?
Coming from an org known for rolling buggies for years and years, that is well-versed in the art of the retrofit (we joked that when we retired Conquest '92 in 2010 there were no original parts left), it's been interesting seeing both sides as we've transitioned to a member of the frequent builder's club.
Obviously, building every year is very expensive, especially if a team wants to use cutting edge materials and achieve professional quality. It's also the best way to keep knowledge in the org, and get new mechanics experience, as working with composites is an art form I've yet to master even after three buggies.
But if nothing is wrong with the older buggies, is there really much sense in replacing them? If a team builds solid, high-quality buggies year after year, they're liable to wind up with a (f)room full of rollable, competitive vehicles gathering dust. This is why the recent loans of Insite to Apex and Perun to Delta Force made me so happy. I feel that generally, a rollable buggy shouldn't be a museum piece if there are new teams trying to join the sport. (Obviously there are reasonable extents and limitations to this, but you get my sentiment) If another team starts up next year, and is looking for a buggy, CIA's Renaissance is currently unused and could be rolled again (with modification) in a similar way.
I could write paragraphs and paragraphs on this, but anyone currently in CIA will tell you I talk too much as is. What do the past and present mechanics of the BAA have to say on the retrofit/build topic?
(Also, this forum has been eerily quiet all spring. Bring back the polls, Sam!)