"Can't I just buy a kit cage and have my buddy weld it in"....."what if I supply the materials"....."how much for just a cheap, mig welded cage"....These are the questions we hear all the time. It all comes down to this: a proper roll cage should be a substantial part of your race car budget. It is not just an annoyance to get past tech...IT MAY VERY WELL SAVE YOUR LIFE! The question is, why does a good roll cage cost so much and what exactly is the difference between a cheap cage and a good cage?
This cage above was a $6000 job, but it took over 70 hours to build and nearly $700 in materials (minus paint, which was done by a body shop and billed separately-over $2k). The tubes fit tight to the chassis and hard top, give plenty of clearance to the driver, and are designed in a way to give maximum protection while still enhancing the look of the car. It was built around specific NASA/PCA classing rules and the car was issued a logbook in house (for NASA). To cover materials and our shop rate for the time logged it would have had an $8500+ price tag.
Then there's the tools....lots of them. Another commonly heard statement; "I just bought a tube bender to build my cage". Well guess you're off to a start...A bender is just the beginning. A properly outfitted shop can have thousands into just a handful of dies for that bender to allow for different sizes of tubing. Next is the welder...not the flux core, $200 one either. A good mig for the floor plates to the chassis and a high quality tig for all the tubing joints will easily cost over $10,000.
Now you need a good tubing notcher that can hold a tolerance, a large brake for the floor plates and boxes (.125" plate), digital angle finders, protractors, press, a sheer or plasma cutter, horizontal and vertical band saws, blades, dozens and dozens of abrasive discs, alcohol for cleaning...and this is all still to build a good, basic roll cage.
You want flash like chassis gussets, or get into really involved cage fitments? These extra aspects of a roll cage take it to the next level, but require additional tools like dimple dies, bead rollers, slip rollers, english wheels, and software to really dial in your bends and get fitment to be second to none.
Add all this stuff up and you will see, there's a lot more to building cages than just "buying a bender" or "just getting it welded together"...about 35,000 more. For a quarter of that, you could have just paid us to build you a better one.
To the untrained eye, it is hard to tell the differences between a well designed and built roll cage vs something someone put in to pass tech and go racing. Many people can tell a crap weld from a good looking one, less but still many people can even tell between a mig weld and a tig weld, but very few people notice design problems. Incomplete tubing load paths and misaligned intersecting nodes are tell tale signs that a cage was poorly designed. Bars terminating without a support opposite of it, or random bars in places that don't make sense are things we commonly see. Better yet, gaps that have been filled with 1/2" of mig wire or, even worse, incomplete welds in places that were impossible to get to and not planned out. This is why it's worth investing in a good cage, built by a professional shop! Yes, a $6k-8k roll cage for road racing or upwards of $15k for NHRA cages (7.50 25.5, etc) may seem expensive, but is it worth saving $2-$3k when it's nothing to have 30, 50, or even $100k into a properly built racecar? That $2-3k saved could cost you your life!
Let's talk kit cages...these are the pre bent cages that are commonly purchased and welded in by the DIY racer or a "buddy that can weld". Most of these cages have major flaws to keep the prices low like cheap materials, wall thicknesses that are within .001" of tolerance, or very poor fitment to ensure it "installs easily". The biggest misconception is that bending the tubing is the most time consuming part so a kit cage will save you money. In reality, floor prep and mounting box/plate design can be just as challenging and time consuming as designing and bending a cage, then you have the actual fitting plus hours of welding...In other words, the cost of a kit cage installed will be near the same price as a custom bent one, except it won't fit the car, or more importantly the drive, nearly as nice!
BEWARE OF "CHEAP" ROLL CAGES...YOUR LIFE MAY DEPEND ON IT!!!
Please read below for a complete explaination on cage pricing
We haven't even mentioned the overhead of a properly outfitted facility as well as the personnel requirements. To build at the highest degree of quality requires a shop that reflects that. A clean, ventilated, very well lit, and properly climate controlled environment is a must. If you are uncomfortable, sweating, and cannot see, how are you going to perform at your best and build a quality piece-and do you know what happens to bare steel in a hot, humid environment?
Last but surly not least are the fabricators. Roll cage building and motorsports fabrication are skills only a very tiny percent of the population possess. It takes many hours of doing this to hone your skills to an elite level. To employ and develop elite fabricators comes with a price of it's own-but these are the people with the direct influence on the quality of work leaving the door at PMF.
Minnesota's premier motorsport and street rod fabrication shop!
WHAT IS YOUR SAFETY WORTH TO YOU?
While there are many shops that "build roll cages", most are not properly outfitted, and in turn, should not be building them. If the shop building a roll cage is not first and foremost a fabrication shop of some sort, they should not be building it. Many times performance shops dabble in cage building, and most of the time, it winds up with an unhappy customer. Building a proper roll cage is much more that just bending, notching and welding. The best welder in the world cannot weld a joint they cannot get to....half of cage building is the "ship in a bottle" thought process. A properly designed and EXECUTED cage install, comes with experience building many cages. We at PMF have literally thousands of hours of building roll cages. It is what we do first and foremost.....it is our primary specialty. Sure we do track support, motor installs, custom wiring, custom sheet metal and aero...but the second you walk in the door, you know without a doubt that we are a chassis and roll cage fabrication shop above all else.
Roll Cage Pricing
Roll cages are a passion for us, as well as an introduction to a car/customer. We DO NOT make time and materials on a cage. It's not uncommon for one of our more elaborate cages to reach 90-100 hours of labor. If we charged time and materials, it would be over $10k! Instead, the roll cage is the starting point for a race car build, and an example to the owner of our quality of work and attention to detail. This is also where the relationship begins. There is never a sacrifice to quality just to make a buck. Most of our roll cage customers become life long clients, and the car returns time and time again to continue its transformation as they advance as a driver.
So how much does a roll cage cost? Well that depends. A basic one starts around the $4k mark, but most customers fall into the 5k-6k range after they tailor it to their needs. That may seem like a lot, but that's not even time and materials (as mentioned above) and there is zero acceptance for compromising on quality to cut time.
If you like what you see and would like more information or would like to schedule a consultation, give us a call at 763-283-5950, fill out the contact form on this website, or even message us on facebook. The information needed for an estimate is car type, class of racing, any street use intended or interior to be refit to the car. You are also going to need the seat you will be running and either mount it or plan to have us mount it before the cage can be built.
We look forward to hearing what we can build for you!!