Are Race Cars Street Legal?

Are Race Cars Street Legal? (Answered)

You might have this drag-racing dream taking a race car down your local highway but have you ever seen a proper race car on the road?

No? There are good reasons for this.

In this article, we take a look at whether race cars are street legal, and what a car needs to be allowed to drive on public roads.

Are Race Cars Street Legal?

The short answer is: No. 

If you want to drive a legitimate race car, as in Formula 1 and other racing competitions, on the road, then this is not allowed anywhere.

Race cars were never built to be driven anywhere other than on racetracks. They are designed for racing competitions, so they lack some vital safety features you do need on the highway.

What Makes A Car Street Legal?

If you are not allowed to drive a race car on the road, then what exactly do you need for a car to be street legal?

While regular cars are built to carry people from one place to another safely, race cars are solely designed for competitions.

Basically, street legal race cars sit somewhere in between. They are superfast cars that also have all the important safety features required by local laws and regulations.

The exact definition of a street legal car varies from state to state, but there are a few definite must-haves for street legal cars:

  • Regular, round steering wheel
  • A hood
  • License plates
  • Seat belts
  • A working horn
  • Functioning brakes, including an emergency brake
  • Reflectors and lights all round, including headlights, taillights, brake lights
  • A muffler
  • A certain height away from the ground (not too low like lowriders, or too high like monster trucks)

Why You Shouldn’t Drive A Race Car On The Road

Why You Shouldn’t Drive A Race Car On The Road

If a car is missing any or all of the above-mentioned safety features, then this vehicle is not allowed to be driven on the road.

You think you still want to drive a racing car on the highway, even without all these essential safety features? 

Here are some good reasons why driving a race car on the road is not a good idea.

Risk Of Overheating

An oversized engine under the hood as in a race car means you need lots of cooling to keep it running at its best. 

On a racetrack, air is forced in with the continued fast speeds, but how much air would you be able to get to your engine if you are stuck in a traffic jam?

Your race car engine would constantly be at risk of overheating, especially in city traffic.

More Frustrating Traffic Conditions

Built for competitions, race cars simply give you this feeling of wanting to race, and compete.

This is not only a bad idea because of speed cameras and speeding fines, but other road users will be much slower than you.

In addition to other road users, roads and highways merge frequently, so you are likely not on a highway forever. 

While you’ll be the flashiest car on the road in the slow lane, it can quickly get frustrating when slower cars block the path ahead of you.

Painful Bumps

Race cars are lowered to be more aerodynamic. On the racetrack, that’s perfect as it helps drivers be faster, but normal roads are usually lumpy and bumpy.

Race cars have a rigid suspension and when you go over even the smallest imperfection on the road at 100mph, you are guaranteed to seriously hurt your head, unless you are wearing a helmet.

From a safety point of view, all race cars have roll bars that keep the car’s body intact in case of a rollover.

While this great feature keeps the race driver from being crushed in the event of an accident, they are hard, causing bruising when you hit one.

Without a helmet, even rubber padded roll bars in a race car can crack your skull.

Exceptions For Driving Race Cars On Public Roads

As with every fast and firm rule, there is an exception.

In some instances race cars are allowed to be driven on the highway but with the provision that no other cars are present.

For processions, parades and car shows, race cars can be taken out onto public roads.

This might not be the ideal scenario for most speedsters, as even these events commonly don’t let you take a race car to its maximum speed.

But, if you are a race car owner who is keen to drive down a public highway, check in with your local city or community hall on events that allow you to take your car out.

How To Make A Race Car Street Legal

We know that race cars aren’t street legal, but there are ways that you can turn your superfast car into a street legal car.

There are many components that vary between street and race cars. Typically, this is because of their difference in priorities.

For racing competitions, race cars need to reduce weight as much as possible, which compromises on standard safety features.

On the other hand, street cars require important safety features, like seatbelts, license plates and lights, to safely navigate through public road traffic. 

Making a race car street legal involves changing hardware components in the car, as well as any required documentation.

If you want to know more about the individual components, check out this article on How To Make A Race Car Street Legal.

Final Thoughts

Although your drag racing dreams may not have to stay a dream forever, it’s a good idea to consider why race cars don’t belong onto the highway but the racetrack.

If you are not satisfied with an occasional race day on your local track, or car events happening in your state, then you might be able to adjust your race car in a way that it could be classified as street legal.

This depends on where you live and your state’s requirements, so check in with your local DMV office to ensure your planned alterations meet their safety standards.

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