Vehicle Preparation

Vehicle Preparation

for Vintage & Classic Car Rallies


This is intended as an aide rather than a bible. Before we start, here are some best practices:

  1. There may be things that are specific to your vehicle, specialised tools for example. Know them and bring them!
  2. Keep it light. Keep it simple.
  3. If a mechanic or someone else is prepping/packing your car make sure you are familiar with what they have done and where everything is. Don’t come in with blind faith.
  4. Learn and become comfortable performing simple jobs like changing brake pads (if applicable), cleaning points, changing coils.

There are very few events that we have run where ALL participant cars make it to the finish line. Our rally mechanics are highly experienced and will assist you when required. Following the advice in this guide will increase your likelihood of finishing the event.

Vehicle Preparation:

There is a distinction to be made between a “rally-prepared” classic and an “off-the-peg” classic. Do you really need a “rally-prepared” vehicle? Well that, of course, depends on the nature of the event and on yourselves. ROARR events are non-competitive and wherever there is a particularly tough section an alternate will be given which bypasses it (provided a feasible alternative exists). 

Inappropriate vehicle choice coupled with lack of preparation and planning will negatively impact your enjoyment and could very well precipitate your early retirement from the event.

Keep It Simple:

Although it may be tempting to run a high-specification vehicle, with a lot of power, be assured that it is best to have as little to go wrong as possible.  

High performance parts? Try to think ahead of possible problems each modification will cause and on repairing it with limited facilities. This means not fitting a highly tuned engine – keep to a reliable specification, only making modifications which improve efficiency, such as balancing and strengthening, rather than power output.

Do not use complex rose jointed suspension, you will not get spares en route and carrying them would be prohibitive.

Travel Light:

This is the most important rule for classic car events. Excess weight is easily the single most common cause of mechanical problems, putting extra stain on chassis, springs, shock absorbers, brakes, transmission and engine.

This means cutting out most “contingency” items, like heavy spares and extra equipment. Don’t take too much personal baggage. Try and limit yourselves to one small suitcase per person. Most rest day hotels will have a same-day laundry service otherwise try to organise overnight laundry where possible.  Take half the clothes you think you may need, and you will still not use them all!

On the other hand, there are important simple spares and tools you should take – and of course you must be able to carry two litres of fresh water per person and enough fuel to give you a reliable range of ~400km. Calculate your average fuel consumption before you go, keeping in mind the effect that high altitude and poor surfacing will have a negative impact on your fuel efficiency.

Know Your Vehicle:

This again is very important. Know your car and its inherent weak points (and its strong points too!). Get some use from your car before you begin this kind of overland adventure. Try to form some kind of relationship with your vehicle so you know how to treat it i.e. likes and dislikes, capabilities and resilience. Attempt simple mechanical jobs without the aid of a workshop, to be sure you will manage in the middle of nowhere.

Tyres and Wheels:

Your biggest enemy is punctures, so choose tyres that are as near bomb-proof as possible.

The ideal tyre is one which is hard wearing, with a strong carcass and strong sidewalls (especially important on stony or potholed roads). It must have reasonable all-terrain capability, but should not be a specialist mud, sand or snow tyre as these will be noisy, increase fuel consumption and may overheat on long tar roads especially if the vehicle is heavily laden.

For European touring events we suggest that one mounted spare tyre is sufficient. On more remote/endurance events two mounted spares are preferable, provided you can spare the space/weight.

Don’t use cast alloy wheels, if possible, as these fracture unless you have high-grade magnesium ones. Steel wheels can be hammered straight after you have hit a hole or rock. 


It is essential to ensure that:

  1. Your ground clearance is good: the more the better, but for your own comfort and peace of mind, a minimum of 6 inches, more if possible, without upsetting the suspension geometry is recommended (you will get there with less clearance, but you will have to drive more carefully and slowly in places).
  2. Your suspension has plenty of travel: life will be very much easier if your suspension can soak up bumps.
  3. Your springs and shock absorbers are strong: heavy duty suspension is essential – but it should not be too rigid and transmit the shocks to the car. Look at shock absorber mounts and strengthen where possible (this is a weak point on most cars).

Classic Car Chassis:

Car chassis should be strengthened at key points, especially spring and shock absorber mountings.  Make sure that engine, gearbox, and radiator mountings are also strengthened with heavy duty rubbers.  

Protect drain plugs, sump, fuel tank, brake, fuel lines and the exhaust.  Lie under your car and imagine a worst-case scenario. But don’t use heavy plates.

Use foam between skids, guards, and the sump or whatever else is above, to prevent stones getting caught in the gap and thus being driven through the sump by an impact anywhere on the guard.  Fit strong bumpers and towing eyes, these should be mounted quite high, and not too far under the vehicle.  Regarding towing eyes, if they are bumper height and forward of the bumper itself, a tow pole can be used (instead of a rope) allowing a less stressful tow over long distances.


Ensure that the cooling system will stand up to labouring through mountain passes. The severity of the climbs on your particular event will dictate whether this is necessary. You could consider fitting:

  1. A larger radiator and/or header tank.
  2. An oil cooler.
  3. An electric fan.
  4. Improved air circulation through the radiator by blocking any gaps to the sides and ducting air towards the radiator.
  5. Suitable thermostat or blanking sleeve; don’t just remove it, cavitation may occur.
  6. High-pressure radiator cap.

If you fit an electric fan, make sure it has a manual switch to override its own thermostatic switch.  Switch it off before fording a river or you will spray the engine with water and more critically, the fan blade will pull itself into the radiator. This also applies to mechanical engine fans therefore, remove the fan belt to cross deep water.  


Make sure ALL wiring is in “as new” condition and that all electrical components are correctly installed. Do not economise on electrics.

Nowadays don’t even consider using a 6v system if that was the original specification. Starters can handle 12v and everything else can be converted. Leads and the ignition cap must be made waterproof. If the distributor cap is sealed tightly, it will require a breather. Condensers are commonly a weak point, so carry spares.

On any vehicle it is a good idea to fit extra 12-volt cigar lighter sockets, one under the bonnet and one in the boot. You may find it useful to mount your spare coil right next to the existing coil. In the event of failure it is a matter of seconds to switch over the leads. After all the engine bay is as good a place as any to store your spare!


Stick to a well-known simple specification.  Now is not the time to try fancy parts or cutting-edge technology. Compression ratio should be 8.5:1/or less (9.0:1 absolute maximum). Fit in-line fuel filters that may be easily changed (not underneath the car).

Exhaust System:

A vulnerable component of classic cars. You must ensure the exhaust is in good condition, that it is not close to the ground and will survive bumpy roads.  Fix skids to the leading edge of silencers and reinforce any weak portions. Exhaust systems which are slightly loose-fitting are less likely to fracture than those which are mounted solid.  Straps made from webbing slung from the chassis under the exhaust will keep it from falling off altogether if it does break.


Even if theoretically, there isn’t much driving at night, it’s probably a good idea to have a decent pair of spotlights and a good reversing light.  Good under bonnet, boot and interior light are also a boon. You will need to have powerful lights.  It’s recommended that you fit stone mesh covers for protection (such as those supplied with Oscars and Super Oscars). It is possible to buy round 7” acrylic headlamp covers to protect spot lights; the Signam Lamp Guard.  These attach to the lamp with adhesive pads, and are available from Signam Ltd.


Make sure everything is carefully stowed and fastened down, especially the heavy items like spare wheels, spare parts, fuel cans and luggage.  The battery must be well fastened down. Plastic containers of liquids (engine oil/brake fluid) with all the friction from being shaken about will quickly develop a hole if not appropriately fastened down.

Make a list of where everything is stored in your vehicle. Carry spares in sealed plastic boxes where possible. Ensure that everything is stowed neatly, tightly, in its correct place, cannot move around and is put back there after being taken out. Don’t use cardboard boxes to carry parts (after a week they will be useless). Remember that fuel cans must not be carried inside the passenger compartment.  

Safety & Security:

A fire extinguisher (AFFF) of at least 1.75L (hand-held) is mandatory. This must be securely fastened and within reach of a crew member. A first aid kit is important. This must also be securely fastened and within easy reach.  The windscreen should be laminated not just toughened glass.

It is advisable to secure a second set of car keys to a secure, concealed location on the outside of your vehicle. Double wrap the keys in sandwich bags and tape shut to avoid rust. Either cable tie to an appropriate place or you can buy small magnetic boxes on the internet that are really very strong.

Consider concealing an appropriate amount of cash somewhere in your vehicle that is not within easy/obvious reach. Myriad situations where this might be useful. If your car is broken into and your wallets stolen or even if you are in the middle of nowhere and fuel station won’t accept card and you both forgot to get cash out that morning. 

Consider a “grab bag” in which you store your essential documents/credit cards/cash/passports/licences. Again, myriad situations where this might be useful, apart from keeping all your essentials secure inside the car: if you roll your car and/or if your car catches fire and you have to evacuate quickly. Sifting through the fuel-spewing glass-strewn wreckage of an upside-down vehicle for the passport which you left in a crevice in the dashboard is not enjoyable.

Navigation & Tracking:

ROARR provides participants with a tulip route book as well as an iPad preloaded with the rally tracks and waypoints. This will all be explained to you at the rally briefing. 

ROARR will provide either a rubberized protective case for the iPad (in case the navigator wishes to hold the unit or keep in their lap), or a windscreen mounting if preferred (yes this will work even with shallow classic dashboards – the gooseneck allows it to protrude over the dashboard and can be secured well do avoid shaking).

It is recommended to have a good, flexible map-reading light for following the road book during night time driving. A 12-volt socket with a 3 port USB adapter is essential. If using the iPad for navigation it will need to remain on near constant charge. The remaining 2 ports are to charge your personal mobile phones if needed.

ROARR will provide a satellite tracking device for each car at the rally briefing. The briefing will cover how they work and how you can use them. But basically they are a 2 square inch little device which we affix to your dash, rear of rear view mirror, or somewhere with line of sight to the sky, and once switched on you need not pay it any attention for the remainder of the rally.

It is recommended that you fit a rally trip meter from a reputable brand (Brantz/Monit). You need some calculating your total and partial distance between waypoints if you are to navigate using the road book. If you are fitting a trip meter bring a spare sensor. You can at a pinch get by with your cars built in trip meter although this will not be very precise. Alternatively the iPad which is provided to you has a GPS trip meter on it which you can use instead. Of course if doing this you won’t be able to view the route maps at the same time so it is not ideal. No reason why you couldn’t load the same trip meter software onto your own smart phone.

Spare Parts, Tools, Equipment, & Consumables:

It is easy to overload your car with spares and tools. “Travel light” is the best motto. There are some basic items which everyone should carry. What you actually take depends in part on your car’s weak points and in part on your own ability to work on it!

The lists below are merely intended as a suggestion and are by no means exhaustive. There will also be things on this and may not apply to you or your vehicle. The spare parts, tools, equipment, and consumables that you bring will ultimately be a factor of space, weight, difficulty and nature of the event, and the particulars of your vehicle. Some of the items below are absolutely critical, others are strongly recommended, and the rest are optional but may make your life easier. A good piece of advice, if you can, is to go around the vehicle to check what spanners/sockets/drivers you actually need to work on key components and take just these.

If you know that your car requires a specialist tool that the rally mechanics and/or local garages en route are unlikely to possess – bring it with you. More often the case for vintage rather than classic.

Spare Parts:

  1. One mounted spare wheel will be sufficient. Two is better if can spare the weight/space.
  2. Collapsible fuel container(s). These should not be filled except when necessary.
  3. Brake Pads (if appropriate).
  4. Oil filter x 1.
  5. Fuel filter x 1.
  6. Fanbelt x 1.
  7. Top and bottom radiator hoses.
  8. Ignition coil.
  9. Fuel pump.
  10. Distributor cap & rotor arm.
  11. Spark plugs.
  12. Fuses.
  13. Contact breakers & condensers x 2.
  14. Voltage regulator.
  15. Light bulbs (full set, including interior/map lights!)
  16. Spare radiator cap.
  17. Speedo cable (especially if relying on speedo-driven trip meter).
  18. Gasket set.


Tools & Equipment:

  1. Usual tool bag consisting of: spanners, sockets, screwdrivers, pliers, snips, Allen keys, plug spanner, feeler gauges, sharp knife.
  2. Head Torch and spare batteries.
  3. Warning triangle.
  4. Quality tow rope.
  5. Funnel.
  6. Heavy duty jack (high-lift jack if your car can easily carry it).
  7. Axle stands – Heavy but desirable if you can carry them (get aluminium ones if possible).
  8. Plastic sheet for lying under the car.
  9. Good wheel brace.
  10. Vehicle owner’s manual/workshop manual (Hardcopy!)
  11. 12V work light (plugs into cigarette sockets).
  12. Overalls (while working on car).


  1. Lots of cable ties (strong nylon ones are the most versatile).
  2. Lengths of electrical wire and terminals (for emergency repairs).
  3. Engine Oil (1 or 2 litres).
  4. Roll of genuine tank tape.
  5. Insulating tape.
  6. String (because you never know!).
  7. Fencing wire (to strap up broken parts).
  8. Jubilee clips, medium and small (radiator hoses, fuel lines).
  9. Spare nuts, bolts, washers etc.
  10. Radiator stop leak.
  11. Brake fluid.
  12. Radweld.
  13. Tank tape.
  14. WD40.
  15. JB Weld.
  16. Latex gloves.
  17. Emery cloth.
  18. Electrical connectors.
  19. Exhaust bandage.