As the level of technology elevates racing, so does the amount of equipment needed to be competitive. What you use in the way of parts and tools at the shop is usually what you need to take to the track. Short of having two separate sets of tools and parts, the easy way is to carry those tools and parts with you.

That’s what we see in NASCAR with its pit boxes, carts, war wagons, and other specialized mini-vehicles for tools and parts. Pit-box builders have their own subculture and, much like their cars, are always trying to outdo each other with the latest versions. When Ray Evernham rolled out for his first track test, his Dodge-red computer box had five stations from which to view readouts and laptop screens.

While today’s NASCAR teams have boxes that seem big enough to require state license plates, basic configurations work well for Saturday-night racers, too. One such version is built by Leading Edge Race Cars of Concord, North Carolina. While the company’s main business is hanging bodies on NASCAR and ARCA cars and trucks, Leading Edge also features pit boxes, carts, and wagons. One of the company’s more popular versions is the model shown in this article. Stock Car Racing met with Leading Edge to find out how it’s done.

The company’s unit is based on the highly popular Mac Tools Economizer toolbox series. The Macs used here are models MB 2150, 10-drawer chest; and MB 2250, 11-drawer rolling cabinet. This toolbox series takes advantage of every square inch to provide plenty of room for tools and parts. The units offer many drawers that ride on ball bearing slides for added strength. When placed on the cart’s staggered platform, the tops of the two boxes line up to form a large work surface.

In addition to the Mac top and bottom, Leading Edge adds several touches to make a highly efficient pit box that serves a variety of purposes. A tall aluminum cabinet on the end holds four large shelves for parts and supplies, with a taller one on the bottom. There’s room underneath the Mac top section for larger items such as jackstands, and a small pocket behind the Mac bottom is ideal for a creeper or two. A rectangular pan behind the Mac top chest may come in handy for holding tools or other supplies. This breaks down to a footprint that measures 23x67 inches to fit both your trailer and shop. The cabinet sets the total height of the unit to a touch less than 5 feet.

To build this pit box, Pat Beattie, the man behind Leading Edge, starts with a basic perimeter frame of 2x1-inch steel tubing that runs from the front-axle area to the rear of the cart. The frame is triangulated to hold the bulk of the load, the two toolboxes. With the basic frame welding complete, the upper structure of 1-inch tubing is constructed and welded on. Within the basic frame and upper structure are tabs for the toolboxes to bolt to. The ones for the toolbox bottom, which is recessed, have spacers welded on for better bolt alignment. The top, which has a flat bottom, needs only simple tabs. Measure accurately to avoid drilling more holes than needed. One trick is to mount the boxes—minus drawers—and mark from below through the holes.

The required components are easy-to-find, basic hardware and go-kart spindles for easy steering. There is no suspension—pneumatic tires take up the brunt of the bumps. The steering linkage is made from threaded tubing and spherical rod ends, or Heim joints. The cart’s pull handle is round tubing with a T-bar to make steering simple, and the wheels and tires come from golf carts. The tires shown here give a high amount of ground clearance, as pits are often gravel and dirt rather than pavement. We’ve seen versions of this cart using go-kart racing tires and wheels because they stay inside the shop on a smooth floor.

The next step is to weld on the spindles and linkage components. First, find a level surface, level the spindles, and tack them on. Next comes the steering lever mechanism, located between the spindles. If you’ve never used such a system, try putting it together first to get an idea of how it works. Tack-weld the steering mechanism to the frame, and double-check all steering geometry. When everything is perfectly aligned, finish welding the spindles and steering mechanism to the frame. Once all welding is complete, use the threaded rod to align the wheels for toe-in and toe-out.

A simple straightedge on the outside of the frame, along the face of the wheel, can dictate a straight wheel for alignment. Beattie uses washers to remove any chance of bind between the tie rod and steering arm. These washers are put between the steering arm of the spindle and the rod ends to elevate the rod. Once the steering gear is free of bind and in total alignment, tighten the bolts and nuts.

For the back wheels, Grade 8 or higher bolts are used with a collar/spacer and reinforcement. Using the same straightedge, outside-the-wheel method for alignment, tack-weld the bolts to the frame, paying particular attention to height as well as square and wheelbase. When the bolts are finish-welded to the frame, use steel gussets to reinforce the bolt/axle.

When bolting together the toolbox top, bottom, and end cabinet, Beattie uses washers to maintain alignment and stability. If washers are not used, it will be nearly impossible to open the top. His trick is to use the four, threaded handle holes in the toolbox bottom for bolting the boxes together and to the cabinet.

With the basic rolling chassis complete, the next step involves sheetmetal work. A small plate under the frame holds those creepers in place behind the toolbox bottom. This plate can be aluminum and riveted to the frame. Tie-down hooks should be mounted on the front and back upper/outside corners of the toolbox bottom for securing the wagon in your trailer. The bottom toolbox is in the cart’s center, both weightwise and dimensionally, so it is an effective tie-down location. A bungee cord can then be stretched across the backside tie-downs to secure the creepers in their pockets.

While the small area behind the toolbox top can serve a variety of purposes, Beattie makes a seamless, rectangular pan for the area that can be used for holding virtually anything that will fit. Long tools or quarts of oil are some ways to utilize the pan. Other required sheetmetal pieces are the two bottom pans under the toolbox top. The one next to the toolbox bottom is a great place for jackstands and should have a small lip bent around its perimeter to keep anything on it from falling under the pit box. The same holds true for the shelf above the front wheels. It’s another good storage area, but only if it can hold what’s inside. Doors and covers are an option on the outside of these areas.

The placement of a big cabinet on the end of the cart is easier than it looks.

One of the first things we asked about was the offset on the cabinet. Beattie explained that mounting extension cords with reels for lights and power supplies on the outside of the cabinet keeps those tools handy but still within the plane of the cart. Putting them on the outside also prevents them from using valuable interior storage space and having to constantly load and unload them. The lights and extension cords can be used easily from their positions.

Here are the measurements for the Leading Edge cabinet: 53 inches tall by 18½ inches wide and 13 inches deep. The wheel clearance offset is 6 inches tall by 4½ inches deep.

The 1½-inch flange around the door opening adds strength, gives the latches somewhere to grab, and helps seal the box against dust and dirt. It’s also where the hinge is riveted. Beattie uses sealing tape on the flange for a better fit that doesn’t rattle. The cabinet is mounted to the frame via welded tabs, and it bolts to the toolbox bottom through those handle holes previously mentioned. Another Leading Edge touch is the curved Lexan backboard, which holds a small light over the main work surface. This mounts to the toolbox bottom via a small aluminum plate riveting together the box and Lexan. In addition, Beattie uses the end cabinet to mount a clock and electric plug-in bar for hand tools as well as the cleat for storing the power cord.

With a clean and easy box such as this, a team can consolidate its tools and parts into a small but portable pit box. The result is easy access and workability at both the shop and the track.

SOURCE
Leading Edge Race Cars Mac Tools
4635 Hilton Corporate Dr.
Columbus
OH  43232
N/A
www.mactools.com