James Trout took the bait when a friend suggested he build his own race car. In this case, the bait came in a box marked "kit." Thus, James Trout began a three-year project. The "kit" was a Speedway Motors Modified that had been purchased from the company's Lincoln, Nebraska, headquarters. It arrived in a box as steel tubing, some of it bent with the jig-welded tail section strapped on top. To put this in perspective, James Trout is 43 years old, married, with children, and a technician on telephone testing equipment. He'd never built a race car in his life.

In the '80s, he helped a friend with a gas dragster. Then, in the '90s, he was responsible for replacing parts on Bobby Lovelis' Late Model. Trout enjoyed being involved in racing, saying it took away the stress of work. He did admit that he had warmed up a car for a mechanic's race one night, but otherwise he had never driven a race car. Despite that, he set out to build a kit Modified. He discussed starting in a Modified with a friend, Chuck Hart. To make the project happen, he bought a kit with detailed instructions from Speedway Motors. "The uniformity of the rules in IMCA racing was the deciding factor," Trout says. "In other local classes, a car might be legal at only one or two tracks, limiting where you can race, and also limiting the market should you decide to sell the car."

It was 1995 when Lee Trout opened the door to greet the 18-wheel delivery truck parked on the Trouts' narrow, tree-lined suburban street. Lee was hardly prepared when the driver asked how she planned to unload her package. "You got it on there, you get it off," she said. The driver came back later with a smaller truck. Lee Trout grabbed her camera and started taking pictures to chronicle the adventure. By this point, James had already secured a donor car. It had been parked in front of a neighbor's house too long and the city of Irving, Texas, was getting impatient. The '77 Impala was stripped of its meat and the bones were discarded at a nearby iron recycler. James wisely purchased Speedway Motors' instruction book for the kit. The next item of business was to build a frame jig. Carefully checking for square and level, he made it several inches taller than Speedway recommended. This made it easier for his work, especially because he's 6-foot-2.

Most of the construction was straightforward. There was one apparent glitch in connecting the frame rails to the rest of the car, but Speedway Motors' representative Kevin Larkins spent all the time needed on the phone to help Trout get through this phase. The problem stemmed from the fact the kit was made for a Chevelle while Trout was trying to use an Impala--close, but not what the kit was designed for. The problem was solved with an offset plate that fitted the pieces. "By the time I was through, I was on a first name basis with several of Speedway's people," says Trout.

"They were really good at listening to my problems and solving them. "I made one error that others might want to watch for. If you are tall, weld the cage on top of the chassis. I hole-sawed the frame. Then, I put the cage uprights through and down against the bottom of the rail of the frame. This is fine if you're not quite so tall. Now you know why my seat leans so far back." The car was progressing nicely until James ruptured a muscle in his back. During surgery, doctors found and removed a tumor on his spine. Recovery was a lengthy 12 months. After six months, doctors said they could do no more, so he was given pain medication and told to live with it. Since conventional rehabilitation did not bring the results James desired, he sought other treatment. With the help of the staff of Therapy Alternatives, he sufficiently recovered to work on the Modified again.

As James began working on his Modified, the car attracted the interest of his doctors, who began asking a lot of questions. In the end, Therapy Alternatives became a sponsor. "They give us 50 bucks a week," says James. "Sometimes, that's what we have to go to the races on. They're good people." A sponsor that makes you well and keeps your racing program healthy is a rare find indeed. The chassis was finished in short order and all the parts of the car were assembled. Once satisfied with the fit, Trout then disassembled the car. The chassis was taken to ICA Powder Coating in Balch Springs, Texas, for a lavender coloring job. Trout mentioned the coating was a bit pricey, "but darn well worth it."

Southwest Engines in Lancaster, Texas, assembled the claimer engine. "We built one of our claimer long blocks," says Skip O'Neal, manager of the performance engine shop at Southwest. "A good solid claimer engine like this is durable and runs well. That is what James needs right now. It will serve him well." Exam day came on a cool evening at Outlaw Speedway in Grand Prairie, Texas. The 43-year-old rookie made his first racing laps in the first race car he ever built. Since then, he has made his racing home at Kennedale Speedway Park. He raced in IMCA-sanctioned competition during the '99 racing season. When Trout felt the car wasn't properly sticking to the bottom of the track, he called Speedway Motors. After some discussion of the track and the car, Kevin Larkins suggested a spring change. "Take the left rear and put it on the right rear. Then, get a 200 pound spring for the left rear." Speedway was not only the source for the kit itself, but also has the inventory to provide parts and pieces needed once the car gets on the track.

James said the setup advice made a big difference. "These guys know their business," he says. And now, he's become a race car driver after building his own car. "My best finish was 15th in the A," he says. "I only missed getting to one A main all season. That's not too bad, I thought. I'm only a rookie." He may be a novice in the racing competition end of it, but the experience he gained by building his own car will serve him well. Trout acquired an understanding of what makes a race car tick and how to go about seeking capable help. His education tops anyone who thinks driving a race car is jumping into the seat.

Southwest Engines
Speedway Motors
P.O. Box 81906
NE  68501
Performance Bodies
P.O. Box 427
Cedar Falls
ICA Powder Coating
Balch Springs