Josh Garcia and his father Ron enjoy driving Solo together – quickly!
The younger Garcia is chief of the environmental analysis section of planning for Sacramento District and his weekend office is the driver’s seat of the 1973 Datsun 510 racecar that he and his father built and have fine-tuned over the past seven years.
Both Garcias take turns driving the Datsun in Solo events conducted by the Sports Car Club of America. Solo, also known as autocross, is a low-speed, timed, handling event set up as a small road course lined with orange traffic cones on a large parking lot or aircraft taxi way. Cars enter the course one at a time and are spaced out to minimize risks to competitors and event workers.
Track-only racecars compete separately from road-legal family wagons and, though many people trailer their cars to the event, some folks even compete in the same car they drive to the track. It’s a fun, affordable way drivers can get a taste of road racing.
The Garcias got involved in Solo because they share a passion for building cars and racing.
“I was eight when my brother Jake and I raced BMX bicycles; it was really popular and tracks were everywhere in northern California,” said Josh. “When I was 14, Dad told me if I wanted to have a car when I turned 16, I was going to have to build it.”
Josh’s first project was a 1970 Volkswagen Bug. “The first motor I rebuilt ran for 30 seconds, then seized solid,” he said. “I won’t forget that lesson -- make sure every bearing is seated properly.”
The Garcia men have built several cars since that first Bug, including a 1966 Oldsmobile 442, a 1983 Toyota rock crawler and a 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit.
Ron really wanted to buy a brand new Datsun 510 in the early 1970s when he came back stateside from an Air Force assignment in Europe, but a dock strike in California prevented that purchase. The Datsun he and Josh acquired in 2009 came from a family friend who was deploying to Afghanistan. The car had sat unused for several years.
“From the Swiss cheese floor to the no-longer-braking brakes, that Datsun needed a lot of work,” said Josh. The father and son rebuilt the entire car, stripped all non-race-essential items and added a custom roll cage inside the body. After two years of design, redesign and fabrication, it was ready to race.
“The biggest challenge has been getting the car dialed-in to be competitive,” said Josh. “Choosing the best motor, transmission and differential combinations; then tuning suspension and brake settings has been a long process of trial and error.
“The Solo race course layout changes each weekend, so finding a balance between a quick launch off the line, straight-line speed, brake balance and corner speed is tricky,” said Josh. “It’s definitely a fun engineering exercise.”
And the Garcias’ final stats for the Aug. 27, 2016 Solo event in Stockton, California? Josh had the faster time and Ron … performed a particularly “wicked” slide through Turn 10 in one early session. Watch the in-car video HERE.
Josh is a 1997 graduate of Humboldt State University, where he earned a degree in natural resources planning. In his position at Sacramento District, he is responsible for coordinating and overseeing environmental planning and compliance in the district’s planning division. He has been part of the Sacramento District team since 1998.