Learning About Car Design and Construction

Learning About Car Design and Construction

Before you can begin designing or building your own car, you will need to learn the fundamentals of how cars work. How much you need to know depends on how challenging the design and construction of the car you want to build is going to be. Lightly modifying a stock road car requires less knowledge than building a car from scratch, but all amateur car builders can benefit from having more knowledge than it takes to build their car.

You Can Do It!

Do not be deterred by the technical jargon or math shown in some books. The basic knowledge of how cars work can be had from many books. The math and science of car design can be largely figured out by analyzing examples created by others (again in many books). Computer software can also be helpful in performing simulations and calculations.

You should assess and feel comfortable with your design before committing to build it, but If you draw upon a good general knowledge from books and then borrow from other’s examples, you will be capable of designing and building your own car!

What To Know

Knowledge about cars (for our design and building purposes) can be grouped into four categories, and we’ll discuss what you might need to know from each of these categories depending on the type of car you want to build.

The categories are:

  1. Car handling / Vehicle dynamics / operation – This category includes how a car behaves when in motion. We’ve all seen race cars leaning, spinning, sliding and the like during a race. These are all responses to forces acting upon the mass of a race car through its tires. All cars exhibit these behaviors when pushed to their limits.
  2. Car components, design and construction – This category includes what each part of a car does, and how it connects and works with the other parts. This category includes sub-categories like chassis, suspension, drivetrain, aerodynamic devices, and safety/ergonomics.
  3. Car materials, fasteners, and joining – This category encompasses the materials we build a car with, the ways that we connect parts of the car and the physical properties of the connections
  4. Diagram demonstrating the air flow over a vehicle with an air dam (From Competition Car Downforce by Simon McBeath)

    Diagram demonstrating the air flow over a vehicle with an air dam (From Competition Car Downforce: A Practical Guide by Simon McBeath)

    Car sciences / engineering – aerodynamics, structural loading, material fatigue, vibration/cycling – This category delves deeper into the underlying physics that affect not only the performance of a car, but the longevity and safety. BTW: Knowledge of this category also carries over nicely into other machines such as aircraft, motorcycles and even into buildings and bridges.

The categories do overlap each other, but generally speaking they represent distinct areas of knowledge one can have about cars.

Get Started

Get started learning today with our free online guides or explore more in-depth car design and construction knowledge with our books section. If you haven’t already done so, check out our car types guide to find the car/vehicle you’d like to build. Many people choose Race cars as they are the most pure expression of thrills and speed, while others enjoy street machines. Still others enjoy off-road fun. It’s up to you! Enjoy!

Car Basics and Tips

Car Basics & Tips

Learn the basics about cars and car design from our free online knowledge series.


  • Why cars handle the way they do and how to optimize their handling for the best performance
  • What a suspension does, the various types used in race cars and high-performance vehicles and key design considerations
  • Chassis types and how they can be designed for maximum performance
  • Car powertrain configurations and their advantages and disadvantages
  • How air flows around a car and how to get the most out of the aerodynamics by using aero devices.
  • Ways to make your car safe for you and for those around you
  • How the cockpit design enables you to maximize driver performance.
Car Design Quick Start Guide

Quick Start Learning Guide

Get your car studies or project started with these recommended books for each type of vehicle.
Car Design And Construction Books

Car Design and Construction Books

Learn the skills you need to design and construct your own car with these in-depth books written by car designers, engineers and builders.

Continue to “Choosing A Car Type To Build”…